A city school. Fast, loud, cramped, and dirty.
That’s how some picture Northwestern University. They associate it with Chicago: “The City of Big Shoulders” and “The Heart of America” — all steeped in the lore of mobsters, skyscrapers, and deep-dish pizza.
Kellogg MBAs might paint a different picture. After all, the Kellogg School of Management is found in Evanston, a 30-minute drive from downtown, a green and spacious campus, low crime, and activities galore — all overlooking sparkling Lake Michigan. In other words, think of Evanston as another great American college town, says Manhattanite Laura Alonge, a member of Kellogg’s Class of 2023.
“There’s a real camaraderie built around campus. From football game tailgates to grabbing lunch with a new friend at the Marketplace or unwinding with all our classmates at TG (our standing Friday happy hour at the Hub), we have the opportunity to develop lasting relationships through campus-centric social events.”
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
In fact, Alonge frames Kellogg as the “Best of both worlds” — a bridge between a cozy community and remarkable opportunities. “Being just outside Chicago means we also have access to a major city with no shortage of companies, culture, nightlife, and restaurants to explore,” Alonge adds. “And best of all is the Midwestern attitude: people are welcoming and kind, and generally just great neighbors.”
Two cities. Two lives. A chance to have it all and never be bored. That’s why Kayla Williams moved to Chicago three years ago. Working at McKinsey by day, Williams has indulged in “speakeasy jazz bars, slam poetry events, art museums” in her spare time. Michelle Rocha Frea moved to the Chicago metro in 2020 to pursue her joint JD-MBA at Northwestern. Thus far, Chicago has stood out compared to other places she has lived.
“Chicago is a vibrant city filled with amazing food, beautiful architecture, and diverse neighborhoods,” she writes. “There is amazing access to top-notch medical, legal, and entrepreneurial resources. Having lived in both Boston and New York, I think Chicago is a happy medium! Chicago has more to do than Boston, but is more affordable and less of a concrete jungle than New York because of its beautiful park spaces, bike paths, and proximity to the lake (which looks more like an ocean!).”
FROM MUSIC FESTIVALS TO FAMILY PICNICS
Cindy Gao would agree with this “happy medium” sentiment — just for different reasons. A Linkedin alum pursuing a dual MBA-Design Innovation degree, Gao believes Kellogg’s location enables her classmates to have all the resources “to work hard and play hard.” That includes a memorable trip to the Lollapalooza music festival with her classmates in July. This happy medium also translates to access to Chicago business, home to nearly three dozen Fortune 500 companies with a startup ecosystem worth nearly $30 billion dollars.
“Professionally, many highly sought-after companies in finance, consulting, and technology have major offices in Chicago,” Gao adds The entrepreneurship community is growing quickly as well. With these professional opportunities, you’ll find a large community of Kellogg alumni within Chicago who are willing to help you get your foot in the door. You can also do in-quarter internships during your time at Kellogg, and being close to Chicago makes it that much easier to secure a coveted role.”
Guy Gutfarb, for one, can’t wait to tap into Chicago’s tech scene. As a family man, he is also enjoying a more serene life in Evanston. “I moved here with my family and Evanston provides the peaceful atmosphere that we need. There are many parks and playgrounds around Northwestern University, and living near Lake Michigan provides many activities such as hiking, picnicking, and even beaches, that make us feel a little like we are still in Tel Aviv.”
Gutfarb himself arrived in Evanston after leading software development for an Israeli food-tech startup. His classmate, Letícia Vieira Salvador, headed up a strategy for a Brazilian health-tech startup that supported pregnant women. At the same time, Michelle Rocha Frea, once class co-president at Brown University, beefed up her entrepreneurial chops by opening an escape room company.
“Before joining the team, I had never heard of an escape room game, much less played one,” she admits. “When I joined, we only had the name and logo. I was able to help create the entire brand—from finalizing colors to designing store interiors to ordering the furniture… After finalizing the themes, I would map out the storyline. I storyboarded with images and sketches, then worked with artists and engineers to make my vision come to life. Designing escape rooms was an iterative process and required an incredible amount of attention to detail; as a result, I felt a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment when I saw that people were enjoying my games.”
Phil Fairleigh experienced that same pride in Pakistan, where he operated a social enterprise selling clean and affordable drinking in the Karachi slums. Not only did Farleigh bring drinking water to a segment who couldn’t take this product for granted, but he bridged various social divisions in the process.
“I was incredibly proud of our accomplishments at Pristine Water around diversity and empowerment in a region often marred by ethnic tension,” Fairleigh writes. “Our staff has included Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, Christians, as well as a diverse array of ethnicities working side-by-side. A small but meaningful highlight of this had always been having company events where all of our employees celebrate both Eid and Christmas together. We also previously launched a door-to-door public health awareness campaign staffed exclusively by local women, in order to empower a frequently marginalized segment of the Pakistani workforce.”
PLACING IN THE KENTUCKY DERBY
The Class of 2023 has also racked up some impressive achievements at big-name brands. At Lyft, Alex Quoyeser expanded the company’s Los Angeles footprint from 250 electric bikes and scooters in an 8 square mile radius to 3,500 vehicles in 200+ square miles. Moving to Linkedin, Cindy Gao built an advertising sales team serving small and medium-sized businesses from scratch. Tracy Striebich could also call herself a builder. At Starbucks, she grew a formalized employee networking program from 50 to 2,500 members.
“Several years later, Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks, awarded our leadership team with the “Spirit of Starbucks” award, which recognizes employees that make exceptional contributions to their community. We did this by spearheading key innovation projects, taking membership feedback seriously, and developing inspirational and creative programming. This group taught me the power that bringing together passionate and diverse perspectives can have in driving meaningful change within a large organization.”
Away from Amazon (and Kellogg), Striebich is a self-described “nacho enthusiast” who rates nacho dishes from across the globe. Letícia Vieira Salvador lives with two birds…who “fly freely” around her house. As a Dartmouth undergrad, Yesuto Shaw taught salsa dancing lessons before becoming a business manager at Capitol One. By the same token, Phil Fairleigh originally planned to become a conflict journalist, even traveling to hotspots like Iraq and Bosnia. And let’s just say Alex Quoyeser had a reason for paying close attention to the Kentucky Derby this year.
“Four of my best friends from college and I started a company called Boat Racing LLC, where we invest in minority stakes in thoroughbred racehorses. One of our horses, Hot Rod Charlie, came in 3rd in this year’s Kentucky Derby and is heading to the world championship at the Breeders Cup.”
A “KWEST” TO CONNECT
Those are just a few facts that Kellogg classmates would’ve learned about each other during KWEST, or Kellogg Worldwide Exploration Student Trips. Before classes start, first-year MBAs (often with their significant others) take group trips to foster community from the outset. This year, Tracy Striebich spent her KWEST week with Kellogg classmates in Charleston, South Carolina in an excursion planned by second-years.
“One of my favorite parts is that everyone is asked not to disclose anything about their background (school, job, relationship status, etc.) until the end of week,” she writes. “Though challenging, this allowed me to have deep conversations with my classmates and learn how to connect with others beyond the typical career or hometown starter topics. It also was a turning point for my fiancé after moving across the country for this program — he felt welcomed into the Kellogg community with open arms and could not stop talking about how interesting and open everyone was.”
That’s just the start of the fun, adds Ashley Sonlin. A second-year, she looks back fondly on Herd Week, where her 60-member “Moose” section paired up with the Cash Cows for events like brewery afternoons and drag brunch. Sonlin especially enjoyed Special K, an annual student-produced show that is Kellogg’s answer to Saturday Night Live.
“We laughed, cried, and reminisced together about an unprecedented, but still extraordinary, year at Kellogg. My favorite sketch was a friend’s spot-on impression of our beloved Dean Cornelli, accent and all.”
A LOT OF FUN
Another cultural wrinkle at Kellogg: significant others are treated as “joint ventures” who are welcome to attend school events and even audit classes. Valerie Roque, whose husband Gonzalo is a second-year, has taken part in negotiations and bitcoin courses thus far. And the activities didn’t stop there.
“Northwestern University also offers community classes – we signed up for a virtual wine tasting class one week – it was a lot of fun! We took this class with another Kellogg couple, which proved to be a great way to spend time with friends and deepen a relationship over a shared common love for vino. We have also bonded with other couples through our love for food, and spent a week trying some amazing restaurants with another Kellogg couple during our spring break trip.”
Not surprisingly, Kellogg has a reputation for being a student-run school, where MBAs are heavily involved in activities. In fact, Kellogg interviews every applicant, focusing heavily on interpersonal skills in admissions. Hence, you’ll often hear terms like “outgoing”, “generous”, and “enthusiastic” used to describe students.
“Kellogg MBAs and alumni have so much love for the school,” says Michelle Rocha Frea. “Kellogg does a fantastic job of vetting for people who want a strong community experience. Alumni have raved to me about the transformative Kellogg experience while referencing some of Kellogg’s greatest hits—section rivalries (Moose House!), Ski Trip, Drag Show, small group dinners, and, of course, KWEST. Clubs here are free, and that encourages students to explore many different communities and interests. Culture is the key differentiator here, and it truly shows!”
And fun-loving too…
“I love that my peers at Kellogg don’t take themselves too seriously,” adds Cindy Gao. “Many class traditions require creative costumes – in my first month here, I’ve already worn an animal onesie to a restaurant and dressed in in space cowboy theme on a Chicago trolley. Even professors get involved in birthday celebrations and pranks. Getting to know each other through these silly moments has helped me form stronger and more genuine connections with my classmates. Besides, it’s so much fun!”
Next Page: Class Profile
Page 3: Q&A with Emily Haydon, Interim Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid