After nearly a decade as admissions chief for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Kate Smith today (Aug. 27) announced that she was stepping down from the job in two weeks.
The announcement of her departure was made not by Dean Francesca Cornelli but by Associate Dean Greg Hanifee, who also serves as a clinical assistant professor of management. “Her last day will be September 10 and she plans to take time to reflect with her family on where she wants to focus her career journey next,” wrote Hanifee.
Brought into her Kellogg role by former Dean Sally Blount in February of 2012, Smith had put behind her a corporate career in marketing launched after earning a Kellogg MBA in 1998. Smith came to Kellogg after a stint as senior director of marketing for Gatorade, one of many roles over a 14-year career working for some of the biggest consumer brands in America at General Mills, Quaker Oats, and PepsiCo. She is leaving under a new dean who succeeded Blount two years ago in August of 2019.
EMILY HAYDON WILL SERVE AS THE INTERIM ASSISTANT DEAN OF ADMISSIONS & FINANCIAL AID
In a statement, the 51-year-old Smith pointed to several records set by the school’s newest entering class of two-year MBA students. “I’m so proud to have led the admissions and financial aid team and of the work we’ve done in prioritizing quality and diversity across all of our degree programs,” she said. “The Class of 2023 joins Kellogg with record highs including 49% women, 23% underrepresented minorities as a percentage of the domestic class and 3.7 average GPA. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked side-by-side with amazing colleagues across the school. As a Kellogg alumna, I look forward to continuing to be a part of the Kellogg community and watch the continued growth of rigor and excellence across all programs.”
Emily Haydon, currently senior director of MBA admissions, will serve as the interim assistant dean of admissions and financial aid while the school launches a search for a permanent successor to Smith. A direct report to Smith, Haydon joined Kellogg in early 2016 and has been a key member of strategic projects across admissions, marketing and program design. A former supply chain manager at Target, Haydon did a career switch in 2013, becoming director of admissions for Northwestern College and three years later moved to Kellogg as admissions director of its evening and weekend MBA programs.
For Smith, the past two years have been nothing less than a roller-coaster ride. In the midst of the pandemic last year, Kellogg announced that it would not only waive test scores for admission to its two-year MBA program but would also revisit applicants who had already been rejected in that same admissions cycle. Smith also extended the school’s final application deadline by nearly two months. Those decisions made big news at the time — and drew a fair share of criticism.
BOOM AND BUST: A 54% JUMP IN APPLICATIONS FOLLOWED BY A 20% PLUNGE THIS PAST YEAR
But after two consecutive years of application declines, resulting in the loss of nearly 18% of its application volume and a low-water mark of 3,779 applicants for the Class of 2021, that strategy turbocharged applications. It allowed Kellogg to report a massive 54% increase in candidates, a new record of 5,813 applicants. Not surprisingly, perhaps, this year applications plunged by 20% to 4,632 as Kellogg ended its waiver policy and returned to its previous deadline schedule (see In Kellogg’s MBA Class of 2023, A Return To Normal).
Over the course of her tenure, Smith significantly increased the quality and diversity of Kellogg’s MBA population. In her first year in the job, the school enrolled a class of 477 two-year MBA students with a 708 GMAT class average that was 35% female and 40% international. This fall, in entering her last MBA class, the students total 508 in number, with a median GMAT of 730 that matches Harvard Business School, 49% are women and 36% are international. The mean undergraduate GPA is the highest it has ever been: 3.70.
In the email announcement, Hanifee’s heaped much praise on Smith who enrolled nearly 13,000 students at Kellogg during her tenure. “Kate has ushered in classes, across all our degree programs, of extraordinarily talented people, who thrive both inside and outside of the classroom and demonstrate what it means to be a Kellogg leader,” he wrote. “Kate has been a key driver in prioritizing quality and growing diversity across our degree programs, as evidenced by the incoming 2Y class of 2023 and her work to shape our first MBAi cohort this year. Under Kate’s leadership, Kellogg significantly grew our Evening Weekend (EW) and EMBA programs, where, for example, the enrollments in the EMBA-Miami Fall 2021 cohort will be an all-time high. Kate has also been a strong advocate and partner in the work to expand our scholarship offerings as a key tool to shape cohorts of diverse perspectives, experiences and aspirations.”
Hanifee noted that Smith will be missed. “Having worked with Kate for my entire time at Kellogg, I know she is a dedicated and caring team leader who is devoted to the success of every student,” he added. “She brought her passion for Kellogg to the job, mixing a competitive spirit with a commitment to collaboration and our “pay it forward” culture. As a Kellogg alumna, she knows very well what is special about this community and she consistently conveyed that to all applicants.”