An Interview With Melissa Rapp, Kellogg’s MBA Gatekeeper

Kellogg has consistently enrolled 40% or more women in its full-time MBA program for the last five years


When it comes to women in business, Kellogg has a plan. The school’s leadership has outlined three critical career pivot points where women are being lost on the way to the C-suite, and making what it terms “significant investments” to help alumni women at each of these phases: the post college/grad school years, the child rearing/caregiving years, and the transition to senior leadership. The school’s commitment to the issue will no doubt be prominently discussed at a first-time event in May, the Global Women’s Summit, featuring hundreds of Kellogg alumni, students, honored guests, and community members. Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, will be there featured speaker.

The May 8-9 summit “will bring some really prominent members of the Kellogg community here to urge women to engage with leadership and with each other,” Rapp says, with many others joining remotely from cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Developed by Kellogg’s women leaders, the 1 1/2-day summit will feature such topics such as the “likeability dilemma,” positioning oneself for a board seat, and negotiating effectively.

We can’t talk about women at Kellogg without mentioning that the most prominent Kellogg woman is leaving soon. What has it been like to work with Dean Sally Blount, who steps down at the end of this school year?

Dean Sally Blount has presided over a “transformative” period in Kellogg history, says Melissa Rapp

It’s been amazing. I came to Kellogg a couple years after Dean Blount had started her impactful journey here and just felt incredibly fortunate to have her as the leader of the organization and as a role model for myself and the other women here. It certainly has been a transformative period at Kellogg — she has left a mark here that will be enduring for a long time. And working with somebody who is so incredibly enthusiastic about the school is certainly very infectious.

All that being said, I have great respect for the fact that she is opening up the door for someone else to have the opportunity to impact Kellogg. She can recognize that she has played her part and has done an incredible job, and she has the humility now to step away and allow someone else to take the reins. I have a great deal of respect for her and a great deal of gratitude for what she’s done for Kellogg.

Over the last five years the average GMAT score at Kellogg has climbed 19 points (713 to 732). Do you see the number continuing to rise, or will Kellogg be satisfied at some point with the level they’ve reached?

What’s going on is that Kellogg always has attracted an incredible population of applicants and we continue to look for applicants who are going to do well academically here. Certainly, though, that is just one of the factors that we use in the holistic approach that we have. We’ve just been really fortunate to continue to see that outstanding applicant pool. Whether or not that continues to go up, obviously we are going to continue to push to bring the best and brightest to Kellogg, and a portion of that equation is their academic ability, but that’s just one portion of it.

I sometimes wish that other factors had as tangible a scoring method as GMAT does. If there were some sort of leadership test where we could see where people stack up on that, it would be nice, because sometimes I think there’s a little too much focus on the rising GMAT scores versus all the other incredible characteristics that get MBA candidates through the doors.

That’s a good segue to ask about your early thoughts on the next crop of students. The Round 3 decision will be announced by May 16 — how do they look?

They look incredible! I think one of the things that I love about admissions is that I get to follow a new group of students every year and every year I think, “This is it. This has to be the best year yet.” And then the next class comes and I’ll be damned! There are just so many compelling people in the world, and I really fell very lucky to get to hear their stories.

I love that our process a variety of ways for a candidate to showcase themselves, from their written essay to the video essay and the in-person interview — you really do get to know these people, and some of the things that they are doing are just incredible. I feel very grateful to get to know the, to play a small part in their journey to being very successful human beings.

So I will tell you that the upcoming class is going to be the best class ever, and I will probably say that again next year.

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