“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
The Class of 2019 made this bet when they chose Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. For them, great people make great learning. And they come to Evanston not to earn MBAs, but to become Kellogg MBAs.
Albert Soulier quickly noticed the difference during the application process. An investment specialist from JP Morgan, Soulier was struck by the “infectious” excitement he felt when he reached out to students and alumni alike. The Kellogg community, he says, would always “go above and beyond to help.” More important, they personified who he wanted to become as a leader – and a person.
A SCHOOL THAT VALUES COLLABORATION…AND DOESN’T TAKE ITSELF TOO SERIOUSLY
“I started noticing attributes in the students I met: They were humble, collaborative, down-to-earth, and accomplished, but didn’t take themselves too seriously,” he explains. “These were all qualities that I strive to embody in my life and that I was hoping to find in my future classmates.”
Soulier wasn’t alone among the incoming class in trumpeting Kellogg’s team-driven, high-engagement culture. Alyssa Forman, who transitioned from teaching to consulting, cites the program’s “collaborative culture” as the deciding factor for her, echoing similar themes as Soulier in what she experienced during a campus visit.
“I was impressed by the sense of genuine camaraderie among my section leaders,” Forman stresses. “They seemed to enjoy spending time together! I knew I wanted to join a business school culture where people took the time to get to know each other, valued teamwork, and had fun while doing it.”
AN “ALL IN” CULTURE WHERE STUDENTS STICK AROUND AFTER CLASMBA s
Like any great culture, Kellogg is a mix of careful curation from administration and profound buy-in from students. It is a program that goes well beyond the metrics. Here, nearly every candidate is interviewed to screen for their fit with the student body and commitment to the values. As a result, Kellogg consistently fields classes who are “all in,” in the words of Associate Dean Matthew Merrick.
Kellogg students naturally get heavily involved in clubs, extracurricular activities, and events. “They’re not just going to class and going home,” Merrick notes. “They are not passive participants in the whole educational process. They are very active participants.”
That sold Stephane Manuel on the program. A West Point engineering grad, Manuel believes that Kellogg’s signature cohesiveness offers him the best chance to grow as a leader. “Kellogg is a big, diverse, and global family of professionals pushing each other to grow as leaders and supporting each other to reach their goals,” he shares. “The collaborative environment goes beyond assigning groups projects. It’s ingrained in the culture not only as a method to learn, but also as a key driver of building strong personal relationships.”
AN ANTHROPOLOGIST, AN IMPROV COMIC, AND A NOMAD
Meet the Kellogg Class of 2019. Think of it as a class of contrasts, a gathering of seemingly every conceivable academic and industry background from every corner of the globe. In this class, you’ll find R&D chemists and retail buyers, bright-eyed entrepreneurs and logistics gurus, Fulbright Scholars and Teach for America veterans. They each come with a passion, whether it is Sangita Annamalai’s commitment to immigrant health in South Korea or Manuel’s fascination with product design.
If opposites attract, the 2019 Class is sure to bond quickly. Just look at a sampling of these bold and imaginative personalities. Alyssa Pasternack describes herself as an “upbeat, ambitious Californian with a touch of New York sensibility – Cher Horowitz meets Larry David” (Now there’s an image). Amanda VanHoet Is the class Jane Goodall: “an anthropologist at heart,” who loves “facilitating teams from diverse cultural backgrounds.” Eric Van Aelstyn also possesses a way with words, calling himself “Equal parts film enthusiast, golden retriever, and problem-solver.”
Looking for the guy who could pop open a Dos Equis and regale his classmates with his tales of close calls and wise lessons? That’d be Chuck Feerick, a digital health advocate who doubles as an “active triathlete and adventure racer, podcast host, and improviser.” You can bet that Feerick has already bonded with Richard Si, an ice hockey and volleyball enthusiast and “self-proclaimed comedian.” Then again, the whole class probably knows Arthur Vargas Amaral, a “nomad Brazilian consultant who tends to become good friends with (literally) everybody.”
CLASS INCLUDES OWNER OF THE WORLD’S FASTEST DOG (ON TWO LEGS?)
Wondering which class member will come down with the worst case of FOMO? Put your money on Valerie Chen: “I finished marathons multiple times out of peer pressure despite my significant aversion to cardio exercise.” Forget Princeton or Stanford, Feerick holds the most impressive degree as a graduate of the Second City Improv program. Impressive, sure, but it pales in comparison to Pasternack, whose dog own a world record as “the fastest dog on two front paws.”
The class was certainly adventurous before re-locating to Heavenston. Van Aelstyn has climbed the highest peak in the United States (Mount Whitney) and looked down on is lowest point (Death Valley). Vargas Amaral was nearly struck by lightning when he was wakeboarding on a lake – right before he was set to fly to Kellogg! “I felt the energy paralyze my body for a second,” he testifies. Don’t believe him? “I have that on video,” he adds.
How is this for a tale of courage and redemption? A life-long athlete, Shizuka Matsumoto suffered a knee injury that required four hours of surgery and a year-long rehabilitation. Eventually, she tip-toed back into competition, starting out running a half mile. Since then, she has completed a half marathon. “The moment I crossed the finish line, I realized I was no longer broken,” she declares.
A PERSONAL THANK YOU FROM A TOP CEO
The class’ professional accomplishments are equally moving. At Teach For America, Forman was responsible for setting up a charter school’s special education department from the ground up. Just one problem: Forman had studied public policy and global health as a Duke undergrad and had little experience with special education. So she did what any true leader would do: she reached out to experts to perfect a plan. The result? “When the charter school network opened a high school a year later, they modeled the special education department off the one we had built,” she says.
That’s just the start. Feerick was a founding member of NextLevel Health Partners, a Chicago-based accountable care organization that now boasts 50,000 members. At Zola, a wedding registry that is already valued at $200 million in just four years, Pasternack helmed a “first-of-its-kind” partner store integration. At the same time, Chen has spearheaded nearly a dozen product development initiatives that range from “a color-changing tape that can detect the hydrogen leak” to “anti-corrosion solutions for aircraft.”
For some, the accomplishments are a matter of life-and-death. During his second deployment to Afghanistan, Manuel served as a battle captain, where he oversaw the defense of Bagram Airfield and the 18,000 personnel who called it home. Working with a team from nations ranging from the Czech Republic to Nepal, he was able to able to fend off nearly four dozen separate assaults on the base.
Then again, some class members savored their greatest triumphs in private. As a consultant, Vargas Amaral melded his creativity with “rigorous scientific methods” to help one of Brazil’s biggest companies reach new markets. However, his satisfaction came more from a small gesture over the promotion he received. “Three years after the project was completed, the client CEO sent me a presentation he had made for the board showing the better than expected results our project created,” he shares. “Seeing such great results that came from the great work of my team made me prouder than ever to be a consultant.”
Go to page 3 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Northwestern Kellogg MBA students.