View and post photos from commencement on the Columbia Business School Facebook page.
This is an excerpt from the speech Vikas Raj ’10 gave at the School’s Recognition Ceremony on May 16, 2010. The class of 2010 took part in the Columbia University Commencement on May 18, 2010.
When most of us got into business school early in 2008, our friends told us, “What great timing.” But it wasn’t long after we started school that we began to question that. In fact, it was only weeks into our first semester — on September 15, 2008 — that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection. The day before, Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America.
In the weeks that followed, we first-year students at Columbia Business School stood in the lobby of Uris Hall, watching two awkwardly placed TV screens for the latest news on what appeared to be the unfolding of the global economy.
We started business school when it was about as bad as it could get “out there.” But as Columbia’s most famous alumnus Warren Buffett, MS ’51, once said, “When life gives you limes, make margaritas.” Sorry, looks like that was Jimmy Buffett, but the point remains. Over the last two years, while the crisis continued “out there,” we were given the opportunity to learn from it in real time from our brilliant professors and from each other.
We learned to rely on each other and to make the best of this difficult environment. We leave Columbia today with the skills and the confidence to rebuild the business world.
At that first Sunday night dinner of Orientation, we tried to listen to then-GBA president Don Baxter ’09 tell us, “These are going to be the best two years of your lives.” What we were really doing was staring at each other. We knew already that these were the strange faces of the people who would define our Columbia experience. In the following week of Orientation, those strange faces became friends on whom we would learn to depend.
All of us now know that Orientation isn’t just block-standing games and case studies that bring together a cluster. It is the realization, gradually crystallizing over the course of two weeks, that somehow Admissions did it right, that they put together a group of people who were so different but still tied together by a fundamental desire to do something better and more impactful with our lives.
So, as things continued to get worse “out there,” inside the gates of Columbia Business School we began to depend on each other and learn from each other. We depended on each other to get through core classes and electives as our professors taught us the art and science of marketing, strategy and finance; they taught us to negotiate above our BATNAs and really value companies.
We depended on each other to get through the most difficult recruiting environment in decades, guiding each other through countless mock interviews, recruiting events and résumé reviews, and we checked in on each other during summer internships. We learned from each other by learning about the amazing things we had done before school. We came here to study in the same halls as business pioneers like Warren Buffett MS ’51, Henry R. Kravis ’69 and Jerry Speyer ’64, and to study with world-class professors in this amazing city, in the heart of the global business world. Columbia truly is a global business school.
Raj will begin a career in M&A investment banking at Evercore Partners in New York this summer.
Photo credit: Columbia Business School