Meet Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class Of 2022

Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA program drew a record 5,813 applications this cycle, up 54% from the previous year. Kellogg photo


Kellogg has long been a center for innovation. It was among the first business schools to introduce a one year MBA program and a negotiation course. In recent years, the program has become a Mecca for entrepreneurs. Since 2012, for example, Kellogg has launched 64 entrepreneurship-related courses. Over the past six years, the Zell Fellowship program has produced 75 ventures that have created 1,300 jobs and generated over $300 million dollars in funding. The program provides selected MBAs with an array of resources including coaching, office space, legal services, networking, coursework, international treks, and funding.

Last year, Olivia Cameron, a 2020 MBA, worked on her healthcare administrative service as part of the Zell Fellows. For Cameron, the program helped her answer the big questions about her venture so she could hit the ground running with a plan and a product after graduation.

“What I think is unique about the Zell program, though, is its focus on people. As by design, it’s an accelerator first of people, not ventures. The community focus, in-and-between tracks, was impactful in that we became a support network for each other throughout the year. To follow a non-traditional path in business school can certainly carry an element of emotional ups-and-downs, but I was bolstered by a community of people who were walking alongside me in similar shoes. This became a helpful anchor over the year, and one that helped to instill confidence in taking the entrepreneurial leap. The Zell program also offers the opportunity to work with an executive leadership coach throughout the year. Working with the coach helped me develop a more well-rounded perspective of my strengths and weaknesses and on how I can be the most effective teammate, entrepreneur, leader, and person.”

The Zell Fellows wasn’t the only resources available to Kellogg entrepreneurs, adds Brunna Beccaro, a 2020 grad who raised over $200,000 for her fintech venture through crowdfunding and competitions. “Courses from the Kellogg Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (KIEI) – such as Launching and Leading Start-ups, Entrepreneurial Finance and Venture Capital, Selling Yourself and Your Ideas, and Building Innovation, Teams and Culture – have equipped me with the right toolkit to be an entrepreneur, regardless of my current venture,” she explains. “[In addition], pitch competitions such as VentureCat and the Kellogg Venture Challenge not only gave me funding, but also visibility and experience pitching to investors.”

A Zell fellow sharing feedback on a prototype

While the convention wisdom would be to shy away from starting a business in hard times, Kellogg student startups actually fared well in the midst of the pandemic. “I think it’s a great time to think about starting a business, for a bunch of reasons,” explains David Schonthal, Faculty Director of Zell Fellows Program, in a 2020 interview with P&Q. “But maybe at the top of the list is that one of the reasons that it’s hard to get somebody to adopt a new product, or adopt a new service, or an organization to adopt a new product or new service, is because those organizations and individuals seem to be pretty ingrained in their ways and in their habits. And the status quo bias typically stands in the way of them trying something new.”


Prospects weren’t the only ones who had to innovate as COVID-19 forced business majors to re-think how they delivered programming. True to Kellogg’s team-driven roots, faculty, students, and staff came together to understand what was needed, available, and possible. The result was a hybrid classroom model that bridged safety with inclusivity with sacrificing the school’s collaborative spirit.

“Kellogg adopted a “Roomie and Zoomie” approach,” explains Sarah Pinner, a dual MBA-MS Design Innovation student who is slated to graduate in 2022 . It consisted of a cohort of in-person students (the “Roomies”) and a cohort of virtual students (the “Zoomies”). As an in-person student, I was able to interact with my virtual classmates at all times via a gallery wall of Zoom displayed at the front of the class. I also collaborated with them in frequent breakout rooms and polls. Professors, who were in the physical classroom with the Roomies, were able to view virtual students on their screens as well. At the same time, there was a separate “Virtual Course Moderator” (i.e., a hands-on digital facilitator) who helped facilitate questions and participation from the Zoomies.”

According to Dean Cornelli, Kellogg’s values can be boiled down to creativity, innovation, and empathy. You’ll find these values infused in the school’s most important decisions of the past year. A year ago, for example, Kellogg showcased its creative side by opening a STEM pathway through a Management Science major. Not only does the major expose MBAs to big data and techniques across various disciplines, it also enables international students to extend their VISAs. Translation: the pathway makes these students more attractive to employers.

Northwestern Kellogg has what many consider the most elite one-year MBA program — and that's reflected in the sticker price: more than $100K in tuition alone. Kellogg photo

Northwestern Kellogg has what many consider the most elite one-year MBA program — and that’s reflected in the sticker price: more than $100K in tuition alone. Kellogg photo


A few months later, Kellogg demonstrated empathy by overhauling its admissions process in response to COVID-19. With the pandemic ravaging employment rolls and client lists, the school waived GMAT and GRE requirements into June. Add to that, Kellogg re-opened the application process to candidates who had been rejected in earlier rounds that admissions cycle. It was a decision, Kate Smith says, grounded in empathy – a response to a new normal where many applicants lost access to the virtual tools that gave some candidates a decided advantage over others.

“With the test waiver, we are being agile and responsive in enabling us to build the most diverse class of Kellogg students we possibly can and to mitigate the factors that are out of control of the applicant,” Smith told P&Q last spring. “We want to be on the cutting edge to build the best possible class. We are not going to relax any standards of admission. A test score has always been one of many factors we use to evaluate candidates along with their work experience, their leadership potential, and their passion to be part of the Kellogg community. We have always cared about the holistic individual. People are not just a test score.”

You would’ve also found the spirit of innovation around Evanston this summer. In August, Kellogg announced a new “MBAi” program set to launch in 2021. A joint venture with Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Management, the 15-month MBAi – as in Artificial Intelligence – will enable students to take a deep dive into areas like machine learning, robotics, data science, and computational thinking.  In addition, the program includes a full-time, 10-week internship along with an immersion experience in San Francisco that ranges from on-site company visits to case competitions.

“One of our alums told me, ‘Well, actually I sit on boards and that’s the challenge companies face: They have to introduce data analytics, they have to introduce AI or other types of technology, they know they have to do it but they don’t know how to go about it,’” explains Dean Cornelli. “Others were venture capitalists and they say, ‘This is the people we need. This is the type of company we are creating.’ So really we felt the ‘why,’”


The MBAi is just one of the new benefits in the pipeline from the Kellogg MBA. This fall, P&Q reached out to Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, to learn more about what future MBAs can expect from Kellogg. In a wide-ranging Q&A, Smith also shared how the program operates a student-partnered operational model as well as integrating teamwork across the programming. Here are her written responses to P&Q’s questions…

Kate Smith, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at the Kellogg School of Management

Kate Smith, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at the Kellogg School of Management++

P&Q: What are the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program?

Smith: “Kellogg develops leaders that embody creativity, collaboration, and empathy. Our curricular and co-curricular experience has been intentionally designed to develop students personally and professionally. Between challenging experiential learning projects, deeply customizable sets of electives and opportunities to develop life-long relationships, a Kellogg education is shaped by real-world experiences that meaningfully evolves your capabilities as a business leader.

Kellogg’s unique in the way that you’re able to have this experience in one of several full-time degree programs, best tailored to your unique situation.  We offer five distinct options (2Y, 1Y, MMM, MBAi, and JD-MBA) for pursuing your full-time MBA – all of which are designed to fit various interests. Regardless of which program you choose, you have exposure to the same faculty, resources and world-class network.”

P&Q: Kellogg is described as a “student-partnered” MBA program. Talk about that in practice. How do students take on leadership roles and how does the school support them in that effort?

Smith: “As a student-partnered MBA program, Kellogg collaborates closely with students on all levels of their MBA experience. Student feedback and collaboration has been an integral component for our launch of hybrid-learning.

Throughout the summer quarter, we solicited feedback almost daily to understand how the hybrid-learning model was contributing to the student experience. Their feedback has been essential to creating an enriching experience for this year, and beyond.

Another way in which we take student feedback into consideration is through the creation of new courses and pathways of interest. While these curricular changes must always make sense in the external business market, we are constantly looking to provide our students with a robust education that will not only benefit but interest them. In 2019, we added three new curricular pathways as a result of the demand we were seeing from prospective students as well as a need for this type of curriculum to supplement the market.

Kellogg’s student clubs are another way in which we rely and partner with students. All of our clubs are run by student leaders, who manage events, budgets and networking opportunities for their members. The Kellogg Student Association acts as their governing body, setting guidelines and approving requests for new student clubs. The administration takes a hands-off approach in this area to give students the opportunity to practice their leadership and management skills in their different areas of interest.”

Page 4: Interview with Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid (Continued)

Page 5: In-depth profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2022

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