2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Anais Koivisto, Indiana University (Kelley)

Anais Koivisto

Kelley Direct Online MBA Program, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business

“Creative, competitive, and driven to improve the world for my daughter and her generation.”

Age: Between 5 and 6 in dog years (39)

Hometown: Originally San Francisco, California, but I’ve been in Brooklyn, N.Y since I graduated from college.

Fun fact about yourself: I had a prior career as an actor, director, and eventually founder of a theatre company – a background that still deeply informs nearly everything I do in my personal and professional life. In the corporate and MBA world, I find there’s often a perception that the arts and business are siloed skills, unrelated to one another. My experience has been very much the opposite; I find that skills I developed in theatre – for example empathetic leadership, project management, cooperative teamwork, and creative problem solving – are incredibly applicable to the challenges of both school and work. I am a huge proponent of arts education and I believe the business world could use more creative thinking. Due to my unique name, my theatre background is highly Google-able, so it’s a good thing I’m proud of it!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston University, College of Fine Arts – BFA Acting

Where are you currently working? BNP Paribas, Equity Capital Markets

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I made (and am still making) a pretty hard pivot from my previous career to my current and future path, and I’m tremendously proud of the hard work I put into making it happen. That has involved a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of humility; I’m still figuring my way through it and I’m sure I will continue to be for some time. I’ve also had a huge amount of support in making that transition, from my family, friends, mentors, and my employer – it’s certainly not something I achieved on my own.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Because it’s the best, of course! More seriously: I’m an analytical person. I shortlisted my options based on a rubric that took into account online and on-campus rankings, tuition burden, ROI, credit total, and a number of qualitative factors and ended up with a very small number of choices. Once I started the application process with Kelley, though, I knew it was my top choice. I was drawn to the quality of the professors, the depth of class offerings, the lengths they’ve gone to make a real school experience for their students, and the incredible history of the program as well as the warmth of everyone I spoke with at the school.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The best part (and in some ways also the worst part) is the flexibility. I didn’t have to put my life on hold to get a degree. Of course, that also means that my life isn’t on hold while I’m getting my degree! In an online MBA context, school exists in balance with work and family and everything else in-between. It can be really overwhelming sometimes. But one of the things that I’ve found special about Kelley is that the student community they’ve worked so hard to build really kicks in when things get overwhelming. I have an (almost) 4-year-old, and I’ve found that I’ve gravitated toward other parents of young kids (there are many!) in the program – we’re all facing the same challenges and we’re all very much there for each other when support is needed.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Absolutely the sense of community and camaraderie with students and teachers. A lot of our instruction is live, and we’re also working live with our classmates on projects between classes. Kelley’s cohort structure, student associations, and residence programs all support the building of real relationships between students – we know each other! With so much of work life going digital and video conferencing these days, my school life feels like an extension of normal everyday interactions. I’ve made truly deep and meaningful friendships with some of my classmates – incredible people who I respect, love, am in awe of, and speak with truly constantly.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student?
My undergrad and graduate experiences couldn’t possibly be more different, but that has more to do with the nature of the programs (conservatory-style acting program vs MBA) than with the online vs in-room experience. To make a broader comparison to all the in-classroom experiences I’ve had in my life, I would say that online learning, as it exists at Kelley, is more similar to those experiences than it is different. Classes range from lectures to lively discussions. Some students are very active participants while others withdraw. The Zoom classroom feels very much like a regular classroom to me, with the fun addition of occasional appearances by classmates’ children, pets, and spouses. One important difference, and something I’ve learned along the way, is that you do have to be more proactive about participating, if that’s the way you learn best. You have to really raise your hand, because it is easier to get lost in the crowd of a Zoom room than a physical classroom.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would really love to have had one more on-campus component, maybe an in-person capstone project before graduation. Kelley Direct’s two core residence components are truly monumental to the overall program experience, and they both were deeply important learning experiences for me in two very different ways. My Kelley on Location residence, in particular, was such a fulfilling and wonderful experience (thank you Alex Lopes, Ana Silva, and FUNDAP Guatemala!) that spoke really personally to me about the ways in which I want to use the skills I’ve gained at Kelley. One of my favorite memories of Kelley will definitely be late night homework sessions in a repurposed conference room at the Bloomington Springhill Marriott during Kelley on Campus with two of my best friends in the program – definitely one of the most classically collegiate experiences of my time in Kelley Direct.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I use skills I’ve learned in class every day, but more broadly, my education has increased my confidence tremendously and has given me a much broader vision for my path moving forward.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Actually, I was promoted right at the start of the program.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I was very resistant to the idea of putting my life and career on hold to pursue a degree at my current point in life. An online program, while it presented its own complications, felt like a much better fit. I also started at a time when pandemic precautions were still very active, at least in my city, and we were all still essentially living our lives online.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: Oh, gosh. I don’t want to be responsible for scaring people away from pursuing their education! But… it’s a lot. My workload has varied on a class-by-class basis and I’d say I’ve spent everything from about 10 hours a week to somewhere in the realm of 40 hours a week on total classwork (outside of our synchronous meetings) depending on the quarter. I would say my experience has been that you can choose, to some degree, how much you want or need to put into a class. I have a lot to learn, and I’ve typically chosen to put a lot of time into that learning.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am deeply interested in the intersection of business and sustainability. In the long-term, I intend to focus my career path more directly in this area. It’s a constantly changing landscape of opportunity and risk, and an area that I’m both passionate about and find intellectually challenging in the best way. Throughout the course of my time at Kelley, I’ve also been pursuing certifications in the complex universe of sustainability reporting (FSA, TCFD, GRI), and have found this independent study to be a great complement to the material I’ve been learning in class. I really look forward to exploring ways to further integrate my arts background, my current career, and my passion for sustainability into one complete package – to bring my whole self, and the full range of my abilities to the work that I do.


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