Get a Kellogg MBA: An Interview with Dean of Admissions Kate Smith [Episode 324]

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Get a Kellogg MBA: An Interview with Dean of Admissions Kate Smith [Episode 324]

Learn all about Kellogg’s MBA options from the inside [Show Summary]

Assistant Dean of Admissions Kate Smith discusses Kellogg’s rich menu of options as well as what Kellogg is looking for in applicants, changes to its MBA application, and how to get in.

Interview with Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid at the Kellogg School of Management [Show Notes]

Kate earned her own MBA at Kellogg in 1998 and then worked in marketing for leading brands including General Mills, Quaker Oats, and Pepsi. She returned to Kellogg in 2012 and assumed her current role as Assistant Dean, Admissions and Financial Aid at the Kellogg School of Management.

What makes Kellogg unique? [2:09]

We intentionally designed the Kellogg learning experience to grow you both personally and professionally. Between extensive global opportunities and the challenging experiential learning, as well as customized electives, the curriculum is shaped by real world business problems and dedicated to developing dynamic leaders to see possibilities that others can’t. In our innovative curriculum you will learn how to evaluate opportunities, catalyze teams, and engage with world-class faculty. Whether being advised by a venture capitalist on a start-up, joining a trek with thought leaders in industry sectors of interest, or participating in a fireside chat with a professor who served as a Fortune 500 CEO, we offer in-depth experiential learning with a collaborative culture and distinctive community.

Kellogg offers a range of full-time degree programs, and we hear consistently that many students who learn about them are very excited and weren’t aware of them before. All are designed to fit student interests. We have the two-year MBA (traditional program) that offers the opportunity to explore different interests, and often career pivots. We have a one-year MBA program and two joint, dual-degree programs. Our one-year program has existed for 56 years consecutively. It is for those who have completed some business coursework before attending so we qualify one-year applicants by the coursework taken. We give students credit for those courses. One-year (1Y) students start in the summer, and it’s a four-quarter program (June-June). There is an immersive first quarter for 1Y students, and then they join the second-year MBA class with electives, and they tailor their studies to their interest and professional goals.

Joint degrees include the MMM, which is a dual degree with the engineering school, and you get an MS in design innovation and MBA. It is very popular for students who are interested in design-centered thinking or product management. It’s a seven quarter program and integrates with the two-year program in the fall. Last is the JD/MBA program, with the curriculum designed to be completed in three years. Finally, our alumni network is very engaged and responsive, which impresses students and applicants. We have a pay it forward culture and mindset, which you see across the board.

What’s new at Kellogg in the last year? I know a lot has been happening. [14:03]

We are thrilled to welcome our new dean Francesca Cornelli. She will be on campus in a few weeks and joining us from LBS, bringing an immense amount of global perspective, and in particular expertise in private equity, innovation policy, and corporate governance. I personally am very proud it is our third consecutive female dean We are the only top business school with consistent female leadership.

Our curricular innovation continues to be an important focus. In the last five years we’ve launched 64 new courses, 12 courses in the last year alone – Negotiations in a Virtual World, Early Stage Healthcare Investing, and Blockchain Technology. We are wanting to equip students to hit the ground running with what is happening realtime in business and the marketplace.

We also have three new pathways. At Kellogg a pathway is a cross functional sequence of courses that addresses a particular skillset, to help organize courses and tailor to student interest areas. Students have the flexibility to pursue any number of pathways, and there are no majors, you can go as deep as you like in any area. The three new ones are Tech Management (¼ of our students were recruited into technology positions last year), Energy and Sustainability, and Asset Management.

Can you tell me more about global opportunities at Kellogg? [19:10]

There is quite a portfolio of options. One is an exchange program offering. About 20% of our students do a formal study abroad exchange program at one of 25 universities. They will take a one quarter, 10-week fully immersive experience and live and study overseas. There are independent study, travel, and career opportunities (students often engage in job search while on the ground in that region). We’ve had students consult for small family run businesses in South Africa, taking luxury goods marketing courses in Paris, studying finance in London, etc. It’s an attractive program for those who want an immersive experience.

Those who want an immersive experience, but primarily want to be at Kellogg can participate in the Global Initiatives in Management (GIM) course. It is a 10-week course and based in Evanston for 8 of the 10 weeks. Students engage in a course focused on a particular region around the globe. A faculty member leads the class content; students learn about the business climate, do an independent research project, and in the final two weeks travel as a class to that region. When you go to these countries, the breadth and depth of the alumni network ensures that the experience is nothing like what you could ever create on your own. You are talking to business leaders in the country; you would never experience this as a tourist. One of the classes went to Brazil and the topic was branding the nation. Students talked to Brazil’s Minister of Justice, one of the main voices in the fight against corruption. The China trip met with Joey Watts, an alumna and CEO of a Fortune 500.

Global Lab is an opportunity to take another course, with an experiential and consulting focus. Students engage in a consulting practice, work on a project on the ground in Evanston, but really getting hands on experience on a real-time problem, then meeting with a company in country. The final international study option that I’ll mention is KWEST. Over 90% of our students participate in KWEST (Kellogg Worldwide Experiences and Service Trips), which takes place a week before first year starts. The trips are led by 2nd year students, and there are about 20 different trips offered. It’s a great way to form strong friendships and foster the meaningful connections that students love. It’s a nice start to the MBA experience, and students go as far as New Zealand and as near as Canada.

Our community has 1/3 of students from outside the US and 1/4 of the faculty are global in background so the experiences are organic to the community.

Kellogg is known as a marketing school. Do its grads go into fields other than marketing? [26:20]

We have been coined as a marketing school, and we are absolutely proud of that reputation, but the breadth of opportunities at our school is great. The most popular industries in recent year are actually finance (over 10%), tech (about a quarter of Kellogg grads), and consulting (about 1/3 of students). Smaller numbers go into healthcare, real estate, entrepreneurship, social impact, etc. We have an amazing career management team, helping students secure their career aspirations. Last year alone they increased the number of companies hiring by 15%. 230 companies hired our grads across all different sectors, which is a surprise to some.

What types of applicant does Kellogg value? Is there any common thread that both unites the Kellogg community and distinguishes it from other MBA communities? [31:08]

Kellogg values people who are going to be engaged and “all in” with their experience. We are looking for people who can motivate a team and drive impact, people who are not afraid to question the status quo, and approach business problems with intellect, excitement, creativity, and passion. We also value those who seek diversity, which dovetails with our cornerstone of collaboration. Our culture is set apart by the desire to engage with others to build out and drive impact across a particular space.

Bottom line we look at engagement, initiative, and collaboration. High impact, low ego – people who elevate everyone in the room.

Has Kellogg’s application changed in any way this year? [33:55]

The two most significant changes involve some of the essays. We have changed the second written essay question and one of our video essay questions. The first written essay question is the same (talk about a time an applicant has demonstrated leadership and created lasting value). The (new) second essay question is which values are most important to you and how they have influenced you.

For video essays we have three, and the first question will shift from an ice breaker question to an opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves. We found applicants saying they wanted more time to talk about their background, so we adjusted accordingly.

<< Check out our Kellogg MBA application essay tips! >>

How does Kellogg feel about GRE scores? [40:00]

We accept both GRE and GMAT and have no preference. Either is fine, and we will look at performance on various sections on the test. The benefit of the standardized test score supplements the assessment of competency in certain areas, and is one of many areas we will consider in an application. There has been a growth in acceptance of the GRE at business schools overall. At this point I would say no more than 10% of students are submitting the GRE over the GMAT, but it was 5% five years ago, so growing.

In addition to engaging with the admissions team, how else can applicants learn about the Kellogg experience? [43:16]

I absolutely recommend tapping into the alumni network. We have 60,000 alums across the world. Contact our admissions office, and we can connect you with somebody from where you are from. Come to campus to visit if you can, but if you are not able to travel to Evanston, you can find Kellogg alumni clubs on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a really helpful resource to find alums and current students. Reach out to student clubs – with our pay it forward ethos, they will take the time to talk to applicants.

What advice do you have for applicants planning ahead for a 2020-21 application? [44:48]

My first piece of advice is regardless of where you are in the timeline, reflect on why you want to pursue your MBA. What are your goals? Why is this a good fit for those goals? How would you maximize the experience here as a student, and how does Kellogg impact your longer term career aspiration? Having reflective time is really important. From my own experience, an MBA is an amazing, transformative experience, life changing, and empowers you to make a lasting impact on the world. Apply when you are ready, have thought through everything, and are prepared to put the best application forward. Beyond that, attend events, talk to our students, really get to know who we are.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? [46:57]

I would love to elaborate a bit more on post-MBA employment opportunities with the Career Management Center. Our CMC is second to none, and they make sure students leave with their dream job and roadmap to the future they want to pursue. They offer unique access to employers across all different industries, functions, and geographies. You can attend a panel or small group chats with leaders in all different areas, and I already mentioned industry-specific career treks. Also our coaching one-on-one, workshops, and our plethora of resources help you on your career pivot or acceleration goals.

Listen to the show!

Related Links:

• Kellogg MBA Admissions
• Your 3-Part Game Plan to Dominate the GRE
Kellogg MBA Application Essay Tips• Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting Services

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