2017 MBAs To Watch: Kim Kennedy, University of Michigan (Ross)

Kim Kennedy

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Organizational behavior junkie who finds maximum happiness while exploring different countries and national parks.”

Age: 31.

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri.

Fun fact about yourself: Lived or worked in 12 countries.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Middlebury College, Bachelor of Arts (Majors: Political Science; Italian).

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Training Resources Group Inc., Organizational Development Associate & Team Lead (Washington, D.C.).

Abt Associates, Analyst, Health Policy & Analytics – International Health Division (Maryland).

Grassroots Soccer, Manager, Malawi Country Program (Malawi).

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Nike; Portland, Oregon.

Where will you be working after graduation? Nike; Emerging Markets Supply Chain Manager.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Human Capital Club – Vice President of Corporate Relations.
  • Center for Positive Organizations – +LAB Fellow.
  • Student Ambassador.
  • Section Academic Chair.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am working with a team to publish a case through Michigan’s William Davidson Institute, which has a special focus on producing cases that address issues relevant to social impact and inclusive business in emerging markets. The case works through a company’s complex decision to enter the climate change conversation, and the positive and negative outcomes of this decision. I am proud to be creating something that will help future generations of MBAs critically think about how companies drive positive change in the world while also meeting business objectives.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my previous role, my firm was supporting a client in the midst of a significant reorganization. My role was to support a specific business unit as it navigated the process and implemented new organizational structures, strategies, and processes. Change is difficult, and teams and individuals often get lost in large-scale change. The process I used with this team was very successful and was replicated across the organization.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There are four – Yesim Orhun, Jeff Sinclair, Greg Miller, and Andy Hoffman. These individuals encouraged disagreement in the classroom and pushed individuals to move beyond their initial responses to a question. They would repeatedly challenge individuals to develop, articulate, and defend strong viewpoints.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Sustainable Business Strategies II. This class challenged us to think beyond our current notions of capitalism and develop firm viewpoints on what we believe a future business ecosystem can and should look like. We explored cases that presented almost impossible and morally loaded situations – for example, Vodafone’s decision between rule of law and freedom of speech during the Arab Spring in Egypt. My main takeaway from the class is that innovation provides the best solution to current population and resource concerns, and intelligent businesses will seek to be first movers in providing solutions in this space.

Why did you choose this business school? When deciding between schools, a Michigan alum advised me to pay close attention to the leadership styles and overall presence of graduating MBA2s and decide if they carried qualities and attributes that I wanted to develop. It was clear to me that the Ross MBA2s were a group of highly engaged individuals who never blinked at the opportunity to step up. They were passionate and collaborative leaders, who balanced a sense of calm with an excited need to contribute to both the Ross community and to society. I selected the school because I knew it would help me to develop into this type of leader.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I really enjoyed watching how my mode of engaging with the world changed. Coming from the public and social sectors, I had a fundamentally different view of how the world operated. It was exciting to see how quickly my worldview expanded and how much the experience shaped my day-to-day thinking. I remember the first time I recognized this shift about two months into first year after spending 30 minutes in the toothpaste aisle examining decisions on product differentiation after finishing the infamous Colgate-Palmolive case.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I was surprised at how quickly students are required to make decisions about career paths. It feels like there should be more time to explore different industries and it is odd that you might pick to work in a function before you are exposed to the core content. You start narrowing options within the first two weeks of school and really start making commitments to an industry and function within the first two months.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Like all business schools, Ross has a certain culture and is proud of its identity. Take real time to understand what this culture looks like and how it will contribute to your success. Ross is known for many characteristics that fall within the common MBA-jargon category, such as collaboration and action-based learning, so you need to learn how these elements manifest at the school.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Ross is known for being incredibly collaborative and having a robust, responsive alumni network….and this is definitely true. After exposure to other schools, I do believe Ross’ sits on the high end of the collaboration spectrum. Students take all opportunities to help one another. More importantly, this eagerness to help is maintained beyond the program and I’ve found that both Ross and general Michigan alumni are unbelievably responsive.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I regret not taking pre-MBA courses that would have allowed me to test out of one or two core requirements. This would have allowed me to get to the electives, which are the real meat of the program and help to connect all the dots learned in the core, more quickly.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? An almost impossible question, but I will give two names – Aysha Malik and Mikaela Rodkin. They continually question their role in the world and primarily operate in service of others. Couple this with extremely sharp business acumen, and they will both be in future headlines for positively impacting many lives.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was sitting frustrated in a broken-down car in the middle of Malawi realizing that sustainable economic development within emerging markets is primarily driven by private-sector actors.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…continuing work as a human capital consultant for clients operating in the public and social sectors.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Encourage students to disagree.  Many of the best class discussions occur when students are willing to intelligently and respectfully disagree, and are willing to share their own belief systems. These conversations can be heated, but allow for enhanced learning and a greater shared experience.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Ultimately, I would like to become the CHRO of a multinational firm working to maximize the performance and engagement of a highly complex workforce and contribute to global thought leadership on labor rights and conditions in emerging markets.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? A combination of parents, new friends, and old friends for always listening and cheering during the roller coaster that is business school.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As the individual who always took time to listen and who will be a good source of guidance and advice in the future.

Favorite book: Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami.

Favorite movie or television show: Most recent binge…. Westworld.

Favorite musical performer: Too many to name.

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Town, South Africa.

Hobbies? Spinning, photography, travel.

What made Kim such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Kim is a remarkable person. She approaches issues and problems holistically. She seeks to understand issues, apply her knowledge, and leverage the expertise of others, rather than seeing problems solely through the lens of her own expertise. She tailors her thinking and approach to what is needed to understand and improve the performance of each individual and the organization as a whole.

Kim is genuine and energetic, with a magnetism that draws people to her, wanting to be part of her team and to work with her toward an exciting goal.  She is simultaneously a strong team leader and member, engaging everyone as a peer, respecting each person’s ability to add value.  She listens, appreciates and values others’ points of view, and actively contributes with a positive and collaborative style.”

Jeffrey Sinclair

Adjunct Professor

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan



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