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Application Essays and Starting My MBA at University of Denver

daniels-logo-colorStarting this spring, I’ll be attending the University of Denver Daniels College of Business Executive MBA Program in order to earn my Master of Business Administration graduate degree. It’s an 18-month long program, in a small cohort experienced professionals.

Applying for MBA programs, and making my ultimate selection was not an easy process. I took both the GMAT and GRE standardized tests multiple times, attended multiple test prep courses, filled out lots of applications, refined my resume, tapped my peer group for recommendations and advice, and researched many courses. In the end, I applied to 6 programs.

My admissions essays took a time and energy. As a means of preserving them, and making them accessible to future aspiring MBA students, I’m publishing them here.

Thanks again to my trusted friends and colleagues who supported and advised me through the application process. The journey has just begun…

cs-emba-2016-2018

 


 

MBA Program Admissions Essays

Written by Jeffrey Donenfeld, Winter 2015 to Spring 2016

 

University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business

Why Leeds? Illustrate why earning your MBA at Leeds will enable you to achieve your ambitions?

Joining the Leeds community and earning my MBA will give me the clarity, community, and skills to enhance my career and rapidly become a leader and visionary in my field.  What follows is the story of my career trajectory so far, and an explanation of how Leeds will enable me to take my work — my passion — to the next level.

Shortly after graduating from The University of Colorado at Boulder, I was recruited to join a digital marketing firm in NYC. Over the next eight years, I moved up rapidly in the field and ultimately joined the core team of a small interactive media agency called Morpheus Media. At Morpheus, we built our core team of 12 into a 125-expert strong industry leader.  This was a life-changing experience and an unsurpassed opportunity to make significant inroads in the quickly expanding interactive media and technology industry. At our height, we were the North American agency of record for LVMH, encompassing over 30 luxury brands. My experiences in interactive media gave me the forum to become the effective team leader, group manager, salesperson, consultant, communicator, and innovator that I am today.

Although my career in interactive media was engaging, challenging, and a natural fit for me, my next big step was just over the horizon. I asked myself: “What’s the ultimate, most ambitious, most fantastic dream job I can imagine?” The answer was to work on science expeditions in Antarctica.

The road to becoming an Antarctic Field Science Technician was long and frustrating, but ultimately successful. Because I knew nothing at all about the specific science, lifestyle, and career options on the continent, I started researching, networking, and applying for every job I could find. To support my research and engagement with the scientific community, I wrote a blog post every single day until I accomplished my objective. I also met countless scientists, contractors, managers, and explorers. And then one day, three years after I started my quest, I received a call from Lockheed Martin telling me I had a week to get to the Denver Airport and catch my flight to the ice.

Working in Antarctica was a life-changing experience. During my most recent season on the ice, I worked as a Field Technician and Project Manager on the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center’s DISC Drill team. I was in charge of comprehensive accounting for our team’s scientific equipment and industrial machinery, management of the packing and shipment process, and general gear and logistics for the entire season.

My experience working in the field set the stage perfectly for my next step. My next endeavor is to combine my team leadership, agency-level project management and sales skills developed in NYC with my field science management and organization experience to move into the upper levels of field science and technology project creation, development, sales, and management.

My post-MBA plans cover two important areas of possibility and interest, and I look forward to using my time at Leeds on academic pursuit and discourse, surveying potential pathways, and exploring the options I can create for myself.

On one pathway, I envision relaunching my own technology and media consulting company, Four North, to specialize in field science-related management and consulting. On the other pathway, I look forward to joining a field/science project management team as a project leader and visionary at a government agency such as NSF, USAP, NCAR.

The scope and offerings of Leeds are perfectly aligned with my academic and career pursuits for multiple reasons. First, the program’s focus on entrepreneurship speaks to my curiosity and passion for leadership and innovation in my own endeavors. As a serial entrepreneur myself — having formed my first company over 15 years ago — I’m excited for the opportunity to engage in more formal academic studies of entrepreneurship, and to connect with my fellow like-minded classmates.

Second, Boulder is a rapidly expanding hub for innovative new companies and novel ideas. It’s the perfect location to not only learn about these companies, but also to interact with them directly. While at Leeds, I look forward to exploring the full scope of area-based companies and ideas, and to relating them to my own passions and studies. Further, in addition to the new startups, Boulder is also home to some of the world’s premier scientific laboratories, government contractors, and government agencies such as the Lockheed Martin Antarctic Support Contract offices in charge of high-level Antarctic support management, which synergizes directly with my previous and future career endeavors.

Finally, Boulder is… beautiful. The location, environment, people, and general feeling of Boulder make it the ideal place to pursue my MBA while remaining engaged with, and energized and inspired by, the surrounding environment. I know this firsthand because I’m already a CU Undergraduate alumnus, and I live in Boulder.

I’m very much looking forward to joining the Leeds School of Business 2018 MBA Class, and hope you’ll invite me to join your community.

How does your intellectual curiosity drive your professional and personal growth? 

My intellectual curiosity has been the primary driver of my growth, both personally and professionally, for as long as I can remember.  As an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I chose to major in Psychology —not because I had planned to become a psychologist, but because I loved the subject matter, loved my classes, loved learning about the human mind and the way individuals interact, loved doing projects with my fellow classmates, and loved engaging in my studies. I chose to study psychology because it satisfied my intellectual curiosity, and this innate interest paid off by providing me with the academic focus to solidify the ideas and understanding I already possessed within.

Similarly, I chose my first career — in interactive media — based on my personal passions and innate understanding of the principles of advertising, marketing, sales, technology, and a vision of the future. I started down this path not because I had studied it in depth in school or because I calculated that it would be a rapidly expanding field (which it became).  I chose interactive media because I had a passion for it and an innate understanding of its fundamentals, which allowed me to quickly stand out as an industry leader, innovator, and creative thinker.

My interest and employment in managing field science operations in Antarctica was also fueled by my intellectual curiosity.  I had long been personally interested in discovering remote corners of the  globe and understanding its supporting infrastructure. I wasn’t sure where the road would lead, but I followed my passion and learned as much as I could about Antarctica and how to get a job there.  After three years of persistent fact-finding, training, and networking, my dream came true. I secured a position working in support of scientific discovery in Antarctica with Lockheed Martin.

The final example of my passion fueling my personal growth is my blog. In my freshman year of college, in 2000, I set a personal goal of writing an article in my blog regularly.  I succeeded!  And I have continued writing ever since, maintaining a comprehensive blog chronicling my thoughts, interests, and pursuits. In the past 15 years, I’ve written close to 1700 online articles, countless portfolios, studies, analyses, and montages. The ultimate exploration of my intellectual curiosity is online at http://JeffreyDonenfeld.com

My long history of passionate pursuit has lead me to my next step of academic focus and discovery, as I look forward to continuing to pursue my passions at Leeds.

 

I started to approach the world differently when …

I started to approach the world differently when I realized that I could do anything I wanted to do. That there was no specific, set career path that I was forced to take. That I could call anybody a friend. That I had the ultimate, blessed freedom to pursue what was in my heart. And I did it. I’m doing it right now by applying to join the community at Leeds.

Having the power to do anything I set my mind to is extremely liberating and energizing. Even in the face of an adversity, I can still do whatever I set my mind to is liberating and empowering. Suddenly, the whole world is available — and even if there are definite barriers to dreams, there’s always a way to make the essentials possible.

I remember sitting at my desk years ago and telling myself – “there’s nobody holding you here but yourself”, and making the decision to pursue my dreams. And although it’s been a long and hard fight — which I’m still fighting — I’m glad I did it.

It’s because of this realization, and my renewed, inspired, optimistic, and empowered approach to the world, that I keep a short, but powerful saying on my desk to look at everyday: “FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD”. I live by that every day.

University of Denver Daniels

What contribution will you make to the Daniels learning environment? Include examples of previous experience that demonstrates your readiness for graduate school, specific to the program for which you are applying. 

My distinct diversity in career and life experience make me a superior contributor to the Daniels community and, more specifically, to my class. Several aspects of my background and experience support this.

After graduating from college at CU-Boulder, I was fortunate to start working in the quickly-growing digital marketing field in New York City. I worked my way up gaining experience with a number of smaller marketing firms, until I signed on to help develop and grow a then-small interactive ad agency. I was the 12th employee at Morpheus Media, and one of the two founding members of the SEO Department. During my four years at Morpheus, I helped grow the company from a 12-person startup to a 125-person industry leader. I was one of the co-founders of the SEO and Social Media departments, the founder of the Mobile Media department, and one of the agencies senior-strategists. I was also involved in sales and business development on a weekly basis. My experience at Morpheus exposed me to the full spectrum of business strategy, growth, management, and optimization. Looking towards the Daniels MBA program, I’m excited to combine my significant past experiences with academic discourse and team interaction, and to emerge as a community leader and motivator.

During the past few years, tI re-focused my career trajectory to pursue my interest in working in Antarctica with the United States Antarctic Program in supporting National Science Foundation-funded scientific exploration and experimentation. I pro-actively made this shift out of a desire to diversify and to continue to pursue what truly makes me excited. Working in Antarctica over two seasons was an incredible experience as I managed a team of deep-field professionals to service a precision deep-ice coring drill at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Camp, one of the most remote Antarctic field camps in the middle of the largest highest, coldest, windiest, and driest desert on earth. Although a departure from the office life, my work at WAIS was a continuation of my on-the-spot decision making, dynamic management, and adaptive strategy experience, as we battled complex logistics, uncooperative weather, and remote locations to accomplish a shared objective the right way, at the right time.

It’s these diverse, multidisciplinary, and one-of-a-kind experiences that make me an unparallelled contributor to the Daniels community, which I look forward to joining in the fall.

 

Describe an ethical dilemma that you encountered. Explain alternatives you considered and how you determined the best action to take.

Antarctica. The whole place is a bit of an ethical dilemma, but during my two deployments, I got to witness firsthand the nuanced dilemmas inherent in living in a government-run town, scheduling housing and logistics in conjunction with the US Air Force, and grant-funded project operations.

I’ve deployed to Antarctica twice. My first year, I was stationed at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The station houses about 150 people during the summer, and is a massive structure elevated above the snow and ice. The very existence of the station, given the extensive fuel, personnel, and resource requirements is incredible. The station burns millions of gallons of jet fuel to power generators for heat and electricity. There’s a fully featured galley on station serving three meals per day, in addition to holiday and special meals. Everybody has their own heated bedroom, and there’s a weight room, gymnasium, library, music room, and movie theater accessible to everyone – all at the south pole.

Merely living there brings to mind the ethical question of whether or not all of the infrastructure and energy is worth it. Sure, there’s great scientific research being done there – but could it be done with less luxury and excess? I asked myself this question almost every day while on station, and decided that yes, it would be possible to conserve more, but potentially at the cost of productivity and quality of life.  In order to cope with this dilemma, I decided to do my best to conserve as much as possible while there, as well as do the best work I possibly could, maximizing the benefit of the myriad resources. Additionally, I wrote extensive articles on my personal blog documenting all of the interesting aspects of the station, with hopes of extending the benefit of the incredible structure at the south pole to people around the world.

 

Stanford GSB

What matters most to you, and why?

The relentless pursuit of dreams is what’s important.

Realizing my dreams. Making the choice to pursue my dreams. And critically, changing the universe to make my dreams happen is what truly matters to me. By far the most illustrative story of my pursuit of the impossible is my quest to get to Antarctica. I failed for four solid years, and finally, after struggle and questioning, finally arrived at the South Pole.

I worked in NYC for a number of years starting and growing an interactive ad agency from 12-125 people, and although my career in interactive media was engaging, challenging, and a natural fit for me, my next big step was just over the horizon. I asked myself: “What’s the ultimate, most ambitious, most fantastic dream job I can imagine?” The answer was to work on science expeditions in Antarctica.

The road to becoming an Antarctic Field Science Technician was long and frustrating, but ultimately successful. Because I knew nothing at all about the specific science, lifestyle, and career options on the continent, I started researching, networking, and applying for every job I could find. To support my research and engagement with the scientific community, I wrote a blog post every single day until I accomplished my objective. And then one day, three years after I started my quest, I received a call from Lockheed Martin telling me I had a week to get to the airport and catch my flight to the ice.

Working in Antarctica was a life-changing experience. During my most recent season on the ice, I worked as a Field Technician and Project Manager on the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center’s DISC Drill team. I was in charge of comprehensive accounting for our team’s scientific equipment and industrial machinery, management of the packing and shipment process, and general gear and logistics for the entire season.

For the past 15 years I’ve been writing regularly on my personal blog, and for the past 5 years I’ve been writing personal stories about my quest to Antarctica, including an entire account of the evolution of my journey there. http://JeffreyDonenfeld.com/Antarctica

The quest for Antarctica initially seemed like a completely impossible dream, with so many questions at the beginning. Where to even start? However as I realized, you must start somewhere, anywhere, and just get moving. It’s this almost blind confidence that enables each of us to achieve what we truly want, and make the impossible dream happen.

The easy thing for me would be to go back to working an office job I’m easily qualified for. The hard thing is to continue to pursue my career, personal, and life goals – which includes joining the Stanford community.

To remix President Kennedy: I choose to go to Stanford. I choose to go to Stanford this year, not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of my energies and skills, because that challenge is one that I am willing to accept, one I am unwilling to postpone, and one which I intend to win…

Why Stanford?

Joining the Stanford community is that next ideal, impossible, perfect, dreamy ideal which has sculpted my life and career since the beginning. It’s the continuation of my crazy idea to build a tech startup in NYC – and making it work. It’s the continuation of my insane idea of getting a job at the southern axis of the earth – and making it work. It’s the continuation of my proof that to change my world, and the world, FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD. That’s why Stanford.

It’s my conception of having a vision of a perfect path forward, where the universe falls into place and flows. What follows is the story of my career trajectory so far, and an explanation of how Stanford will enable me to take my work — my passion — to the next level.

Stanford is home to some of the most innovative thinkers, brightest minds, and weirdest dreamers anywhere. But it’s missing my creative drive and unwavering dreams.

My experience working in multiple fields, including in the middle of the world’s largest, highest, coldest, windiest, and driest desert sets the stage for a refinement, innovation, and elevated pursuit of vision – and Stanford is the community, curriculum, and challenge to make that happen.

Stanford’s focus on creative entrepreneurship, innovative thinking, and constant challenge is ideal. Stanford’s engaged community and extensive network is essential. This Fall, i look forward to joining the Stanford community, and creating the next step.

 

Hult Business School

To help our Admissions team better understand you, tell us about your professional and personal achievements, and why you are a good fit for Hult.

Joining the Hult community is that next ideal, impossible, perfect, dreamy ideal which has sculpted my life and career since the beginning. It’s the continuation of my crazy idea to build a tech startup in NYC – and making it work. It’s the continuation of my insane idea of getting a job at the southern axis of the earth – and making it work. It’s the continuation of my proof that to change my world, and the world, FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD. That’s why Hult.

It’s my conception of having a vision of a perfect path forward, where the universe falls into place and flows. What follows is the story of my career trajectory so far, and an explanation of how Hult will enable me to take my work — my passion — to the next level.

I moved up rapidly working with startups in NYC, particularly in building Morpheus Media. There, we built our core team of 12 into a 125-expert strong industry leader. It was life-changing, in that i developed solid business skills on the spot, and realized that I had the ability to help make an entire company run. My experiences in interactive media gave me the forum to become the effective team leader, group manager, salesperson, consultant, communicator, and innovator that I am today – that’s a lot of roles – all of which I learned as they became a critical necessity of my everyday life.

Although my career in interactive media was engaging, challenging, and a natural fit for me, my next big step was just over the horizon. I asked myself: “What’s the ultimate, most ambitious, most fantastic dream job I can imagine?” The answer was to work on science expeditions in Antarctica.

The road to becoming an Antarctic Field Science Technician was long and frustrating – but I made it a success. I have a knack for that. Because I knew nothing at all about the specific science, lifestyle, and career options on the continent, I started researching, networking, and applying for every job I could find. To support my research and engagement with the scientific community, I wrote a blog post every single day until I accomplished my objective. I also met countless scientists, contractors, managers, and explorers. And then one day, three years after I started my quest, I received a call from Lockheed Martin telling me I had a week to get to the airport and catch my flight to the ice.

Working in Antarctica was a life-changing experience. During my most recent season on the ice, I worked as a Field Technician and Project Manager on the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center’s DISC Drill team. I was in charge of comprehensive accounting for our team’s scientific equipment and industrial machinery, management of the packing and shipment process, and general gear and logistics for the entire season.

My experience working in the field sets the stage for a refinement, innovation, and elevated pursuit of vision – and Hult is the community, curriculum, and challenge to make that happen.

Hult’s focus on creative entrepreneurship, innovative thinking, and constant challenge is ideal. Hult’s engaged community and extensive network is essential. And Hult’s location, as well as global reach is literally where it’s at.

This Fall, i look forward to joining the Hult community, and creating the next step.

 

INSEAD

Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary.

The problem with me is that I dream big, and obsessively pursue my dreams until I achieve them. I’m an eternal optimist, and throughout my life I’ve been one to think that when I apply myself, I can change my world when it needs to be changed. I’ve proven this to myself time and time again, in my personal, social, and professional lives – and it’s been for the better AND worse.

The ability to dream, and believe in your dreams can be a powerful force of change. My career pathway is a telling example of my dreams constantly evolving, and my continuous pursuit of them. Coming out of college, I moved to NYC with the vision of living the big city life, working with my best friends, having a typical Manhattan apartment, and developing a close knit community in one of the world’s craziest cities. My first job coming to the city was at a very small marketing firm, but with time, I worked my way up, and eventually made my dream a reality. By the time I was ready to leave the city, I was on the management team of a large ad agency which I helped to create, working on strategy for the world’s largest luxury brands.

Onto the next dream: Antarctica.

What better way to take a next step than to step completely out of the city, and into the largest, highest, coldest, windiest, and driest desert on earth. That’s what I had in mind when I decided to get a job working with the United States Antarctic Program. I knew nothing when I started the quest, and I failed at it completely and consistently for 4 long years. But I was determined to make my dream into a reality. I was committed, and it was going to happen. Four years later, after numerous last minute flights to meet managers and administrators at Lockheed Martin, countless phone calls, training courses in the mountains, and sleepless nights, I got a cryptic email, and then a call. They said I had 5 days to get myself with all of my gear to the airport, and hop on a flight to the South Pole.

Those are two examples of how I’ve pursued my dreams, and luckily made them happen – but there have been numerous dreams I’m still working on, that I’ve failed to achieve, and that I don’t even know how to start. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the intellectual and unwavering drive to make lots of them come true, and I’ve also failed time and time again. Through all of this, though, I can’t imagine any other way to be. With so little time, the only thing that seems logical to do is the best, brightest, highest, most incredible things I can think of – and that’s what I intend to continue to do at INSEAD. I can’t picture it any other way.

 

Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned.

I failed consistently on one seemingly impossible task for over four years.

Then, in a moment of synergy, luck, and opportunity, all of the pieces came together, and I found myself a week later on a US Military flight to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica.

Four years before my ultimate success, I was working at Morpheus Media – a rapidly growing digital marketing agency. Although my career in interactive media was engaging, challenging, and a natural fit for me, my next big step was just over the horizon. I asked myself: “What’s the ultimate, most ambitious, most fantastic dream job I can imagine?” The answer was to work on science expeditions in Antarctica.

The road to becoming an Antarctic Field Science Technician was long and frustrating, but ultimately successful. Because I knew nothing at all about the specific science, lifestyle, and career options on the continent, I started researching, networking, and applying for every job I could find. To support my research and engagement with the scientific community, I wrote a blog post every single day until I accomplished my objective. I also met countless scientists, contractors, managers, and explorers. And then one day, three years after I started my quest, I received a call from Lockheed Martin telling me I had a week to get to the Denver Airport and catch my flight to the ice.

Working in Antarctica was a life-changing experience. During my most recent season on the ice, I worked as a Field Technician and Project Manager on the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center’s DISC Drill team. I was in charge of comprehensive accounting for our team’s scientific equipment and industrial machinery, management of the packing and shipment process, and general gear and logistics for the entire season.

Throughout this life-changing quest, I met countless incredible individuals who taught me to follow my passions, do what’s interesting and weird, and never give up. It’s this very reason that I’m now excited take on my next endeavor of earning my MBA and revolutionizing my career with INSEAD.

The full story of my quest for Antarctica is told in exhaustive detail on my blog at http://JeffreyDonenfeld.com/Antarctica

 

Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way.

I ran my best marathon ever amidst smiling, confused, cheering crowds lining the streets of Pyongyang, North Korea.

Here, in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, cultural diversity takes a weird, homegrown, and remarkably flourishing twist. It’s mandated, controlled, and sculpted by the all-seeing government. And lacking an unbiased alternative or diversified voice, the one way truly is the way. As I explored North Korea, this homegrown spin of diversity was both an inspiration, and quite depressing at the same time.

In a certain light, North Korea’s insulated cultural, political, and social ecosystem is a fantastic distillation of truth and purity. For the last three generations of leaders, the cultural identity of the north has been singularly shaped and refined into an incredibly well defined, deep, and powerful national identity. It’s character is completely unique – beautiful expressions of creativity and inspiration abound throughout Pyongyang, if you look with the right eyes. People are pure and loving once you give them a chance. And within their microcosm the people of North Korea are healthy and proud of what they’ve built.

There’s a prevalent dark side to this insulated brand of singularized cultural diversity as well. Looking in from an outsider’s perspective, North Korea is a timewarp of short-sighted cultural norms, crushing control of the people, and oppression of even the most basic rights. Their society could be seen as dull and lackluster arising out of an almost complete embargo of outside influences.

I disagree with this fatalist view. The optimistic, inclusive, and loving view of North Korea is the one I choose to embrace. Government politics are one thing – but looking directly at the people and heart of the nation, it’s easy to see, with the right eyes, the flourishing warmth and unique cultural identity that’s been created.

The full story of my cultural exploration of North Korea is online at http://goo.gl/83SD7m

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