2023 MBA To Watch: Sarah Kiley, Indiana University (Kelley)

Sarah Kiley

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Bostonian, aunt, sports fanatic, relationship builder, and former competitive Irish Step Dancer.”

Hometown: Boston, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve performed on stage with both the Boston Pops and the Dropkick Murphys.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Northeastern University, BA – Communication Studies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Georgetown University – Assistant Director of Development

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? PwC – Chicago, IL

Where will you be working after graduation? PwC – Senior Associate, Deals Transformation

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Graduate Assistant, Consulting Academy
  • Student Leader, GLOBASE Indonesia
  • Vice President, Kelley Consulting Club
  • Hoosier Host Student Ambassador
  • Catherine Guffin Bain Graduate Fellow
  • Faculty Selected Member, Consulting Academy
  • Forté Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As I begin to reflect on my time at Kelley, I’m most proud of my role as a Graduate Assistant for the Consulting Academy. When I embarked on my MBA journey, my goal was to pivot into human capital consulting. At Kelley, first-year MBAs participate in one of six Academies that serve as an experiential bridge between the classroom and our summer internships. I joined the Consulting Academy, and with the support of Consulting Academy Director Scott Laughner and countless second-year students, I achieved my professional goal and had  the privilege of being able to pay it forward for the next class of Kelleys interested in a career in consulting.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to business school, I worked in nonprofit development roles in higher education and in health care, industries that are both incredibly important to me. My proudest professional achievement is that I raised $500K+ to support high-financial-need students at Georgetown University. The school is a need-blind, meet-full-need institution; not only is a student’s ability to pay not a factor in their application to Georgetown, but if they’re admitted, the University is committed to meeting their full demonstrated financial need with scholarships, grants, and work study.  Due to the pandemic, I wasn’t able to celebrate the extraordinary generosity of these donors in person, but I am deeply proud of my part in supporting the next generation.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose to attend Kelley because of the community. From my first virtual encounters, the program staff took a genuine interest in my career goals and desire to pursue an MBA. Throughout the admissions process, Kelley staff provided me with opportunities to speak with and learn from students, alumni and other prospective students.

Before I committed to Kelley, I was fortunate to visit Bloomington, and I was overwhelmed by the welcoming I received from staff and current students. The way everyone enthusiastically spoke about the program was enlivening, and it allowed me to picture the possibilities for my life in—and after—Bloomington.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite Kelley professor is Brian Miller, who teaches Accounting in the Integrated Core. Every year, recognizing that he’s teaching accounting to students whose knowledge levels range from limited to CPAs, Brian encourages the accountants to help their classmates when they’re able. At the end of the course, he provides an opportunity for students to recognize these classmates who supported them in their learning, which speaks to Brian’s genuine character and eagerness for his students to learn.

In addition to Core, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Brian through Kelley’s Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) Indonesia Program, both as a participant during my first year and as a student leader during my second year. Brian has led a number of these trips, and each fall, he makes his pitch for the program in which he talks about his belief in the social impact component of GLOBASE. I knew when I applied to Kelley that I wanted to participate in GLOBASE, and the experience has been more enriching thanks to Brian’s dedication and leadership.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course as an MBA was the Consulting Practicum that I took during the spring semester of my first year because it prepared me more than any other for my summer internship. Throughout the course, my team and I worked with a Fortune 50 health payer to develop a talent diversity strategy for a 2,000-person department across multiple states. Associated with the Consulting Academy, this experience provided me the opportunity to work on a client engagement in advance of my internship and gain experience presenting to C-level executives.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is, without a doubt, the Kelley Clap, where at the end of each class period, students and faculty clap for the learning that occurred during the session. The tradition was started by Walt Blacconiere, a professor of accounting who passed away in 2007, and it’s memorialized with a statue in atrium of the graduate business building. To me, this tradition reflects the collegiality woven throughout the Kelley culture, and more personally, it allows me a moment to reflect on how much I’ve learned since my first class in August 2021.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? In reflecting on my MBA experience, one thing I would do differently is I would start learning how to case earlier. Balancing classes, groupwork, networking/recruiting, and social activities is overwhelming in any MBA program, and while Kelley has a comprehensive casing prep program, there were aspects of the process that I wish I had started earlier. As many MBAs know, casing is a skill that’s developed over time and with a lot of repetition, and if I had started learning about the process, methodology, etc. earlier, the learning curve I experienced when I got to campus would not have been as steep.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Coming from the East Coast, the biggest myth I had was that Bloomington would be a small Midwestern town. (Naïve, I know.) I mentioned that I was able to visit the town before committing, and little did I know that was only the beginning. The Kelley class size has allowed me to get to know not only members of my class, but the classes that came before and after mine, as well as their partners and families. The tight-knit Kelley community welcomed my husband and I with open arms, and Bloomington has left an indelible mark on our lives in less than two years.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Before Kelley, I didn’t recognize how much I would value the fact that my classmates and I all moved to Bloomington for the same reason, and we’d have these shared experiences together throughout our journey. The thing I love most about Bloomington is the accessibility. The physical accessibility throughout Bloomington drives the tight-knit community and it’s a special component of the Kelley program that we’re all here together for two years.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most about business school is how generous alumni are with their time when speaking with students. In hindsight, this is the Kelley culture in action, but I continue to be impressed by and grateful for how Kelley alumni support our students throughout their recruiting and Kelley journeys. These conversations have helped shape my professional trajectory, my coursework, and my time in Bloomington. This “pay it forward” mentality is woven into the fabric of Kelley, and I’m excited to do my part following graduation.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? As a former fundraiser, relationships are incredibly important to me. So, during the application process, I had a lot of conversations with faculty, staff, current students and alumni. I wanted to learn about the program, the culture and what it’s like to live and learn in Bloomington. I knew that I wanted to be in a challenging program with talented faculty members and impressive classmates, and these conversations allowed me to envision a future for myself at Kelley even before I was able to visit Bloomington. It was only through my experience as a Hoosier Host student ambassador that I understood how this gave me an edge when applying to Kelley.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate who I most admire is Paulos Tewolde. Paulos and I worked together as Consulting Academy GAs this year, and I’ve been continuously inspired by his unwavering work ethic and authentic leadership. In addition to being a GA, he served as our MBA Association President, he’s acted as a casing prep coach for first-year students, and he won a national case competition. In all these roles, I’ve been in awe of his commitment to strengthening the Kelley community, celebrating each other’s successes and leaving the program better off than he found it.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The top two items on my professional bucket list are to lead a post-merger HR integration and to work internationally. I’m fortunate to be joining a global firm like PwC that emphasizes a global mindset that “transcends boundaries and embraces diverse perspectives.”

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

“I have worked with Sarah closely throughout her time at Indiana University, having both taught her in the Core MBA Accounting course and working closely with her in our GLOBASE Program, through which we conduct consulting projects for small businesses and NGOs in many countries around the world. Sarah is a perfect match for the GLOBASE program, given her passion for consulting and her interest in the social enterprise aspect of GLOBASE.

Sarah has been an integral part of our projects in Indonesia over the past two years. As 1st-year MBAs, students work as consultants directly with clients. Last year, Sarah was integral to the success of the work we performed in Bali, Indonesia. She led a team to provide a strategy that increased brand awareness and sales for a family-owned beekeeping operation. Sarah applied the leadership skills she gained from her coursework and the Consulting Academy to provide impactful solutions to the client to expand its customer base. Bees are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem and their honey provides many health benefits to consumers, so the impact of this project goes beyond just helping a small company.

Sarah was such a joy to work with in her first year of GLOBASE that I recruited her to serve on our leadership team as a 2nd-year student. In her role this year, she has been influential in leading a team of 1st-year students working with a client to develop strategic positioning for their premium organic fertilizer and seed products. Perhaps more importantly, she has been a tremendous help to me in developing GLOBASE students’ consulting skills.

Sarah’s leadership in consulting is unparalleled and her experience in leading GLOBASE teams is just the tip of the iceberg. She has used the same passion and style she demonstrated in the leadership of GLOBASE projects in our Consulting Academy. She was selected by the Academy Director to oversee consulting- and casing-related activities to prepare 1st-year students for both the MBA recruiting process and their summer internships. Not surprisingly, Sarah successfully leveraged these skills in her position as a Deals Transformation consultant intern at PwC, and she will be returning to PwC following her graduation in May.

In sum, based on her contributions to so many projects, her obvious leadership skills, and her desire to impact the world through her passion for social enterprise projects.”

Dr. Brian P. Miller
Sam Frumer Professor
Associate Faculty Chair, Full-Time MBA Program

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF MBAS TO WATCH IN 2023

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