2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Ben Krebs, Indiana University (Kelley)

Ben Krebs

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Hard-working and easy-going problem solver – passionate leader dedicated to making a positive impact.”

Hometown: Avon, Indiana

Fun fact about yourself: I am currently working on attaining my private pilot’s license. While flying in New Mexico, my instructor and I survived a plane crash (it wasn’t my fault).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University Bloomington, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, Minor Arabic Language. University of Louisville, Master of Arts, Higher Education Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? U.S. Army, Field Artillery Officer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? EY-Parthenon, Chicago

Where will you be working after graduation? EY-Parthenon, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Lilly Family MBA Fellow
  • William O. Boris MBA Fellow
  • MBA Association Vice President of Student Welfare and Class Relations
  • Winner, 2022 Baxter International Life Sciences Academy Case Competition
  • Hoosier Host Chair – leader of Student Ambassadors
  • Faculty-selected member of Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) Student Leadership Team – Greece
  • Peer-selected member of GLOBASE – Thailand
  • Kelley Coin recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My most proud achievement during business school was being awarded a Kelley Coin. The Kelley Coin is given at the end of every semester to a handful of students who embody the Kelley Values of Integrity, Excellence, Professionalism, Collaboration, and Leadership. The reason why I’m most proud of this, compared to other achievements, is because the Kelley Coin is awarded through peer nomination. I was humbled to receive this award simply by being myself and I am proud that my peers recognized that my personal values reflected those of Kelley.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I served on active duty for seven years across the United States and in Afghanistan. I led teams of four up to 35 through dozens of training exercises and real-world operations in challenging and austere environments. However, the achievement I’m most proud of is the lasting impact that I had on the soldiers that I mentored.

Here’s one example: At my last duty station, I had a new private join my platoon, fresh out of training and new to the army. She was young, just out of high school, and inexperienced. I wanted to make sure that she got the mentorship she needed to make her confident and ready to tackle any challenge. Along with my platoon sergeant, I worked with her to develop her tactical skills and she quickly became one of my best soldiers. Even though I have been out of the army for almost two years, she continues to keep me informed of her achievements. She recently texted me to share that she got promoted to sergeant and that she just had her first-born child. The fact that I had enough of an impact on her as a mentor that she still keeps me updated years later makes me feel like I made a difference.

Why did you choose this business school? I think I can speak for most of my classmates when I say that the personal touch you get with Kelley was the biggest reason I picked this school. During the application process, I was reaching out to current students at various schools to set up informational calls. I usually got a response from the Kelleys within hours and found them more than happy to take the time to tell me about the program despite their own busy schedules. With other schools, it could take days to get a response – if I got one at all – and I figured it wasn’t a good sign if the students weren’t passionate about where they were. When I got accepted to Kelley, I got a hand-written note from a student congratulating me. When I got the official letter from the school, it was signed by Director of Admissions Jim Holmen (a real signature, not from a machine). Before I even arrived on campus, I felt like I had already developed a personal relationship with my classmates and the faculty.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Outside of Core, I would have to say that my favorite class was Business Marketing Strategy with Josh Gildea. When I started at Kelley, I was torn between the Consulting and Business Marketing academies, but ultimately, I went with Consulting. However, I was still interested in learning more about the subject and this class gave me a lot of insight into the intricacies of business-to-business marketing and, to me, was actually fun. B2B marketing is all about building personal relationships, so it makes sense that Josh is the Business Marketing Academy director because he’s really easy to talk to and has a great sense of humor!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Academically, I ultimately decided to major in management and complete a minor in business analytics to address some of the gaps in my quantitative skills. However, upon reflection, I wish I had taken more finance classes. I have many peers who majored in finance despite coming from non-business backgrounds and they have all been quite successful. I know it would’ve been a serious challenge for me, but I think it would have ultimately benefited me a significant amount. I wish I were as intrepid as some of my classmates!

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Even though many people consider Bloomington a “small” town, I love that there’s so much to do and explore. I completed my undergraduate degree at IU Bloomington, so I was already very familiar with the city. However, being here as a graduate student is a completely different experience. There are new restaurants to try, different bars to frequent, and fun activities to fill my time. I got to experience a new side of a town that I thought I already knew, although I usually just ended up spending a lot of time at Switchyard, the unofficial brewery and sponsor of the Kelley MBA program. Plus, since I’m originally from the Indianapolis area, my parents live only an hour away, and after seven years on active duty, it’s nice that I get to have dinner with them every Sunday.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming from the military, I had an expectation that most of my classmates would have a business background. I was pleasantly surprised when I started getting to know my classmates and I learned that we had people from all over the world and from various walks of life. My colleagues have occupied several fields, from former teachers and non-profit fundraisers to oil and gas professionals. There’s definitely a good number of former CPAs and consultants, but I certainly had plenty of non-business friends to commiserate with when going through Core.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think that the most important thing to remember during the Kelley application process is to just be genuine. You don’t need to pretend to be anyone other than yourself to get accepted or to succeed here. We’re a transparent bunch – what you see is what you get. I would define my class as a group of straightforward people that want to help lift each other up to succeed in our personal and professional goals. When you’re writing your application essays, don’t write what you think they want to read – just be honest. When you’re conducting your interviews, take a deep breath and just be yourself. I can’t remember what I wrote in my essays or what I said during my interviews – I wrote essays that reflected who I was, and I treated my interview like what it was – a casual conversation with a student who would likely end up being a friend.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire most is Paulos Tewolde, our MBA Association president and one of the most hardworking, selfless, and genuine people I’ve ever met. He didn’t want to be our MBA president – he was selected by our team for the position and has absolutely stepped up and thrived in the role despite initially being a reluctant leader. He has an incredible ability to build consensus, communicate effectively, and keep our team organized and on track. He does so much thankless work behind the scenes and never complains or expects recognition. He is a natural leader, a tireless teammate, a stellar student, and a great friend. Paulos is always willing to listen to any suggestion that could improve the program or the student experience at Kelley, and he’s been able to juggle being our MBA president while succeeding in school, recruiting, mentoring, and dominating case competitions.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I intend to work internationally and represent my firm on a global level. I really enjoy traveling and learning about other cultures, and that interest has manifested itself in the numerous international business courses I’ve completed at Kelley. I’d love to get the chance to represent my firm abroad, connect with like-minded businesspeople in entirely different cultures, and build career-lasting relationships around the world. Second, I want to make a positive impact in the lives of the people I work with and the companies I work for in the future. I know that’s incredibly vague and could mean many things to many people. After I left the army, I felt like I had made a positive impact on the people I worked with by building personal relationships and going to bat for them when they needed an advocate. I don’t need to change the world, but if I can provide great leadership, take care of my people, and leave a place better than I found it, that’s good enough for me.

What made Ben such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Ben made his presence known from the moment he arrived at Kelley. He’s a natural leader and community builder whose outgoing and open personality invites his classmates to get to know him. He was a co-chair of our Hoosier Hosts student ambassador group, and he invested his time and energy in outreach to prospective students, especially veterans. As the student government’s VP of Student Welfare and Class Relations, he worked with the program office and his peers to organize a variety of events that built connections between different student groups, faculty, and staff.

Ben is also a student leader for our international consulting project course (GLOBASE), where he is responsible for coaching a team of our 1st-year students with a local client in Greece. There are many moments where Ben’s leadership is noticeable to those around him. In addition, Ben has quietly assumed many behind-the-scenes opportunities to lead his peers, such as volunteering to have challenging classmates on his team so that he can help coach them into greater success.

In addition to all that he does for the MBA program, Ben is currently serving in the US Army Reserve as an Assistant Professor of Military Science. He acts as a part-time faculty member for the ROTC program, instructing and mentoring approximately 90 Indiana University cadets on military and leadership skills.

Ben has been a stellar contributor to Indiana University, first as an undergraduate student and now as an MBA. I am proud to nominate him for Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest MBAs of the Class of 2023.”

Emily Stern
Director of Student Services and Global Programs, Full-Time MBA Program


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