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Real Humans of the CBS MBA Class of 2024

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cbs mba class of 2024Hayley Mason, Columbia Business School MBA Class of 2024

Age: 34
Hometown: Lithonia/Atlanta, Georgia
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Howard University; Broadcast Journalism
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 12 years, Television News

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Attending Columbia Business School has been a longtime dream of mine. After undergrad, I’d planned to spend about ten years in local news before going back to school. Around the ten-year mark, I was pleased with my career, but knew I wanted more autonomy to direct media strategy and talent development on a broader scale, ultimately under my own company. 

I began studying for the GMAT prior to the pandemic, but my first exam was cancelled when the Coronavirus began to spread. Having been out of the classroom for so long, I didn’t think attending Columbia Business School virtually would give me the experience I’d longed for. So, I waited a couple years and continued to focus on my career. I’m pleased with my decision to return to school now. It’s the right time: classes are back in person, media, entertainment, and tech roles are expanding, and Columbia Business School just opened their beautiful new campus! 

Why did you choose CBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I was attracted to the drive and accomplishments of the students and alumni at Columbia Business School. Columbia has long been a gem to me. Each time I visited the campus, I wanted to return and be a part of it. 

The Media and Entertainment MBA track was also very attractive. The professors have intimate and real-time experience as industry professionals who are innovating and driving change at some of the highest levels in the world, right now. New York City is the perfect place as most media company headquarters are in the city and can provide easy access for networking, meetings with execs, and career opportunities.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
Coming from a traditional broadcast background, I am able to bring a different perspective and unique set of experiences and skills to the class. I’m considered a “non-traditional” student given that I’ve been a working television journalist and not a banker, engineer, or in a quantities-based profession. I hope that my in-depth knowledge of the TV industry, having working on the talent side for years, will be a value add when I begin recruiting.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I’m a singer and musician and have a minor in Jazz Vocal Performance. I studied Classical Voice, Jazz, Negro Spirituals and Gospel in college at Howard University and prior to college. Another fun fact, while at Howard, I was three years into a Spanish minor before deciding to change minors to Jazz.

Post-MBA career interests:
I would like to work as an executive at a large broadcast media company directing media strategy and corporate partnerships. I also have my own media development and consulting firm: Mason Media, LLC. I will continue to grow my company while in school and post-MBA.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I took prep courses in person and later online to prepare for the GMAT. I was also very disciplined with studying early in the mornings and late at night outside of work. I networked heavily with the admissions teams and attended nearly every zoom meeting, webinar, and case competition that I could. I would absolutely do each of those things again. I built valuable networks and community through that process.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would have started studying for the GMAT/Executive Assessment earlier. I ended up doing testing and application essays at the same time (not recommended), and it became pretty consuming. 

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I wish I could have skipped entrance exams, of course! Who truly enjoys GMAT prep? Ok, maybe some folks do. I just wasn’t one of them. Nonetheless, I was able to excel on my exam by seeking advice and support from a small group of friends, family, my sister, and by relying on my faith. I had a group of friends who had earned MBAs from top-tier business programs and understood intimately well what I was going through. They shared tips from their personal experiences and also motivated me to see it through in my process.

What is your initial impression of the CBS students/culture/community?
Generous. Aside from the obvious that Columbia Business School students are sharp and incredibly impressive academically and professionally, there is an understated yet powerful culture of generosity and collaboration. We help each other out because we want to see our peers succeed. From initial coffee chats, to career advice, to job passing on leads, the Columbia Business School community has been incredibly generous. While New York and Columbia Business School may seem to be competitive and tough environments from the outside looking in, there is a true culture of humility and support that is something to be coveted.

What is one thing you have learned about CBS that has surprised you?
I’ve been impressed more than surprised by everyone’s ability to pivot quickly and dive head first into a demanding and rigorous Columbia Business School schedule fresh off of planes, trains, and buses to New York City. Some of my classmates moved to the United Sates just days before we started classes and have been juggling navigating a new country, New York City, classwork and networking demands. This is where the culture of support and collaboration comes into play. Knowing that a team member, a cluster mate, or a friend is there for you is always a helpful reassurance when things get really hectic.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
The core, (core classes: statistics, accounting, etc.). We’re told almost daily that the core classes are incredibly rigorous, especially while navigating the recruiting season. I’m experiencing it first-hand. Not only are the quantitative classes challenging, balancing coursework with recruiting and activities makes it more of a feat. These challenges make me that much more appreciative of the supportive community here. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m excited to meet more students from diverse backgrounds and working with the professional clubs including the Media Management Association. I’m also looking forward to getting re-acclimated with New York City and having a fully immersive experience here in media, arts, tech, and entertainment.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.