Most MBA candidates think they know what they want to do after graduation. Why else would they tender their resignations and plunk down a couple of years of pay to step away from their careers? They’re adults who’ve made the calls, run the numbers, and researched the options. They’re ready to go. So bring on the recruiters, right?
Not so fast. First years may have asked questions…but perhaps not the right questions. Who knows, maybe they don’t know themselves as well as they think. And the worst time to discover that is a high stakes sit down with Google or Procter & Gamble. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business understands this better than any program. That’s why they focus on preparing students for a career in which self-awareness, people skills, and passion account for as much as the business fundamentals and in-depth study of a core discipline.. And the process starts with their Me, Inc. program.
CREATING A PERSONAL BRAND IN ME, INC.
Think of it as a deep dive into first years’ talents, values, and motivations. Taking up the first two weeks of orientation, Me, Inc. is a discovery process that requires students to look far ahead to who they want to be – and the impact they want to have. This is hardly a solitary exercise in reflection. Me, Inc. is a true community affair – an introduction to Kelley’s coaching culture that treats candid feedback from peers and professional coaches as gifts.
That’s exactly what Kyle Lewandowski was seeking. In the U.S. Army, this Wisconsin native spent seven years as an officer focused on military intelligence and chemical and radiological weapons. For Lewandowski, Me, Inc. was a critical step in helping him “pivot” from military service to a professional career in supply chain management. “The Me, Inc. orientation program demonstrates Kelley’s desire to lead us to an even deeper understanding of why we are making this transition,” he explains. “It revealed the strengths and weaknesses we offer to a non-military organization, and how we can use the next two years of our MBA experience to leverage and overcome them, respectively.”
Me, Inc. is quintessential personal development. The team workshops foster a commitment to career planning and personal growth. It is a transformative process that forces first years to confront awkward questions that many have put off answering. The process provides students who enter Kelley’s integrated core curriculum with a clearer sense of direction – and how to add true value throughout their careers. “The Kelley School helps you discover the type of leader you are and how to be more effective in that capacity,” shares Kailey Good-Hallahan, a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant. “Although the military has taught me how to lead, there is a difference between leading due to position and leading because others want to follow you.”
In many ways, that comes down to positioning and trust – or branding. Every brand has certain qualities and history that differentiate it. In Me, Inc., Kelley students formulate their personal brand, weaving together skills and experiences to formulate a short pitch and long-term vision for themselves to sell to recruiters. “Kelley takes a hands-on approach to the professional development and personal growth of each student,” observes Chad Johnson, an engineer-turned-sales manager whose work credits include Salesforce.com and NetSuite. “There is a big focus on meeting students where they are and working collaboratively to really flesh out the path that is going to produce results. Further, Kelley puts a lot of thought into aligning each student with a dedicated team of peers, career coaches, mentors, and professors within a tight-knit community to make this process successful.”
A FLUTE-PLAYING NFL STAR JOINS A CLASS WITH AN OPERA SINGER
When it comes to branding, the Kelley Class of 2019 is filled with Coca-Colas, Apples, and Amazons. Take Stephanie Jordan. She is the Google of the Class; she can do everything. “I am an opera singer turned consultant with a fast mile time and a heart of gold,” she quips. Jordan isn’t the only artist-athlete in residence in Bloomington. Micah Pellerin is his class’ answer to Nike – a guy you can plug anywhere and he’ll ‘just do it.’ He was the first chair flutist for the State of Mississippi Orchestra. However, this Hampton finance major has another passion: football. “Playing in the NFL is such a lofty expectation for someone growing up, and it requires not only skill but luck,” he notes. “I’m proud to not only have made it to the NFL, but to have played for multiple seasons. The experience serves as a constant reminder to expand my concept of the possible.” Alas, great brands also feature iconic slogans. Amy Ying Liu’s tag line could be slapped on gems or perfume: “I am a forever glass half-full kind of girl.” Then again, Namrata Rao’s trademark serves as a warning as much as a brand promise: “You can never have a dull moment when I am around.”
That rallying cry could apply to the whole class. Bryan Lim is an expert at cooking fusion foods, with Asian and American being his favorite combination. Rao has given 20 stage performances as an Indian classical dancer. Josh Lindsay, a Goldman Sachs alum, is a fan of canyoneering, which involves “descending narrow slot canyons using ropes and harnesses.” Mark Martinez doesn’t need either. He jumped out of U.S. Army airplanes and helicopters…despite a fear of heights.
They weren’t the only adventurous members of the class. Johnson biked from San Francisco to Los Angeles this summer to raise money for AIDS. And Ying Liu spent the past year traveling and volunteering across Asia.
A TRUE SIGN OF RESPECT: YOU’RE ASKED TO QUIT YOUR JOB
The 2019 Class also brings some eye-popping personal brand narratives. How valuable was Jordan as an employee? Her boss – the CEO – asked her to quit…so she could go to work for a cornerstone client. “He let me know I was the only person in the organization he asked to make the transition with him because of my tenacity, strong work ethic, consistent ability to provide results, and my rapport with my colleagues at ValuD,” she says.
Rao witnessed a need in his native India – and decided to take action. She joined Purple Squirrel Eduventures, an Ed Tech startup that used experiential learning projects to connect skill seekers with industries. In the process, she developed 50 programs that enhanced the career prospects of over 2,500 students. The upshot? “Our company also won the Economic Times ‘Best College Start-Up of India’ for the year 2015,” she says.
Then again, Martinez earned an endorsement for the ages after he took a leadership post in the U.S. Army. Impressed by one soldier, Martinez asked what motivated him and received an intriguing reply: “Family.” So he decided to help him with exactly that. “I added value to his and his family’s life by continually pushing him towards a promotion to the next rank,” he reminisces. “I gave him increased responsibility and he excelled at every task he was given. When he was finally promoted to Sergeant, it was a privilege and an honor to pin stripes on his chest.”
APPLICATIONS DROP AS GMATs SOAR
Perhaps someone could pin an award on the Kelley admissions team, too. During the 2016-2017 cycle, the school increased enrollment from 185 to 205 students. Despite this, the school struggled a bit with applications, which fell from 1,532 to 1,247 – a 19% drop which resulted in a 35% acceptance rate (up four points).
Despite receiving fewer applications, the quality – from an academic standpoint – surged considerably with the incoming class. The average GMAT climbed from 670 to 678 over the past year, with the median score following suit going from 680 to 690. Average GPAs also rose from 3.34 to 3.38. By the same token, the percentage of underrepresented minorities nearly doubled from 8% to 14%. However, this progress was offset by declines in the percentage of female students (29% vs. 30%) and international students (30% vs. 36%). As before, business majors constituted the largest bloc of first years at 37%, followed by engineering (26%), economics (9%), and social sciences (9%).
One defining feature of the Kelley full-time MBA program is across-the-board excellence. In a 2017 U.S. News & World Report survey, Kelley ranked among the Top 25 programs in nearly every concentration. Kelley was deemed especially strong in entrepreneurship, management, accounting, finance, and marketing – a tribute to its deep and talented faculty bench. As a result, Kelley graduates are in demand come May, with the school’s top employers who include Deloitte Consulting, Hershey, Procter & Gamble, Ernst&Young, and Intel.
Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Kelley MBA students.