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Lisa Ehn: Business Certificate Helped Student Snag a Spot on Set at BBC Studios’ ‘Life Below Zero’ in Alaska

Lisa Ehn (‘19SPS, Advanced Graduate Certificate in Business) had just finished her Bachelor of Science at Linköping University in Sweden, but she knew she wanted to study for a year in the United States. That led her to the Columbia University School of Professional Studies and the Advanced Graduate Business Certificate, which qualified her for an Optional Practical Training F-1 visa that allowed her to work in the U.S. 

“The thought of getting to live in New York City and study at Columbia, an Ivy League university, felt like a dream,” Lisa said. “The business program felt like a perfect fit to expand my knowledge of business.”

Thanks to a connection made through Prof. Matthew Frederick, who teaches Delivering the Strategic Message in the Business Certificate program, Lisa got her foot in the door at BBC Studios in Los Angeles, first as a production assistant on a pilot and now as a coordinator on “Life Below Zero: Port Protection,” which airs on National Geographic.

We had a chance to catch up with Lisa and learn more about her time in the Business Certificate, and how what she learned there led her to the work she does today:

Lisa Ehn on Columbia's campus

What were your favorite courses?

Introduction to Negotiation with Professor Saad, Delivering the Strategic Message with Professor Patterson and Matthew Frederick, and Leading People with Professor Wallen. These were classes that really captured me and where I learned so many new and exciting skills. They were very practical classes and included exercises that made me grow. The teachers and the professors were very kind, knowledgeable and inspiring.

What was life like living in New York City?

It was everything I had hoped for and more. I lived with two roommates in Harlem, only a 15-minute walk to campus and the same distance to the northwest corner of Central Park. New York City has so much to offer; culture, people of all kinds, cozy coffee places to study, fantastic food, all the different neighborhoods to explore. And I soaked it all in!

Lisa Ehn 3

What are you up to now? 

After graduating from Columbia in May 2019, I packed my bags and moved to the west coast and Hollywood. Thanks to one of my teachers and Columbia, I met with a close contact of his, the vice president of production at BBC Studios here in Los Angeles. 

Through her I got a job as a production assistant on one of their pilots. Since then, I have worked on the 28th season of Dancing with the Stars and I am now a coordinator on the BBC Studios show Life Below Zero: Port Protection on National Geographic. I am based in our office in Hollywood but have several times been up in Alaska where we shoot the show. I am really enjoying myself and I learn so much from the people I work with at BBC.

After graduating from Columbia in May 2019, I packed my bags and moved to Hollywood. Thanks to one of my teachers and Columbia, I met with a close contact of his, the vice president of production at BBC Studios here in Los Angeles. Through her, I got a job as a production assistant on one of their pilots.

Lisa Ehn, ‘19SPS Advanced Graduate Certificate in Business

How did the Advanced Graduate Business Certificate coursework help you in your professional goals?

All my classes have prepared me for what I do now. Negotiation, Managing Human Behavior in the Organization, and Leading People have taught me skills I use in everyday work life because of their focus on human behavior, management, and deal-making. The Finance and Marketing classes I took have given me a knowledge of business that will be useful my whole career, wherever it takes me.

What advice would you give to future students in the business certificate program?

Take both classes that challenge and excite you. Reach out to previous students and ask what classes they enjoyed and what their experiences were like. Also, during the two first weeks of the semester, attend and try many classes that you are interested in and go to several of the same classes and see what professor most suits and inspires you. In that way, I met Professor Vrana who not only made finance – a subject that normally doesn’t interest me the most – interesting, but she also made me enjoy her lectures.

Learn from the people you meet; students and professors. The business certificate program has a lot of international students and use that opportunity to learn about cultural differences in business as well as in life.

Lastly; enjoy every moment you have at Columbia and in New York City. A semester or a year goes by fast and you don’t want to leave the last month to experience all the things you want to before you leave – finals will also take up some of your time then. See Times Square, the Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty, but don’t forget to explore Brooklyn and its artistic atmosphere, have coffees in the small coffee shops in Greenwich Village, and meet your friends in that small, local bar on the corner.

Lisa Ehn 4

What are your hopes for the future? 

I hope to continue to work and grow in the television and film industry, whether that is here in LA or elsewhere is yet to see. I also have ideas of continuing my studies and doing a master in something like Media Management. That is thanks to several of my classes at Columbia that increased my interest in management.

Columbia and my time in New York City will always have a warm place in my heart and I hope to one day come back to the amazing city that was my home for a year.

Learn more about the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Business at Columbia University School of Professional Studies.