Kellogg Visit

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Geographically, Kellogg is one of the closest MBA programs on my target list. Apart from that I wanted to visit Kellogg first because I have more connections there than any other school. I’m happy to say that I left with even more. The student population at Kellogg makes a concerted effort to introduce themselves to those lost looking folks roaming the halls wearing purple “visitor” tags. Most of the great connections I made during my visit day came from chatting with students in between their classes and at the weekly “TG” meetup (more on that later).

Backing things up a bit though, Evanston is a picturesque college town that happens to be situated 20 minutes from one of the country’s major cities. That push/pull setup with Chicago works perfectly for an MBA program. The students can insulate themselves within the bubble of Evanston and also are a single “L” train away from the nation’s third largest city. Oh and Evanston also has a Pret A Manger downtown, which, hell yes.

The Kellogg School of Management traditional 2Y (two year) program is located within the Donald P. Jacobs building. Admittedly, this isn’t the most gorgeous building to look at either on the outside or the inside. That wasn’t a big issue to me; my engineering buildings in undergrad all shared the same “old school Midwestern college building” vibe. That is to say that they’re ugly, but functional. Kellogg is however designing a new building that is due to start construction this summer but wouldn’t be completed until after I plan to have my MBA in hand. Facility looks mean less than nothing to me. After spending an entire day in the Jacobs building I’d be more than happy to call that home for two years. Moving on.

When you first set foot into the building you get the sense that the students run everything at Kellogg, and that was reiterated by every student I spoke to. From the conferences, to the visit days, to the student organizations and everything in between Kellogg is truly its students’ school. This means that to get the most out of the “Kellogg Experience” you have to be ready to flex your soft skills. There is no formal structure to getting involved, and with as large of a class size as they bring in it is very easy to fade into the background without any of your other students catching on. I’m a people person (my fellow engineers chafe at this every opportunity they get) so I don’t anticipate any problems in this aspect.

My day started with an informal building tour given by a current first year student. There were no admissions personnel on hand during the tour, which let the prospective students get acclimated to their new surroundings without feeling we had to be on our toes in front of adcoms. The building tour pretty much evolved into a walking Q&A session with the student, which was great. I mean, once you’ve seen one class/study room, you’ve seen them all.

After the building tour was a lunch with several current students, including a second year who was able to answer more questions on what career recruitment was like at Kellogg and how he got his gig at a Top 3 Consulting firm starting in the summer. He also happened to be the president of a few clubs and an all-around social butterfly, so once people started floating some “extracurricular life” questions we got insight into just how much fun Kellogg kids have with their limited downtime. This is also where I heard about the “TG”…

After the lunch there was a gap built into the agenda allowing us to roam the halls. I used this time to meet up with a few of my friends who currently attend Kellogg and catch up with them. They in turn introduced me to more great people (noticing a trend here?) all of which offered themselves to help me through my application process. The Kellogg focus on admitting good people was evident throughout the visit. Granted I was only there a day but I didn’t come across any of your typical “alpha males” (or females for that matter), and almost to a person I was greeted with a smile and a “good luck with applications!”

Following this break in the agenda there was a formal information session with an adcom. I noticed that a bunch more prospective students showed up starting here. Makes sense, most people want to get in touch with the admissions folks. It was your standard info session followed by Q&A. The adcom did a great job touching on stuff that you in particular might be interested in from the school. For me she really did a job on pushing the JD/MBA program to me with my government background, and I’m going to have to look into it. I’ve always seen a law degree as something I’d get later on in my career…but why not now? Food for thought.

The undoubted star of the show was the class visit. I had heard tall tales of this amazing professor at Kellogg that goes by the name of Professor Gad Allon. Luckily enough, one of his classes (Operations Strategy) was open to visit that day and I made sure to register myself for it nice and early. Don’t know how else to put it but Professor Allon is a superstar professor. He was recently named to the Top 40 Professors under 40 Years Old by Poets & Quants, and I can see why. He was incredibly engaging with his students without it becoming a distraction to the flow of the class, and his practical real-world examples served to root the sometimes pie-in-the-sky concepts in Decision Sciences. I’ve heard people say that these career professors can’t get into the meat of things because they’ve never been in the field…but with Professor Allon he always tied big points into his advisory experience with various companies. It was really fascinating stuff and I’ll be sure to look up his work for some further research.

I’ve been teasing Kellogg’s weekly “TG” meetup throughout the post. TG is short for TGIF, which is short for Thank Goodness It’s Friday. Every Friday at 5:00 PM (after the last class of the day lets out) the school puts on a social in the atrium complete with beer, finger food, and usually a visiting company to talk to. There were a few hundred students there scattered around the atrium and the surrounding hallways. All of the prospective students had at least one or two current students chatting them up, it was very easy to meet people and exchange contact information. For the current students, think of it as a Friday unwind time, and the jumping off point for the, erhm, Kellogg Weekend. The TG typically leads nicely into Friday night fun in Evanston/Chicago, which I definitely partook in :D.

All in all it was a brilliant visit. I continually tried to remind myself that I haven’t been to any other schools yet on an official visit and so I have nothing to compare it to, but I couldn’t help but get excited at the thought of potentially becoming a Kellogg student. I can truly picture myself there, it meets all the criteria I outlined in what I want out of a school and it’s vibe and curriculum matches my interests. But let’s keep in mind that I still have to manage to get in!

Hope you guys enjoyed my visit breakdown. I’m hoping to get some more visits into my target schools over the summer months and at the beginning of the school year. For now it’s off to the tailor, it’s wedding season! And no, it’s not my own 😀

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Summer Courses and Other Tomfoolery

Ah, it feels good to be back among the living, if only for a bit. I’ve been going at the GMAT study pretty hard, but today I’ll pick my head up above water for a to pass on some news: I’ve registered for summer courses.

I’ve alluded before to the fact that I wasn’t the most prodigious student in undergrad, for many different reasons. While I’ll be sure to mention the relevant reasons in that infamous “optional” (ie. you better write it if you want the option of attending business school) essay in each of my applications, none of these reasons are big enough to explain away why I’m on the lower end of the GPA scale for some of my target schools.

So rather than try to explain them away, I’ve decided to go out and show what I’m really capable of. I’ve enrolled in a Corporate Finance course as well as a Business Statistics course at my local university for the Summer Term. This is going to serve a two-fold purpose for me. One, I’ll be bringing home 2 A’s in some pretty quant heavy courses that together with a strong GMAT score, a civil engineering degree, and 4 years work experience in a quantitative environment, will hopefully remove any lingering shadows of doubt that an adcom may have on my intellectual chops.

The second thing that taking these courses does for me is adding some structured learning to a field that (to this point) I’ve been hungrily learning about through reading the Financial Times, WSJ, multiple books, and plenty of papers and blogs. Sometimes I find myself unfamiliar with a financial term that a writer uses, or struggling to wrap my brain around a trade concept. Adding some structured learning opportunities will only enhance my understanding of these topics, which in turn helps me refine what I’m truly interested in.

Courses start in two weeks. Only thing I’m anxious about is that there is going to be an overlap between GMAT study, examinations, restudy (maybe), and coursework, all the while continuing my growing duties at work. I look forward to the challenge and the progress there is to make.

Other Tomfoolery

The other day I found myself doing some further research on my target schools by catching up on their respective YouTube activity. That’s when I came across this video from the Kellogg School of Business from their recent “Kellog-Aspen Conference on Rethinking ‘Shareholder Value’ and the Purpose of the Corporation.” The video was taken during a session called “Corporate Speech: The Role of Corporations in Influencing Policy.” Here’s the video. Fair warning it’s about 1.5 hours long.

Breif synopsis: A panel of insanely qualified individuals discuss the justification (or lack there of) behind and the ramifications of Citizens United. If you don’t know, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a constitutional law case in which the Supreme Court upheld the 1st Amendment rights of corporations, associations, and labor unions. This meant that these entities are allowed to have independent political expenditures. If it’s still not ringing a bell, you’ll probably remember the infamous question that was being posed a while back: “Are Corporations People?”

I found this video endlessly interesting, as with most constitutional law interpretations. It has it all; founding father’s intent, debate on whether corporations are private entities or government sanctioned organizations, and juicy allegories. The general consensus, which I happen to agree with, was that at minimum politicians should be more transparent on where their campaign funding comes from, and corporations need to be more transparent on how much capital goes towards political contributions. With that information in hand, let the voting public and the shareholders decide the future of political contributions. A floundering company’s shareholders will be unhappy if millions are going to the campaigns of politicians, and the voting public will be unhappy if (SHOCK) their elected officials do more for their campaign contributors than they do for the people they represent.

So if you find yourself with an hour and a half to blow, and want to stimulate your mind give that video a watch and thank me later.