2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Adam Cochran, Indiana University (Kelley)

Adam Cochran

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Christian, servant leader, team-builder, sports & outdoors enthusiast, and one who takes calculated risks.”

Hometown: Beaumont, Texas

Fun fact about yourself:  I’m petrified of heights, but I’ve done the world’s tallest bridge bungee jump in Bloukrans Bridge, Tsitsikamma, South Africa … twice. First facing forward, then facing backward. I think it’s a fun fact because it’s a representation of how I like to acknowledge my comfort zone and actively push myself to get out of it.

Undergraduate School and Degree:  Lamar University – B.B.A. in Business Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?  Prior to business school, I spent five and a half years as a full-time volunteer in East London, South Africa helping build Hope Schools, a school for poverty-stricken children affected by HIV. I didn’t have a specific role. Prior to that, I spent eight and a half years in J.P. Morgan’s investment bank.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021?  General Motors in their Global Innovation business. The role was fully remote, but my team was based in Detroit, Michigan.

Where will you be working after graduation?  Delta Air Lines – Commercial Strategy MBA Associate rotational program in Atlanta, Georgia

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Faculty-selected member of Leadership Academy (Peer Coach to 1st Year MBAs)
  • Co-Facilitator for 1st Years Orientation Program (“Me, Inc”)
  • Faculty-selected member of Global Business & Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) Student Leadership Team – Botswana
  • Peer-selected member of the GLOBASE (Botswana) international consulting engagement
  • Hoosier Hosts – Student Ambassador for prospective and incoming students
  • President of Adam Smith Society
  • Faculty-selected member of Supply Chain & Digital Enterprise Academy
  • Lettmann MBA Fellowship recipient as result of academic performance
  • The Murray Foundation Fellowship recipient as result of academic performance

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being a peer coach to 1st Year MBAs. Before starting at Kelley, I knew that I wanted to be a coach in my 2nd year. Formally, I had five students I coached, but I sought out informal opportunities, whenever possible, even with my fellow 2nd years. There are two classmates, in particular, that I coached through a couple of big challenges in their personal lives. It was so rewarding to see them go from feeling stuck with no way forward to blossoming into being more self-determining individuals, confident in their decisions and future. We also covered professional development topics. Helping them work through reflection, career planning, and the interview season to then get the job they wanted was such a highlight for me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of helping build Hope Schools in South Africa. I left a successful career at J.P. Morgan to volunteer full-time at Hope. During the five and half years I was there, we experienced incredible growth – both with the campus and the children and staff. I grew a lot as well. We built 12 classrooms, a Skills Development Center, admin buildings, a 1,000-seat hall, a hiking trail, an obstacle course and more.

My role constantly evolved as we grew. You name it, I did it. I worked closely with leadership on various projects ranging from operations to strategy to finance. Some of my projects were preparing the annual budgets, building the school’s first financial model, overhauling the student sponsorship program, writing grant proposals, various construction projects on the campus grounds, and helping build the obstacle course and hiking trail.

Just as importantly, I also spent a lot of time mentoring children and volunteers, leading camping trips, and investing in the staff whether by acting as a sounding board for leadership or building morale in the teachers and support staff. It was life-changing to play a role in building Hope from a small, growing school up to Grade 5 in one 60-year-old building to a fully-fledged campus up to Grade 12 with almost 300 children. It was very difficult to leave Hope … but at least I met my wife while there!

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Kelley because of the authenticity I felt during the admission process. It was only confirmed, through many other ways, once I was here. People are who they say they are. At Kelley, that’s sincere and collaborative. For example, the welcoming given by Jim Holmen and Janice Brown in Admissions, the passion for us to learn and patience to teach from professors like Brian Miller, Vijay Khatri, and Russ Clark, and the willingness to get in the trenches of career management from Randi Edmonds and Suzanne Fodor. Every step of the way, several people (beyond this list), made our experience feel like they were in it with us.

Fortunately, being this way means you attract students who are similar, which is exactly what I wanted. Friendly people with no qualms about them who are eager to embark on the MBA journey and beyond … together.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It’s been said before, but the Kelley Clap is still my favorite tradition. After each class, the professor and all the students end the class with a quick applause. We do this to celebrate the learning that has taken place. Originally, it was started by the late Professor Walt Blacconiere who passed away in 2007 from pancreatic cancer. It’s special to me because, in the busyness of an MBA program, it can be easy to forget that we’re in a very special, fortunate position that many don’t have. It brings the students in the classroom together. It connects the professor with the students. Even if you just learned a lot of difficult material or finished an exam, it’s a reminder that we’re learning and growing. It creates an environment of community and gratitude.

What is the biggest myth about your school? My own myth was that my wife and I thought moving to Bloomington would be in the middle of nowhere. I’ve lived many years in New York City and Houston — two of the four biggest cities in the U.S. My wife is from the massive metro of Johannesburg. We moved to Bloomington blindly, thinking we’d be in for a very low-key, dare I say boring, two years (besides school). We were wrong. Bloomington is beautiful and happening! Rolling hills, four beautiful seasons (winter is a little long for us though!), and proximity to outdoors activities. We’ve dined at several international restaurants, taken in shows at the top-ranked Jacobs School of Music, and attended games and events. The town is big enough to have lots to do, but small enough to feel like real community. Plus, being in a smaller college town meant connections with my classmates were made that much stronger.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was authentically myself. I can’t change decisions I’ve made and experiences I’ve had to fit some specific, ideal profile. I embraced my unique combination of having a traditional and non-traditional background. I chose to own my story and communicate how I could contribute to Kelley and my class. At the end of the day, I had to be myself and have faith.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  The MBA classmate I most admire is my friend Cesar Maçol. When you talk to Cesar, you know he’s genuine. What you see is what you get. I admire him for his resolve. While most of us were starting the Core semester on campus, Cesar had to travel through two to three countries trying to get his visa approved during COVID. He dialed into classes from home, from hotels, wherever. He showed great endurance during the most intense semester of our program, all while being virtual when almost all of us were in person.

Not only that, when he finally arrived in Bloomington at the end of the semester, his wife wasn’t able to come until much later. Cesar is thoughtful, hard-working, and intelligent. While he’s a soft-spoken Brazilian, his boisterous laugh makes it easy to laugh with him. He diligently grinded through the recruiting challenges many international students face. He also created a robust information packet for international students to help them transition to the U.S. and life at Kelley. He was vice president for the Latin MBA and Black MBA associations and president of the Soccer Club. Cesar never made things about himself. While you often found him quietly in the back row, he was always busy serving others. My wife and I look forward to many years of friendship with Cesar and his wife Bea.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? This is difficult to identify because so many played a role that it’s hard to pinpoint it now. Earning an MBA had been a goal of mine for a while, but God had His own plans for the timing. My wife has been a great support encouraging me to pursue it and supporting us while I study. While in South Africa, the school had a major donor who wished to remain anonymous. He used his skills, talent, and success in business to support our school. It’s not about the total amount one gives, it’s about the cost to them. He gave sacrificially. He also used that motivation to start a new business with his wife. One with a long-term partnership with our school to help create product which would then drive financial support to the school. He was focused on using business to drive the change that was needed. I realized then that I could use my interest and aptitude for business to support missions that I care about. It’s also one of the reasons I chose to lead the Adam Smith Society. I believe we can leverage capitalism as an efficient vehicle impact positive change in the world.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? One goal is to have substantial ownership in a business. I want to be able to use my passion for servant leadership and ethics to lead and positively influence employees, customers, and a community for good. I want to be a leader of people: someone that people say he got in the trenches with them, got his hands dirty, brought everyone together, and led them to do more than they thought they could. Of course, I’d also love to work internationally again. There’s something to be said about working in another country, apart from everything familiar to you.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? Honestly, I don’t think it’s changed my view of a career. Leaving everything in financial services to go to South Africa showed me that our careers are what we make of them. They don’t have to be linear. What skills and experiences am I gathering and then what am I doing with them to help others is what is most important to me. The pandemic only emphasized that even more. I think the pandemic revealed that accomplishing great things is only part of it. Savoring the relationships and bonds built along the way are the real prize.

What made Adam such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Although many positive attributes come to mind when describing Adam Cochran, perhaps the two most precise and meaningful are “servant leader.” Adam’s journey prior to his MBA and his time and energies spent at the Kelley School of Business have contributed to his reputation as a leader and bolstered his strengths in service – to others, to clients, and to the many communities to which he belongs.

Before his time at Kelley, Adam moved to East London, South Africa to be a full-time volunteer for Hope Schools – building a new school for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. He was called to this work to serve others and regularly describes wearing many hats during this experience. Anything that needed to be done, Adam would do it, because ultimately it meant a more enriching experience and life for the families the school served. Adam’s ability to roll up his sleeves and do whatever was required to help others would continue as an MBA student.

At Kelley, Adam is a member of a smaller class impacted by the Covid-19 situation. Undeterred, Adam was persistent, positive, and focused during his first year. He regularly engaged with student activities, the MBA Program Office, Graduate Career Services, and his peers. Adam works on his professional development and growth with a focus so acute, it is clear he takes seriously the attention required to step effectively into leadership. In turn, Adam uses his leadership style in his involvement and contributions. To Adam, community and connection are bedrocks of service to others.

As a second-year student, he has taken on an admirable amount on responsibility to give back to the Kelley community. Although the first-year class is significantly larger than his own, Adam joined the Leadership Academy to provide formal one-on-one peer coaching for five first-year students. Informally, Adam regularly reaches out to the first-year students to offer support for their internship search. He was one of a few students to support Kelley’s first year orientation program, Me, Inc., co-facilitating a classroom of approximately 20 students. Undoubtedly, many first-year students have received exceptional coaching and guidance from Adam.

In addition to mentorship, Adam has received multiple awards and has led on other important initiatives. He is the president of the Adam Smith Society, acts as a Hoosier Host to support the efforts of the MBA Admissions Team, and belongs to the Consulting, Golf, and Outdoors Clubs. He is also a member of the Leadership Team for GLOBASE Botswana, a consulting project which pairs students with entrepreneurs and nonprofits in emerging economies to create social impact. The number of required hours, dedication, and the importance of GLOBASE cannot be understated. In this setting, he employs his technical business skills and leverages his leadership and care for others to benefit global clients.

Adam is a steadfast servant leader who will leave business school and continue to improve the lives of others. Clients and customers will be impacted by his leadership, his colleagues will benefit from the care and attention he gives to his work, and his communities will continue to be enriched by his unwavering commitment and contributions.”

Randi Edmonds
Associate Director, Graduate Career Services


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