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

Philip Powell now heads up Kelley's online MBA program

Philip Powell now heads up Kelley’s online MBA program


Yet, with such a small MBA program in the middle of Indiana, it’s sometimes hard to get the visibility that other business schools seem to command. “We are this incredible hidden gem,” believes Jonlee Andrews, who succeeded Powell as the chair of the full-time MBA program. “When students come here they are truly blown away, and when they get the chance to compare us to other programs they come back and say we are so proud to be part of it. Companies like our students because they roll up their sleeves and get the job done.”

Even so, the school’s turnaround has garnered attention from rival business deans. “They want to know how did we get dramatic improvement in our rankings,” says Dean Kesner. “I usually tell them all the things the faculty does in the program, and they tell me that their faculty won’t do this or that. The conversation inevitably gets to a point where they say, ‘Just tell us what the secret sauce is?’

“I have to tell them there is no secret,” adds Kesner. “Our faculty is incredibly cooperative and collaborative with each other. Many schools have more of a political or entrepreneurial culture where faculty are just out for themselves. We have a high expectation that you will work together. The faculty generally cares about the students here. We see their success as a mark of our success.”

Meantime, the day that BusinessWeek was to announce its newest MBA ranking in November of 2012, Powell recalls waking up with a knot in his stomach. While staff around the school set themselves up to gather and listen to the count down of BusinessWeek’s ranking on the Internet, Powell quietly stole away alone to the Village Deli on Kirkwood, IU’s iconic strip just off campus.

“I sat down at a booth 10 minutes before the broadcast would start,” recalls Powell, who now heads up Kelley’s online MBA program. “I ordered a coffee, chicken sandwich, and fries and sat looking out the window remembering the ups and downs of the last two years and the hard work and energy we all had expended to bring us to this moment.” When the results came in, his Blackberry buzzed again with a text that read “#15! Congratulations! I hope you are proud!” It was a four-place improvement in the overall ranking, but even more importantly, BusinessWeek had ranked Kelley at the very top of its student satisfaction poll.

For another 20 minutes, Powell remembers silently sitting in the deli feeling a quiet happiness and gratitude.  “We were out of the ditch,” he says, “the full-time MBA program was back on the rails. I walked back to the Kelley School, received a big congratulations from my staff, and began a normal afternoon of meetings.”


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