Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Phillip Cox, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Phillip Cox

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“mRNA Vaccine Engineer and Japanese basketball and ski aficionado fostering community, innovation, and impact.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Fun Fact About Yourself: Just like developing and manufacturing vaccines, winemaking is a science! I’m a Level 2 Wine Sommelier who has turned a hard sciences background into a strong interest for wine. Most of my family has even worked in the wine industry at some point! Looking forward to trying lots of different wines these next 2 years.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Major: Bioengineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Moderna, Engineer 3

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA curriculum or programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As an engineer, I’m a firm believer in hands-on learning and real-world application. What sold me on Kellogg was learning about all the different experiential learning opportunities that crossed all industries and functions. I was blown away that every single student I chatted with had taken or was planning to take advantage of at least one of these opportunities. I vividly recall a conversation with a Kellogg student who shared a story about his experience launching a new medical technology in Africa that quite literally helped save lives. The story resonated with me because I could feel his excitement for translating work done in the classroom into tackling a real-world problem. At this point, I knew Kellogg was committed to action-oriented education and I was ready to jump right in.

What makes Chicago such a great place to earn an MBA? Kellogg students get to experience all the benefits that a small tight-knit college town provides while also the opportunity to take advantage of all things that a world-class city offers. I am city person through and through. I love how Chicago is just a short train ride or drive away giving me access to a vibrant food scene with a seemingly endless list of restaurants to try, a variety of music venues to check out, and top-notch professional sports teams to go watch. Students have easy access to the diverse Chicago economy spanning all industries and filled with firms ranging from small startups all the way up through large Fortune 500 companies. The opportunities to network, explore, or even give back to the city are endless.

At the same time, Evanston offers an escape from the bustling city. It’s a close-knit community where students place emphasis on small group dinners (an essential Kellogg tradition), performances, and club events. I really value these types of experiences because it gives me the chance to get to know my classmates on a deeper level. From building community in Evanston to taking advantage of Chicago, there is something for everyone.

Kellogg is known for a team-driven culture. What quality do you bring as a teammate and why will it be so important to the success of MBA class? I bring coordination, resilience, and optimism. As a Japanese American, I was raised to really value community and that’s something that I try to prioritize as a leader and teammate. I typically am the one getting the group organized, dividing responsibilities, supporting all teammates, and ultimately creating environments that allow us to foster relationship-building. Setbacks and challenges are especially common in dynamic environments, but I’ve learned through my career that being resilient and staying positive is absolutely critical to keeping the team motivated and moving forward. Thus far, I’ve really enjoyed the chance to get to work with Kellogg students of all different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. And it has been especially rewarding to apply these skills and help contribute to the success of the teams I’ve been on.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Northwestern Kellogg? I’m really excited about getting involved in the Healthcare Club and the Business of Healthcare Conference at Kellogg because of the opportunity to learn from and build relationships with passionate healthcare-focused peers. The students in the organization have all been so welcoming thus far! Additionally, as a recipient of the Hawryluk Biopharmaceutical Scholarship, I’m thankful to have a small cohort of students within healthcare who share a deep interest in the biopharmaceutical industry. I look forward to taking advantage of the amazing resources, mentorship, and programming that this scholarship group provides.

Coming from an engineering background, I realize that I have so much more to learn about healthcare. I’m energized about the opportunities to learn through engaging with C-Suite leaders at speaker events, participating in case competitions. In these activities, I can apply classroom knowledge to real-world healthcare challenges, and staying connected to the science through classes at the engineering, science, and medical schools. I can’t wait to contribute, learn, and grow within this vibrant healthcare community.

What has been your first impression of the Kellogg MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Kellogg story so far. Supportive, inclusive, and passionate. At Kellogg, there is a tradition during CIM (Where Culture is Made), Kellogg’s student orientation, where students have the opportunity to share some of their most transformative life experiences with seven other members of their section. We call this the Crucible Moments presentation. This was a powerful experience for me because it not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, but really showed me the power of vulnerability.

I was worried at first about how others would judge me from sharing things that were so personal, but I was taken aback by how encouraging and supportive everyone in our group was. Despite being eight strangers, we shared how these personal pivotal moments in our lives have truly shaped who we are as people and leaders. The dinner was filled with tears, laughs, and nothing but warm energy. It was also really inspiring to see how each of our experiences fueled our passions in our personal and professional lives and how everyone was supportive of each other. I left dinner with seven new incredible friends and an appreciation for the welcoming Kellogg community that I can call home for the next two years.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and my team at Moderna began our long journey working on Moderna’s COVID vaccine. As a more senior engineer, I helped grow the mRNA process development team. This team was tasked with developing, optimizing, streamlining, characterizing, and transferring a scalable and robust mRNA manufacturing process for this new SARS-CoV-2 spike protein sequence that would meet world-wide demand and yield billions of doses each year.

Our team made rapid strides in overcoming many experimental and scientific challenges. It was so rewarding to tangibly see the broad impact that my work would have on the entire world, a feeling that I felt I could only dream about as a young engineer. As a member of the international technology transfer team, we were tasked with rapidly opening up Moderna’s first international manufacturing facility in less than 4 months. Our team was successful in enabling the expanded world supply of our COVID-19 vaccine at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Thinking back to my contributions to the development and roll out of Moderna’s mRNA COVID vaccine fills me with pride and excitement. I realize that I was not only able to contribute to helping end this pandemic, but also be a part of the development of a new groundbreaking technology that has the potential to address many more unmet medical diseases.

Looking ahead two years, what would make your MBA experience successful? My experience delivering mRNA technology to the world showed me that new science alone is no longer enough to make widespread change across healthcare—it requires strong business leaders who are equipped to evolve alongside these breakthrough innovations. Thinking back to why I first applied to business school, I knew I wanted to expand my horizons in healthcare and business, develop my skills in leadership and collaboration, and develop newfound global perspectives. A successful Kellogg MBA experience for me will be filled with academic exploration that span topics from a variety of industries and functions, leadership roles that create lasting impact on the Kellogg community and beyond. It would also include global cultural and professional experiences that enrich my understanding of business today.

Two years seem so far away and yet I know it will pass by in an instant. I can only hope my MBA experience will help me become a better version of myself and I’ll end up leaving with some lifelong friends and memories.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Haas, GSB, Ross, Wharton

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA program? When you’re starting your MBA application journey, take the time to really reflect on your educational, professional, and personal experiences. Understand how each part of your life and ambitions connect and how they have led you to the decision to get an MBA. Make sure to keep in mind that Kellogg lives by the motto: high impact low ego. Kellogg leaders take initiative and enact change in their community and worlds around them, but they are also humble about it. And that’s evidently seen here throughout the Kellogg community.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to showcase your uniqueness. During the application process, for the longest time I felt worried that as an engineer, I wouldn’t fit with the typical applicant that schools were looking for. I soon realized that from chatting with current students and alumni it was actually the complete opposite. Diversity in interests, background, and experiences are not only celebrated but desired in applicants.


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