Eighty percent of students at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management take a social impact course. That number is sure to rise as graduate business education moves en masse to reflect changing priorities in business and among the rising generation of student talent.
Kellogg, known for pioneering the team-based model and a “high-impact, low-ego” approach to shaping leaders, intends to be at the forefront of the shift that is plainly underway. Kellogg students and alumni — a network of more than 65,000 in over 120 countries — already are making a dramatically positive impact with such ventures as One Acre Fund, The Global Impact Investing Network, Equilibrium Capital, The Surge Institute, Kheyti, Maziwa, and many others — and they’re doing more, addressing the thorniest societal issues with board service, nonprofit work, and learning sustainable investment.
In 2021, the number of Kellogg MBA applicants who expressed interest in social impact nearly doubled from the previous five years. The school noticed and it’s leaning into the new paradigm, launching a campaign that emphasizes the combination of skills and traits that leaders embody that prepare them to lead with impact in a rapidly changing, complex, and challenging world.
INNOVATION, ANALYTICAL SKILLS, COMPASSION
“The most impactful leaders can not only solve a complex problem, but also think creatively and deftly rally a team to bring the solution to life,” writes Emily Haydon, Kellogg’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid, in a recent blog post. “At Kellogg, we believe combining strong analytical skills with compassion to connect with consumers and employees is the cornerstone of what it really means to be a leader today.”
Kellogg, ranked No. 4 in the United States by Poets&Quants and No. 3 by U.S. News, boasts such classes as The Fundamentals of Inclusive Leadership, the Science and Strategy of Bias Reduction, and Social Innovation: Designing for Change; these and others are designed to hone values-based leadership approaches as part of the school’s philosophy that whatever industry graduates end up in, they will need to strive to make a positive impact. Even in finance, it’s not just about making money anymore.
In fact Kellogg offers an array of electives, from data analytics to energy and sustainability, that give students exposure to emerging areas and fast-evolving fields with an underpinning of cultural awareness. The school’s Global Initiatives in Management elective courses, which recently returned abroad after a pandemic pause, provide MBA students with crucial understanding of different regions’ cultural, political, and economic landscapes.
“We offer innovative degree programs like MBAi, which teaches ways to unlock innovative business solutions through complex disciplines like machine learning, data science, artificial intelligence and computational thinking for business,” Haydon writes. “In addition, a variety of co-curricular experiences and cutting-edge pathways focus on in-demand areas such as DEI, sustainability and social impact.”
LEADING ON THE RESEARCH SIDE, TOO
Kellogg also continues to lead on the research side. Last year, the school received a $3.5M gift from Golub Capital to sponsor the school’s long-running Board Fellows program for five years and create a second Golub Capital Social Impact Lab; it also became the host of the Moskowitz Prize, the premier global prize for research in sustainable finance.
“To advance a vision, business leaders must have a multifaceted set of skills, enabling them to deeply understand how to lead with empathy, collaboration, agility and data-driven analysis,” Haydon writes. “For decades, our unique approach to business education has been equipping students with this powerful combination of traits. It’s in our DNA. And it’s what our alumni say sets Kellogg apart.”
As part of the new Become a Kellogg Leader campaign, the school is publicizing videos of alumni who have excelled with the skills — hard as well as soft — needed to innovate, collaborate, and solve complex problems in the modern work world. See two below, and read Emily Haydon’s blog post and see more of the school’s leadership stories here.