2020 MBAs To Watch: Kofi Barko, Indiana University (Kelley)

Kofi Barko

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Husband, educator, medical TV show connoisseur and social critic committed to addressing structural inequities.”

Hometown: Tarkwa, Ghana

Fun fact about yourself: As an MBA graduate assistant at the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, I moderated a session with a former chief of high Value targeting for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, who is now a war crimes investigator for the United Nations.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN

  • Bachelor of Science: Biology
  • Master of Science: Higher Education

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Indiana University South Bend, Assistant Director for the Titan Success Center

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? IU Health System, Indianapolis, Indiana

Where will you be working after graduation? IU Health System, Business Associate in Strategic Finance, Management Rotation Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Young African MBA BSP Fellowship
  • Mary A. Daily Fellowship
  • Lettmann Family Fellowship
  • Vice president of Professional Development, Human Capital Club
  • Treasurer, Indiana University Black Graduate Student Association
  • Graduate Assistant, The Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies
  • Peer Coach for 1st Year MBAs, Leadership Academy

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As a Kelley tradition, the Human Capital Club (HCC) collaborates with Graduate Career Services (GCS) to host a presentation and 2nd-year panel on succeeding in the summer internship role. I took the lead on this event and worked with my amazing HCC team and the director of GCS to make the event a success. My favorite role by far was recruiting the panelists and making sure each had their own unique stories, challenges, and successes that could accurately reflect the myriad experiences in a summer internship role across multiple functions and industries. I will forever cherish having the majority of a very busy MBA class show up to a voluntary event and witness the connections and empowerment that took place. I still hear stories from my classmates about how the lessons learned at this event helped them to succeed and land return offers at their summer internships.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was immersed in my battle to conquer the GMAT, I was experiencing the perfect storm in the workplace. My division was going through a major reorganization that integrated my department with another, a new vice-chancellor was appointed and the department was assigned a major initiative that would impact student success for years to come. Unexpectedly, the director of my department transitioned from her role. I had to quickly assume the responsibilities and ensure a successful transition. I started by strengthening the relationships I had with major stakeholders, clarifying expectations from leadership, aligning department objectives, and managing the center through significant structural changes. This approach helped me to gain the trust of both the upper administration and my amazing staff who had to make big sacrifices, while also successfully delivering on the new initiative. My work did not go unnoticed. On my last day of work, I was met with best wishes from the chancellor of the university who stopped by to express her gratitude for the impact I had made.

Why did you choose this business school? When I was researching MBA programs, I wanted a place that was rigorous with the fundamentals and also invested in the personal development of its students to develop skills towards their long term success in business. As I interacted with the then-current MBA students at Kelley, I recognized that there was truly a transformation happening in their lives. They were not only intellectually inspired at the school, but also had a strong sense of self-direction and confidence that came from practical experiences that the school had provided to apply their business skills. The greatest evidence was in the bold career changes students were able to make based on the quality of their experience at Kelley.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Seek to understand who you are and what you want from your MBA experience. Meet our wonderful admission directors on the road if you can and learn more about the school. Then speak to students and alumni to learn about their experiences, how they navigated their way through the program, and the impact it has made on their professional and personal lives. If the culture, experiences, stories, accomplishments, and values align with what you desire from an MBA program, then Kelley is for you. From that point, you can demonstrate how you are uniquely positioned to benefit from and contribute to the program through your essays and interview.

What is the biggest myth about your school? People often assume that you can’t end up on the coast if you go to a program in the Midwest. What you will find is that the students who seek East Coast finance career routes and West Coast technology career routes do find careers with top firms in the locations of choice. Kelley’s highly-ranked Graduate Career Services and vast alumni network provides the resources and training for students to launch a national if not global search for careers. The greatest difference is that Kelley’s focus for students’ careers goes beyond mere placement to personal fulfillment, and that can be anywhere.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back, I think I didn’t seriously consider entrepreneurship as a career path and therefore did not utilize the vast resources that Kelley provides for students to learn about entrepreneurship or kickstart my own venture. In such a capital accessible society, I believe that business students should seriously consider the option of entrepreneurship and the value of creating new opportunities and addressing societal issues. In a rapidly evolving and disruptive economy, corporate entrepreneurship is just as valuable.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate that I most admire is Sumana Vedantam. She is humble, kind and a strong leader of people. She leads from the heart and has a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others. During the spring of 2019, I was fortunate to be on the same team as her on our GLOBASE consulting trip to Xela, Guatemala, where our clients only spoke Spanish. Despite this language barrier, Sumana was persistent in communication, whether through an interpreter or using Google Translate. Nothing could stop her from understanding the needs of our clients. She was able to develop a genuine relationship with the clients and their families, which set the tone for our engagement. I believe we were able to better understand and craft an impactful deliverable because of the relationship with the client.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who has been most influential in my decision to pursue an MBA is my friend, Brian Martin. I first met Brian when I joined a student organization as an undergraduate that focused on black male professional development. He is a rare combination of dreamer and doer, and he constantly pushes others towards greater accomplishments. He exposed me to the value of MBA, invited me to multiple MBA fairs in Chicago, and shared his GMAT prep resources with me, while providing accountability and support through the application process. I’m excited that because of his persistence and diligence he will start his own MBA journey this year, and hopefully continue to inspire others to do the same.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?  

  1. Gain my Certified Professional Coach license and teach others to incorporate coaching within my organization.
  2. Take an active role in that Young African MBA Business School Preparation Fellowship Program that is providing access to top global MBA programs for talented African and Africa-interested students.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A friend and colleague who was present empowered others to be their authentic selves, and strived to be there for them in their most challenging moments.

Hobbies? Architecture tours, museum crawls, and binge-watching favorite medical TV shows with my wife.

What made Kofi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Kofi has worked hard to learn more about and take advantage of the opportunities afforded him. He has added value in the classroom and out, helping other students and learning from all interactions and opportunities. He has not taken things at face value but instead explores them thoroughly and creates his own opinions. He always has a pleasant demeanor and a smile, as well as an infectious laugh. In the Leadership Academy, Kofi went above and beyond to improve himself, taking advantage of every training opportunity and exercise, and fully showing up for it all. He is vulnerable, open to feedback and coaching, and constantly trying to be a better human. As a coach he was tremendous, working not just with the students assigned to him but with many others to try to create a great experience for the first-year Kelleys.”

Eric Johnson
Executive Director, Graduate Career Services
Indiana University Kelley School of Business