Kellogg Chronicles: Leading the Kellogg Women’s Business Association

Kellogg WBA Presidents Club Inaugural Kick-off with Professor Suzanne Muchin. Here, women club presidents are featured. Over 65 Kellogg women+ are leading professional, regional/affinity, and social clubs, from Consulting, KTech, Healthcare, and Investment Banking, to Charity Auction Ball, Hispanic Management Association, and of course, the WBA.

On a beautiful, sun-drenched day last May, our eight Vice Presidents agreed to meet us on the rooftop of an Evanston apartment complex. This kicked off our journey as the new Co-Presidents of the Kellogg Women’s Business Association (WBA). Filled with excitement and a touch of nerves, we were ready to guide our executive team through a visioning session to define the culture of the WBA and to imagine the legacy we aspired to create.

In one activity, we asked what the ideal WBA culture looks like. One word came up more than any other: Supportive.

Reflecting on our team’s remarkable programming we’ve rolled out this past year, it all circles back to that one word – Supportive – we wanted to define us.

The WBA is the largest affinity club on campus with over 800 members who identify as women. With an expansive 50-person leadership team serving across eight different committees, the WBA touches every phase of the Kellogg woman’s journey. The WBA supports Kellogg women every step of the way, from the moment someone thinks about applying to celebrating their acceptance – and all the way through their years as a student and an alumni member.

The 2023-2024 WBA Leadership Team

INSIDE LOOK AT WBA’S PROGRAMMING

Throughout the year, the WBA runs programs and events for students to enable professional and personal growth, provide mentorship and alumni access, build community, and raise awareness of critical DEI topics.

WBA Families Kick-off – A WBA program that allows 2nd year and 1st year Kellogg women+ to form a close-knit community

This last fall, we heard from an inspiring panel of female executives at Walmart: Julie Zorb (MBA ‘18) – Senior Director Site Merchandising – Hardlines; Jaclyn Lomax (MBA ‘10), Vice President of Manufacturing Operations – Pantry; and Jessica Schaff (MBA’11) – Vice President of Merchandising – Furniture.

Moderated by our Vice President of Professional Development, Nikita Bhatia (MBA ‘24), the panelists discussed topics such as women in leadership, family planning and fertility, finding excitement in a company’s vision, and their experiences of growing to appreciate life in Arkansas. The panelists’ vulnerability, openness, and encouragement resonated deeply with students. Positive feedback poured in, with numerous students describing it as one of the most engaging and inspiring panels they have attended. The continued alumni support, demonstrated by their eagerness to give back to the Kellogg community, is a testament to the WBA’s value.

In the spirit of paying-it-forward, the highly-regarded WBA mentorship program initiates meaningful mentor-mentee connections between Kellogg individuals and Northwestern undergraduate women. Kellogg students offer guidance and share their experiences to assist mentees with academic and career challenges. The MBA experience can feel like a pressure cooker; you’re learning how to balance recruiting, a highly active social life, and class workload, while also devoting time to self-discovery and new interests. In truth, it’s filled with many ups-and-downs. In our first year, we both signed up as WBA mentors. What we quickly found was that being a mentor wasn’t just helpful for the undergraduate mentees. It was a great reminder of how far we’ve come in our own journeys and what a privilege it is to guide women who are rising up after us.


Women’s Leadership Seminar Professors (from left to right) Ellen Taaffe – Director of Kellogg Women’s Leadership Programming and WBA Advisor, Suzanne Muchin – Professor of viral Kellogg course Selling Yourself and Your Ideas, and Gina Fong – Professor of Ethnographic Customer Insights and winner of 2023 Kellogg Professor of the Year.

These relationships often continue well beyond the program’s formal conclusion. One of our mentees is an undergraduate social sciences major trying to recruit for a consulting or banking internship. With the program’s personalized matching system, the mentee was paired with a Kellogg woman with a similar undergraduate profile. The mentee and Kellogg WBA mentor stayed in close contact throughout the year, with meetings originally scheduled for 30 minutes often lasting well beyond an hour-and-a-half. The Kellogg WBA mentor offered specific advice on how to market a social sciences degree as a competitive advantage. A few weeks ago, she excitedly found out that her mentee just received an interview for Goldman Sachs.

Creating a strong sense of community is a core focus of the WBA. Through fun activities like galentines celebrations, a book club, and meaningful small groups dinners, Kellogg women are not only able to engage in a warm and supportive space, but also connect with Kellogg women outside of their regular classes or club circles. Over the past couple years, we’ve both made some of our closest friends and connections through WBA events and programming. Our goal as Co-Presidents has been to foster a community that transcends any normal social spheres at Kellogg. That way, women always find a sense of belonging and connection with other WBA members, regardless of the environment they are in. There’s always a friend to sit next to in class or grab coffee with, and these touchpoints create relationships that continue after graduation. When we were first year directors on WBA, we were led by second-year women who were sounding boards and mentors for us. Even after they’ve graduated and moved out of Evanston, they’re always just a text or phone call away.

The WBA’s annual marquee is Kellogg Women’s Week, which features a series of flagship events celebrating the achievements of women within the Kellogg community and promoting dialogue on gender equality. This year’s lineup includes a variety of sessions, such as a discussion on power and status led by Alison Fragale; a tailored workshop with Her Personal Finance on money moves to make in business school and beyond graduation; cross-affinity group collaborations like Drag Brunch with our Pride at Kellogg Club; and a fertility and family planning session with the Kellogg Healthcare club.

Women Executives at Walmart panel attendees

KELLOGG’S UNIQUE VALUE FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS

The far reach of the WBA is fueled by an exceptionally supportive community within and outside of Kellogg. Women excel across Kellogg and beyond, serving as student leaders, professors, deans, founders, and executives. There is a deep-seated responsibility and desire to support other women. This integral component of Kellogg’s culture leads to outstanding support for the WBA.

The WBA’s offerings are enhanced by administration-led initiatives, like the Women’s Leadership Seminar (WLS). Led by Professor Ellen Taaffe, our WBA faculty advisor and leader of Kellogg women’s leadership programming, this seminar is specially designed for graduating Kellogg women. It aims to prepare and inspire Kellogg women to pursue, navigate, and sustain careers that have impact and personal meaning. This seminar includes five master-classes by leading women professors at Kellogg on topics like giving and receiving feedback by Professor Gina Fong – the 2023 Kellogg Professor of the Year. Another is leading with an unmistakable presence and gravitas with Professor Brooke Vuckovic, who teaches Moral Complexity in Leadership: An Exploration through Literature, a highly popular class at Kellogg.

The three-hour sessions are captivating, but the conversations don’t stop there. The WBA supports this ongoing engagement by sponsoring small group discussions and providing questions so attendees can continue grappling with the topics and support each other. The commitment of the WLS professors to our professional and personal success is extraordinary. They go above-and-beyond. They produce not only high-quality and relevant content, but also care deeply about our individual growth journeys by answering follow-up emails and meeting requests from students experiencing real-life career challenges and seeking advice. After Professor Fong’s session on feedback, one student emailed her to ask how to deliver constructive and honest feedback to a peer. Professor Fong not only quickly emailed the student back, but jumped on a call with her and walked her through how to navigate the complex personal situation effectively.

FURTHERING THE WBA’S IMPACT WITHIN AND BEYOND THE WALLS OF KELLOGG

Kellogg Women’s Preview Day AMA Panel for Prospective Students – Women’s Preview Day is in partnership with Kellogg Admissions and includes a full day of robust programming, including student panels, Career Management Center information session, an alumni fireside chats, and networking opportunities.

Being WBA Co-Presidents has been an intensive lesson in building a strong team and culture within a large organization, collaborating as Co-Presidents, and balancing visionary thinking with effective execution. Inspired by our growth journey, we’ve introduced new initiatives to support other women on similar paths.

Every fall, as a new class arrives at Kellogg, we organize a welcome event for the incoming women, featuring greetings from the women presidents of all Kellogg student clubs. This year, we are thrilled to highlight that over 65 women hold president roles in various clubs, including major professional organizations like the Kellogg Consulting Club and Kellogg Tech Club, as well as within affinity and social groups.

We launched the inaugural WBA Presidents Club – a pioneering forum for Kellogg Women+ club presidents. This platform allows us to set goals, address challenges, and build a lasting support network beyond our time at Kellogg. For our first meeting, Professor Suzanne Muchin, a staunch WBA supporter known for her highly popular elective course “Selling Yourself and Your Ideas”, guided the women Presidents through complex leadership dilemmas, with a focus on effectively motivating and engaging teams.

We are extending the WBA’s impact and influence beyond Kellogg. Recognizing that every top business school has a women’s association, we have established connections with M7 Women’s Business Association Presidents. We are organizing an M7 Women’s Business Association Presidents roundtable in April, bringing together Co-Presidents from HBS, Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia, MIT Sloan, and Stanford GSB. This roundtable will be a venue for exchanging knowledge and ideas and to foster a wider network of women in business.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS AND PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

Sarah Wade (2Y’24) and Sathvika Ramachandran (2Y’24) – WBA Co-Presidents welcoming new first years to WBA at the Kellogg Club Fair

Dare to imagine, take pride and ownership, and create a diverse team that is inherently positive, supportive, and motivated. The magic of Kellogg lies in the true buy-in to the belief that women and other marginalized genders are powerful changemakers, advocates, and vehicles of empowerment. They should be in every important room and critical conversation. So when you have an idea, everyone, from administration and professors to other peers and alumni, are waiting to jump in and help bring your vision to life. The support has been unparalleled, which in turn, enables us to offer high-quality programming for Kellogg women. This creates a lasting network and community that extends far beyond our time at Kellogg.

To sign off on a personal note – serving as Co-Presidents of the WBA has been one of the most profound joys and an invaluable part of our Kellogg journey. We are both so deeply driven by a mutual commitment to foster a supportive environment within the WBA leadership and to provide meaningful programs and opportunities for all Kellogg women. Leading the WBA has been a sheer honor and privilege that we cherish deeply. But the highlight, without doubt, has been the chance to do this together. Our special relationship as Co-Presidents has magnified our deep appreciation and support for one another, immensely enriched our journey, and defined this as an unbelievably amazing experience.

 

DON’T MISS: KELLOGG CHRONICLES: LEADING AS A KELLOGG WOMAN

Authors:

Sathvika Ramachandran, WBA Co-President, is in her second year of the Kellogg Full-Time MBA Program with a focus on Marketing and Managing Organizations. Coming from a consulting and technology background, Sathvika is interested in crafting effective people strategy and organizational culture to drive strong performance.

 

 

Sarah Wade, WBA Co-President, is in her second year of the Kellogg Full-Time MBA program. Prior to her MBA, Sarah was a management consultant with experience in operational excellence in the financial services industry. She is pivoting to a Strategy & Operations role at Apple after school and is excited to drive decisions with data.

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