Columbia Alumni Club: Connecting Alumni and Impacting the Community

Editor's note:

Interview with Sergio Carpenter, Rio de Janeiro CAA Brazil Regional President, Columbia Business School and Columbia School of Professional Studies alumnus 

Leticia Katz
October 03, 2023

The Columbia Alumni Club is an organization that brings together alumni from the renowned educational institution to promote networking, collaboration, and educational events. With a significant presence in Rio de Janeiro, the Columbia Alumni Association Brazil (CAA) has a rich history and a clear mission: to keep the connection among alumni alive and strengthen ties with the university. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Sergio Carpenter, an alumnus of the Columbia Business School and an active member of the CAA, to learn more about the club and its impacts.

Sergio Carpenter is an inspiring example of how Columbia University's education can shape successful careers. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Catholic University Rio (PUC-RJ), Sergio moved to the United States, where he worked for AT&T. It was during this time that he had the opportunity to pursue an Executive MBA at the Columbia Business School as part of an internal AT&T program for senior executives. After graduating in 1997, Sergio returned to Brazil, where he worked on the bidding process for the privatization of Telebras mobile phone licenses. This experience inspired him to leave AT&T and establish his own mobile phone software company, Wiz Technologies, in 1999. The company thrived with the launch of the first color screen data-capable phones, paving the way for millions of downloads worldwide. Later, in 2016, Sergio had the opportunity to undertake a study program at Columbia University, exploring subjects such as History, Art History, Philosophy, and Technology.

CGC Rio - How long has the club existed in Rio?

Sergio Carpenter - The Columbia Alumni Association Brazil (CAA) was incorporated in 1998 in São Paulo, but its presence in Rio de Janeiro began to consolidate in 2009, under the leadership of Molly Multedo. Today, the CAA has approximately 1800 alumni registered on its various communication platforms across the country. In Rio de Janeiro, over 120 alumni participate regularly in club activities, with about 40 of them actively involved in discussions and meet-ups.

CGC Rio - What collaborative activities and engagements do you organize with fellow alumni and faculty members?

Sergio Carpenter - CAA Brazil organizes various events throughout the year, both in-person and hybrid, in which alumni can engage. These events span presentations by judges, ambassadors, economists, authors, and Columbia University professors. Additionally, Columbia Ventures Brazil held seven Pitch Nights in 2022, where selected companies sought venture capital investments from alumni. Recently, we also had an art exhibition launch by a SIPA alumna at Fábrica Bhering, a book signing by an MFA alumnus, and two happy hours. Furthermore, we will have an online presentation by Prof. Bruce Usher from the Columbia Business School on Climate Change Investing.

CGC Rio - Could you mention some notable events from the Alumni Club?

Sergio Carpenter -The Columbia Alumni Club has provided a series of memorable events for its members. Recently, there was the hybrid "Ação Climática" event organized by a SIPA alumna, and the "Founder's Day," where company leaders in which alumni have invested come to discuss their businesses. Last year, a record seventy alumni attended a private tour of the São Paulo Biennial. In November, several alumni participated in a private tour of Sebastião Salgado's art exhibit at Museu do Amanhã in Rio de Janeiro, followed by drinks at the famous Largo da Prainha.

CGC Rio - How has Columbia impacted your life overall?

Sergio Carpenter - The education I received at Columbia Business School was crucial for my transition from AT&T, a large multinational telecommunications company, to a successful entrepreneurial career with the founding of Wiz Technologies. Additionally, my study period at Columbia University during the sabbatical opened up new possibilities and perspectives in my life.

CGC Rio - Do you foresee plans for future programs and events with the university?

Sergio Carpenter - In Rio de Janeiro, the Columbia Alumni Club plans to continue hosting gatherings that create suitable engagement opportunities for all university schools. This means we can expect a series of exciting events and collaborations that will connect Columbia University alumni and continue to enrich the academic community. The Columbia Alumni Club is a remarkable example of how an alumni network can enhance the educational and professional experience of individuals. With a solid history and an active community, the club remains a beacon of connection for those who have passed through Columbia University, promoting collaboration, continuous learning, and positive societal impact.