Impact Stories

In MBALaunch, Dawn Kissi Found Her People

Dawn KissiApplying to business school is complicated, and not just because there are so many steps involved. Pursuing an MBA is a big decision, no matter where you are in your life and career, and it can also be a stressful one. 

You may be anxious about how you’ll do on the GMAT, worried that you’re not what schools are looking for, or nervous about how you’ll balance family obligations with your classes. If you feel intimidated or start to second-guess yourself during the application process, it’s important to know you’re not alone. 

Dawn Kissi found the support she needed in MBALaunch, Forté’s comprehensive eight-month program that offers a structured plan for applying to business school. She met a cohort of women who were experiencing the same feelings. She recalls, “The community was so tight, even though we were distributed all over the world.”

They managed to bring these amazing women together across multiple time zones. We became this huge online family, and I just loved it.”

Dawn is a nontraditional MBA student. She worked in broadcast news after college, and then earned her first master’s degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. After a decade covering Wall Street and global markets as a business journalist, she was selected for a Knight-Bagehot Fellowship, a year-long academic intensive for which she returned to the Columbia campus.

As part of the fellowship, she took a few classes at Columbia Business School, but because she wasn’t an MBA candidate, she didn’t have access to everything the school had to offer. 

Dawn had previously explored pursuing an MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan), but her fellowship gave her an incentive to earn an MBA at Columbia instead — some of her course credits would transfer over. Then, in late 2020, her father died, and she needed some time to process her grief. She put her MBA plans on hold and returned to work.

Building a Global Network

During her Knight-Bagehot Fellowship, Dawn met several Forté Fellows. She says, “They talked about how Forté lifted them up and launched them into business school with an established network.” At the time, she felt like an outsider in the MBA classes, and wanted to have those kinds of connections when she enrolled in business school herself. That inspired her to apply to Forté MBALaunch. 

Dawn participated in the 2022 MBALaunch cohort with the intention of exploring Executive MBA programs. In her peer group, she met women from all over the world — including Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, Lagos, Hong Kong, and Dubai. She says, “They managed to bring these amazing women together across multiple time zones. We became this huge online family, and I just loved it.”

Going through this program boosted my confidence, and it gave me a sense of ‘I’ve got this. I can do this.’”

As a journalist, Dawn was attuned to telling other people’s stories, but in MBALaunch, the tables were turned. She says, “Suddenly, I had to tell my story. I had to write my own script, and I had to translate it into less than 500 words to an admissions committee that has never met me or knew anything about me.” During the program’s live sessions, admissions reps and MBA alumni guided her through that process.

Dawn got the news that she was accepted to Columbia Business School’s Executive MBA program just after volunteering at a Forté conference. She recalls, “I was stunned. I was literally standing on the corner of Park Avenue South in front of the Credit Suisse building, and they called and made me an offer.” A few weeks later, she started summer school classes. 

Planning for Post-MBA Life

At this point, she says, “It’s like Columbia is in my veins.” Post-MBA, she plans to move into management. She’d like to work in a director-level position with a multinational company. She has served on boards in the past, and she’s also interested in doing more of that. She says, “If I am in business school, I can learn not just how to behave myself in a boardroom, but about all the nuances around governance, ethics and leadership, activist investors, and all that good stuff.”

Thinking back on MBALaunch, Dawn says, “Going through this program boosted my confidence, and it gave me a sense of ‘I’ve got this. I can do this.’” She appreciates that it was so rigorous, because it helped her organize her schedule, her life, and her finances — and set her up to thrive in business school. 

She recommends MBALaunch even for people who aren’t 100% certain they’re going to apply to business school, because she believes it will help them look inward and figure out what they really want. She says, “It’s about preparing you for what could lie ahead.”

Start Your MBA Journey With Forté

If you’re planning to apply to business school, improve your chances of being accepted with Forté MBALaunch. Get access to a comprehensive application prep plan, supportive peer community, fee waivers to 40+ top b-schools, and more. Sign up to learn more and be notified of upcoming deadlines.

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