2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Justin M. Speller, Indiana University (Kelley)

Justin M. Speller

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Scientifically based problem solver, “Cartman” lover with a passion for adventure sports and team building.”

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Fun fact about yourself: I’m ambidextrous and have played clarinet for 16 years.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Emory University, Anthropology and Human Biology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Bank of America, Assistant Vice President-Project Consulting

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Washington

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft Corp., Product Marketing Manager-Xbox

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Student Body President
  • Awarded Kelley Coin Prize for Integrity, Excellence, Professionalism, Collaboration and Leadership.
  • Recipient of the Mary A. Daily Fellowship, in recognition of my academic achievement and demonstrated leadership abilities in the first year of the MBA program.
  • Faculty-selected leader of GLOBASE Indonesia 2021 international consulting project
  • Hoosier Host an tour guide for the Kelley admissions program
  • Kelley Cares, community volunteer work
  • Faculty Selected member of the Business Marketing Academy
  • Faculty Selected member of the Life Sciences Academy
  • Co-Author of the MBA program Diversity Case Competition for incoming first-year class of 2022

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While pursuing my 12-week internship and fulfilling my duties as MBA president this summer, I co-authored a case for the diversity case competition for the class of 2022. I am most proud of this achievement because not only did it shine a spotlight on diversity, but it also helped a local minority business. Having the opportunity to co-author this case stresses the importance of diversity in business. (I had to balance the duties of MBA president, a 12- week internship and design several mitigation plans for how to address the social unrest for our MBA program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement that I am most proud of during my professional career is that I’ve had the opportunity to build and roll out a learning management system that has impacted 60,000 students this year to date. Knowing that I had a hand in the empowerment of students all over the world brings me immense joy.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose this business school because of the true hospitality I felt when visiting. I felt that while I was very comfortable at several other MBA programs I visited, I truly believed that Kelley was the perfect place where I would be challenged intellectually while receiving unbelievable coaching and care. I could really push myself academically while getting outside of my comfort zone. Because Kelley is more of an intimate program, we are deeply involved in leadership capacities from Day 1. I knew that I wanted to have first-hand exposure in leading teams, and I was given that opportunity while at Kelley.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?  Looking back at my MBA experience, one thing I would do differently would be to take more time for myself. Once I arrived at campus, I became involved immediately in everything and most nights I was not intentional at setting boundaries with my time. I went to every recruiting event, club meeting, and activity that was planned. As a result, I found myself overextended most of the time and exhausted. My advice to incoming first years would be to set boundaries with your time and don’t be afraid to say no sometimes.

What surprised you the most about business school? The one thing that surprised me the most about business school was how down-to-earth my professors are. Coming from a top liberal arts undergraduate program, I assumed the professors in that environment were the best I could possibly encounter. However, coming to business school I have been so pleasantly surprised at the level of candor and excitement each of my professors demonstrate in and out of the classroom. I think the professors I have encountered here are among the best. I have gone to dinners with my professors, attended bonfires at their homes, and have without a doubt made friends and colleagues for life with them.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose?  I was in contact with as many people as I could talk to, at the schools I wanted to go to. I also made sure I told my admissions director that this school was my first choice and stayed in contact with everyone I met at Kelley when I was applying.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Caitlin Jones. When COVID hit last fall and student activities shifted 100 percent online, she went out of her way to do legal research and help draft a COVID waiver form so that our MBA program could still hold some in-person events. She never accepts defeat. She constantly thinks about the greater good of Kelley. No matter when asked to do something outside of her purview she takes it on. Without her, the student body would not have had any safe socially distanced in-person events this year. Our student body is much better with her in it. She exudes excellence, leadership, and is one of the hardest workers this program has seen.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?  I found the transition from classroom to a hybrid environment seamless. At Kelley, we were lucky enough to be in a hybrid environment from the beginning of COVID. The professors went above and beyond to give us an experience as close as possible to the in-person classroom experience.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My decision to attend an MBA program stems from my two best friends, Lavonne A. and James C. Both do not have MBAs, but they concentrated in business while we were undergrads while I was pre-med. I always listened to how they talked about valuing different businesses, trade deals, and other current events in the New York Times. I thought to myself I want to be able to understand what is going on in the world on a deeper level. I knew I didn’t want to change my major as I always loved science, but they suggested that later in life I should look into MBAs. I did my research senior year, made a short list of schools and potential career paths, and worked every year post undergrad building my resume to achieve this new goal.

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

  1. To live and work outside of the U.S for a tech firm.
  2. To have full P&L responsibility by the time I’m 36. (seven years from now)

What made Justin such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Justin has been a highly engaged student since he entered our program in 2019. In fact, he was one of the students we highlighted for Poets and Quants’ feature on the Class of 2021 when they first arrived at Kelley. In that article, Justin is noted to love connecting people and building teams. He has done that—and much more—throughout his time at Kelley.

Justin was elected president of Kelley’s MBA Association (the “MBAA”) in February 2020, and he and his leadership team took office in March, just as Indiana University moved fully online due to COVID-19. These were certainly not the circumstances in which Justin anticipated serving as President, but he has done a truly extraordinary job in an extraordinarily difficult time. He initiated and led an impressive outreach campaign by the MBAA and its clubs to admitted students. He has worked closely with fellow MBAA leaders to develop safe events to help students maintain connections with each other. His frequent communication with the students, along with his positive but realistic attitude and approach to all he has done, have been inspiring and helped to keep students’ spirits up in a very challenging year.

Most of all, though, I have been truly grateful for Justin’s partnership with our program administration. He has been both forthright and diplomatic in sharing students’ comments and concerns with us, and he has been a creative and effective problem-solver. He takes the time to listen to all sides of an issue and works hard to find solutions. He has had the best interest of the School, the program, and the students in mind at all times. His efforts in promoting our program and building a strong student community have helped us to move the program forward, even during the pandemic. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with Justin—a truly outstanding student leader.”

Gale G. Nichols
Executive Director
Full-Time MBA Program


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