In honor of the launch of the Mendelson Center for Undergraduate Business Initiatives, a joint program between Columbia College and Columbia Business School that has been funded by a generous gift from the Mendelson family, Madeleine Matthews CC’17 reflects on the new doors that the Special Concentration in Business Management through the Mendelson Center for Undergraduate Business Initiatives has opened for her, and the many skills — business and otherwise — that she has learned through her studies in the concentration.
I’ve known I wanted to go to Columbia since I was 10-years-old, when my parents brought me to New York for the first time. I remember walking through Times Square, with its kaleidoscope of people, lights and sounds, and thinking, “This is where important and busy people are. This place matters. I want to be here.”
And so, at 10-years-old, Columbia became my goal. I spent the next seven years chasing that goal, and somehow, I got in. And although I don’t share quite the same wide-eyed enthusiasm about Times Square now, my thoughts haven’t changed about this city or this university: This place matters.
Even back then, I loved Columbia for its dedication to the liberal arts. I was excited to read Plato in the Core and choose a major that emphasized my love of reading and writing. I also knew I wanted to do the Special Concentration in Business Management. I wanted to learn about markets and models, and to learn about them in the context of the liberal arts.
Still, when I walked into my first class at the Columbia Business School as a junior, I was terrified. The course was Strategy Formulation, and I was nervous for two reasons: (1) I was the youngest person in the class, and (2) I knew very little about the subject. Like many other Columbia College humanities majors, I am innately allergic to numbers. I normally run away in fear of an Excel spreadsheet. The class was absolutely harrowing.
It became even more daunting during our group project, when my group chose me as the leader for our final presentation. The project centered on a real-world case study — whether PepsiCo should acquire a kiosk manufacturer, Carts of Colorado. Our team had to argue against acquiring.
I made the presentation in front of 90 people. And I did really well. I articulated our argument, even making a few jokes here and there. At the end, when the class voted on which team had presented the best argument, they picked ours. Ever since then, when I’ve had to give a big presentation in front of very important people who are older than me, I think of that moment in Strategy Formulation: I did it, I did it well, and I’ll do it well again.
I am so grateful for the Special Concentration in Business Management through the Mendelson Center for Undergraduate Business Initiatives, but not just because it made me an effective public speaker. The courses I took made me think about questions that I’d never considered before: How can we effectively manage people? How does diversity function in a workplace? What does it mean to be truly innovative? How do you negotiate your first salary? How do you negotiate your first salary as a woman?
Since starting the Special Concentration in Business Management, I’ve learned about business, of course — financial accounting, micro- and macroeconomics, statistics. No matter what your background — whether you’re an American studies major like me, a financial economics major, or a biology major — this concentration provides a fundamental understanding of how the business world works.
But the concentration is not just about business, it’s about business management. Management is something that many students think they know, but most don’t really understand. Of course, we all want to think we’re exceptional team leaders because we wrote it in our applications to get into Columbia, but have any of us ever sat in a boardroom and made a really difficult decision?
The Special Concentration in Business Management teaches students how to succeed as leaders. In fact, I’d say that it creates leaders above all else. My coursework, my professors and my fellow classmates have challenged me to think about what it truly means to lead an organization of people.
And, also importantly, it has taught me about teamwork -- how to work with a dynamic group of people, and how to be aware of their different work styles and communication styles.
I recently accepted a job in IBM’s Digital Marketing group. My dream job. The only people who are perhaps more excited than me are my parents. And I’m excited about starting my career at IBM because I know that I’m well-prepared. Columbia has taught me to be an intelligent, thoughtful and confident leader. And I honestly would not have been offered the job without the Special Concentration in Business Management, which, in concert with my American Studies major and the Core Curriculum, has opened doors for me. I know I speak for my fellow students when I say: it doesn’t matter what you lead. The Special Concentration in Business Management will open doors for you, doors you’ve never even thought of before.
Madeleine Matthews CC’17 is majoring in American studies and is in the Special Concentration in Business Management through the Mendelson Center for Undergraduate Business Initiatives. Originally from San Francisco, she has studied abroad twice while at Columbia — in Venice, Italy, and Copenhagen, Denmark.