Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Harleigh Bean, Columbia Business School

Harleigh Bean

Columbia Business School

“Former Black, female politico driven to forge a career in the intersection of politics, international affairs, and business.”

Hometown: Upper Marlboro, MD

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a dual degree student, which means that in 3 years I’ll graduate with an MBA and an MA in International Affairs!

Undergraduate School and Major: Washington and Lee University; Romance Languages (Spanish & French) and Global Politics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Director of Operations & Strategic Planning, Office of Steny H. Hoyer (Maryland’s 5th District)

What makes New York City such a great place to earn an MBA? It goes without saying that New York is a city of great opportunity. However, it is also a city of great indifference. There are millions of people here working and surviving – everyone is the main character of their own world. As MBA candidates, NYC is such a great place to earn an MBA because it requires us to lean into the chaos, tap into our grit, and chart our own paths. With the help of the Career Management Center and support from our diverse classmates, CBS MBA students are uniquely positioned for success.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Columbia Business School’s MBA curriculum programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? CBS’ emphasis on leadership development led me to choose Columbia for my MBA. I am a leader. I’ve held leadership roles on sports teams, in extracurriculars, and in my most recent professional role. Due to these experiences, I strongly believe that leadership development is incredibly important. Through the application and outreach process, I learned that CBS shares that same belief. As first years, we begin orientation with LEAD, a leadership development course, and we’re encouraged to continue that development with other courses and by engaging with the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics.

Personally, I’m excited to take courses, such as Power & Influence and The Leader’s Voice: Communication Skills for Leading Organizations, to further develop my leadership skills.

What has been your first impression of the Columbia Business School MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best CBS story so far.

Everyone whom I’ve met so far has exuded an incredible amount of humility. We all come from such diverse backgrounds and have all accomplished so much. Still, everyone is welcoming, humble, and eager to engage with others.

I don’t have a “best story” yet. However, I will say that the Consortium OP week in New Orleans was one of the best weeks this summer.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Columbia Business School? I’m eager to get involved with the financial literacy club. I started my personal finance journey during the pandemic – quickly falling in and out of obsession with the FI/RE movement. As a Black woman, I believe financial literacy is an important skill for all women to flex and I hope to continue sharing my interest (and Excel sheets) with others through the club.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far. Showing up to work after the January 6th attack on the Capitol. In college, I studied terrorism, insurgency, and political extremism. Never did I envision experiencing first-hand what those courses encompassed. That day, twelve of my colleagues and I barricaded ourselves in the Capitol, waiting with bated breath as we listened to the attackers pillage the office. Though my faith in democracy was tested, I remained committed to my office and my job.

What do you hope to do after graduation? My goal is to work in global financial crimes. As a dual degree student, I’m interested in both politics and business, specifically how we can combine resources across the public and private sectors to mitigate illicit financial flows.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard and Georgetown

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Columbia Business School’s MBA program? Be authentic. It can be tempting to try and squeeze yourself into a mold you believe is representative of the “traditional business school applicant.” Don’t. Stay true to your story and your reasons for pursuing an MBA. It’ll be much easier to communicate who you are and what you’re about which is what admissions committees want to know.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.