Every MBA can share a story about that moment. Call it that defining event where they truly felt part of something bigger – and something special. For Apurva Gorti, a first-year at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, that moment came at the end of her Leadership In Organizations course. For her final project, Gorti had to interview a senior executive – preferably taking a risk and interviewing a stranger. She chose the CEO of a high-profile tech company – and Kellogg alum. Expecting to be brushed off, Gorti was stunned when the alum took her under her wing.
“I was surprised that she not only replied, but also actually made time to have a coffee chat with me,” Gorti explains. “We chatted about her experience at Kellogg, professional career afterwards, and advice for an aspiring leader in tech. I left the conversation in awe. That experience really showed me the strength of the Kellogg community and the authenticity and openness of each member that goes beyond the walls of the Global Hub.”
FRIENDS AND FUN
Inside those walls, you’ll find a school defined by versatility and a community committed to teamwork – a place where everyone is expected to contribute and belong – and put themselves out there too. That was one takeaway for Hays Bynum, a Vanderbilt alum and senior consultant before Kellogg. Her moment came when she decided to sign up for a dinner organized by Korean students, despite not knowing anyone attending. Quickly enough, a classmate invited Bynum into the group when she arrived.
“We had the best time eating our dinner in a circle on the floor. We even shared about our favorite foods from home and laughed about how the soju that was served at dinner is really only something college students drink. I left the dinner with eight new friends, a better understanding of a culture that I previously knew little about, and a smile on my face because it feels like every time I meet someone new from the Kellogg community, they are just as kind and vibrant as the last.”
…and fun-loving too. Just ask Tyler Hamilton, who came to Kellogg after serving as a strategy director with the U.S. Army Special Operations. Before classes even started, he helped plan a murder mystery dinner put on every year by the MMM (Design Innovation) program. For him, the experience was unforgettable.
“We developed a loose storyline with basic roles – leaning heavily into improv for the event,” Hamilton writes. “My classmates did not disappoint! No one here takes themselves too seriously and the event was the highlight of my summer just because of how willing everyone was to embrace the silliness and fun.”
PROGRAM STARTS WITH A KWEST
Like many Kellogg MBAs, April Chung’s best moments came long before she moved to Evanston. This summer, she participated in Kellogg’s signature experience: KWEST – otherwise known as the Kellogg Worldwide Exploration Student Trips. In essence, 20 incoming students – all strangers – join 5 second-year organizers for a week-long excursion. In some cases, these groups take “mystery trips” – where they don’t where they’re going or what they’re doing until departure. At the same time, no one can reveal their identities or backgrounds, which forces students to focus on who their classmates are rather than what they do. In the process, students engage in more authentic and intimate relationship-building.
Chung herself traveled to Norway with a group that included students from an array of Kellogg programs, include dual degree JDs and MDs. While her group started off as strangers, they quickly hit it off and returned as “KWESTie besties”.
“We were not allowed to disclose any of our background information (hometown, relationship status, undergraduate school, job, etc.) until the ‘Big Reveal’ in the latter half of the trip,” Chung notes. “This unconventional tradition turned into one of my favorite aspects of the trip! Because we were forced outside of our comfort zone of solely relying on small talk, we quickly connected on a deeper level through more meaningful conversations that invited vulnerability and went far beyond surface-level facts. Topics ranged from how siblings have shaped who we are today to what attributes are most important in looking for a partner to our biggest fears about entering business school. In a short amount of time, this cohort of incredibly talented peers helped me develop a broader perspective.”
BUILDING BETTER PEOPLE
Yes, Kellogg is an entirely different MBA experience. As ’22 grad Ryan Blackwell observes, Kellogg isn’t solely designed to make students better businesspeople, but better people as well. Thus far, this approach has really resonated with Tyler Hamilton.
“Kellogg is not just preparing you for your next career move,” Hamilton notes. “It’s about being a leader that is always asking, what’s next?”
Before you plot out where you’re going, it always helps to look back on where you’ve been. By that measure, you could describe the Class of 2024 in terms like “all-purpose” and “consummate”. Take Ryan Mango. A Stanford grad who studied Biology, Mango is also a “solider-athlete.” Before business school, he served as a U.S. Army Sergeant, while being a National Team member of USA Wrestling. Now, he is making the transition from Olympic-caliber athlete to brand management. For Mango, Kellogg’s “inclusive culture” and team-driven ethos aligned with the core values of military service and competitive sports. Even more, he appreciated the openness he has experienced throughout his first semester.
“I am most impressed at the seemingly organic way in which Kellogg leverages its diverse environment to achieve inclusion on a global scale at one of my favorite event series, Hear My Story, I was able to hear other students share their truths with the Kellogg community and create connections grounded in awareness and empathy. From flash mobs in Gies Plaza in celebration of Nigerian Independence Day to small group dinners and lunches with professors – every individual at Kellogg is empowered to both share their culture and embrace others.”
FROM SALESFORCE.COM TO MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Looking for an achievement that’ll get universal respect in the class? At Salesforce.com, Apurva Gorti wrote code “that shaved 1 second off every user login.” Working as a manager in global media for Major League Baseball, Erika Nuñez became the inaugural board member of its Black Business Resource Group. At the same time, Max Schwein, a competitive water skier and senior consultant at Deloitte, was involved in the spinoff of a client’s billion-dollar business.
“Over the course of a year, I led the end-to-end process of separating and standing up the finance function for the new organization,” he writes. “It was extremely rewarding to see the transaction come to fruition and the new company’s finance organization set up for success as they began their journey as an independent public company.”
Joel Francia already possesses a Master’s in Accounting. After developing his firm’s tax training program, he rotated across 10 offices to bring his colleagues up to speed. In a consulting engagement for a medical device manufacturer, Hays Bynum’s team exposed nearly 1.2 million patients to their client’s solution, potentially saving them from costly surgery. At her charter school, Katrina Corbosiero worked to supply 10,000 pounds of produce and $100,000 worth of gift cards to families in need. When COVID-19 devastated the prospects of 70 employees working at a hotel, Alfredo Zanatti Lizier went to work. Tapping into his staff’s expertise, he was able to save everyone’s job while bringing financial stability to the property.
“From major losses in Q2 & Q3 of the year 2020 we reached a business equilibrium point and are profitable considering all the current political difficulties. This brought financial sustainability for the business and avoided a likely fire sale or bankruptcy.”
A LOOK AT THE LONG-TERM
In 2021, April Chung made her difference during an Asian Heritage Month panel, where she sat alongside representatives from companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, and McDonald’s. Here, she helped to foster a dialogue involving discrimination against the Asian community.
“This was an opportunity I took to educate allies about the fact that the Asian experience is not monolithic. My goal was to encourage everyone to reflect on their own experiences, build empathy through stories shared by the panelists, and ultimately take action to be a part of the change. I challenged the audience to make an ongoing commitment to redefine success and celebrate the diverse perspectives each individual brings to an organization.”
Long-term, Chung plans to increase her impact by moving “individual contributor to manager of people.” In contrast, Joel Francia intends to move from the accounting to the investing side of the house. By the same token, Apurva Gorti views business school as the ticket to transition from being a techie to a product manager – or what she calls a “puzzle designer.”
“I went into software engineering because I love solving puzzles. My professional experience opened my eyes to an even more interesting challenge—defining the puzzle itself. I wanted to be in the room where decisions were made on what direction the company was going, but I didn’t see a clear path to get there. I had almost no experience in leading organizations or knowledge of the inner workings of a business. I ultimately decided to pursue an MBA to build a foundation in business fundamentals and take a step closer towards this goal.”
And how is this for achieving a goal? Alfredo Zanatti Lizier has already lined up a job at McKinsey & Company’s Miami office!
WHAT MAKES A TEAM?
At Kellogg, “team player” ranks among the highest of compliments. In study groups, they know when to step forward and when to follow. And they are humble enough to recognize individual smarts only go so far. Over two years, it is estimated that MBAs participate in over 200 team meetings. In the process, they absorb different work styles and problem-solving approaches, preparing them to tap into individual talents and backgrounds to build consensus and craft lasting solutions.
When it comes to being a team player, class members envision different roles for themselves. April Chung is always looking to learn more about her teammates, so she can better “draw out different perspectives” that produce “more dynamic problem-solving” and “innovative solutions.” Tyler Hamilton, who played drums in a college rock band, brings a different skill: boiling complex ideas into “layman’s terms.” Like Hamilton, Ryan Mango believes communication is the biggest attribute he brings to a team.
“As a leader in the Armed Forces, your perspective of leadership is heightened as you become, quite literally, responsible for the health and well-being of your team. Having had the opportunity to lead soldiers from all walks of life was both challenging and rewarding, teaching me how to approach tough conversations while remaining empathetic as well as how to lead from a place of humility.”
Next Page: Interview with Kellogg’s Assistant Dean of Admissions
Page 4: Profiles of 12 Kellogg First-Year MBAs
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