How Indiana’s Kelley School Became No. 1 In MBA Satisfaction

Dean "Idie" Kesner of the Kelley School of Business

Dean Idie Kesner of the Kelley School of Business


The school not only enlisted student opinion and feedback, it also drafted more than 50 second-year MBA students to serve as coaches to both individual incoming students and their core teams. Second-years went through three days of in-person training in late August and another two days in mid-October for their new roles. They meet monthly with the two co-directors of the school’s Leadership Academy to discuss coaching challenges. “The second years who volunteer tend to be toward the top of the class,” says Luther. “It also helped because peer coaching became like the older sibling versus the trusted uncle or aunt. They would take their older sibling’s advice more readily than an uncle because the student could explain how it had helped him or her before.”

Kelley also used student feedback to build out a global consulting experience called Global Business and Social Enterprise Program (GLOBASE), going from one international trip to three. Almost half of the Class of 2012 participated in it. The school puts more emphasis on an Emerging Markets Experience that brought students to such countries as Argentina, Brazil, China and Thailand. And Kelley created, with still more student feedback, what it called a “Renaissance Week” in the spring for students seven weeks before graduation. “We wanted to make sure these students graduate feeling they have a relationship with the school,” explains Powell. “By the middle of the spring semester, a lot of them are thinking about other things. So we positioned this as a week of executive education for our graduating MBAs. We asked them, ‘What topics would you like to know more about before you take on your job?’”

The first session, kicked off by an inspirational speech from the CEO of Whirlpool, focused on executive leadership, with business simulations and coaching exercises. “Students had their handprints all over it,” says Powell. “The class really owned it. We wanted them to feel they had a chance to leave their own legacy at the school.”


Besides the vastly improved student satisfaction ranking from BusinessWeek, the changes have had a big impact on job placement rates. Since 2009, when the school placed only 61% of its MBA students as interns, 100% of Kelley’s MBA candidates have had summer internships in the past four years. For the Class of 2013, 51% of the students came back from the summer with full-time job offers in hand, up from only 26% for the Class of 2010, and 44% for the Class of 2012. This year, 95% of the MBA students had job offers three months after graduation.

“Almost every recruiter we talk to says that in the August timeframe, our kids are better prepared,” says Luther. “We have heard that from everyone from Procter & Gamble to General Motors to Target. They see it and know we do a better job of creating that first impression. Our students are thinking about this story more than our peers.”

Last year, the school’s applications were up 30% among domestic candidates and 4% among international applicants. “There is no doubt that reaching number one in the student satisfaction rankings helped a lot,” says Kesner. “Kelley is more than just Me, Inc. It is a holistic program that takes care of students from beginning to end—the academies, the Globase experiences, the emerging markets. There are so many things here that interact with other parts of the program that are part of the success story that is important to the school. Me, Inc. is just one piece. If you have the talent to succeed, the humility to grow, the tenacity to persevere, we are the school for you.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.