Sorebrek's Musings and Ramblings

In search of the holy grail of an MBA (class of 2008 hopeful), this space will hopefully chronicle the search and my other quixotic pursuits.

Monday, October 18, 2004

@ Kellogg

Back after a long hiatus. Been busy with personal stuff and taking some time off from work. Managed to squeeze in a couple of B-school visits while in Chicago, where the famous weather is slowly unraveling its charms. About visiting Kellogg:

The Kellogg school is on Northwestern University's Evanston campus. Actually, they do have a downtown campus, but that facility houses the TMP (part-time) program. You can get to the Evanston campus by taking the "el" train (purple line) from pretty much anywhere in Chicago. The campus itself is to the far north of the train system, so plan for an hour or more of travel time if you need to get there from the downtown area.

The good thing about visiting Kellogg is that you could pretty much drop in whenever you happen to be in Chicago (with a few exceptions; see their visit page). The not so good part is that the attention to detail and the sense of welcome present at dedicated events run by other schools is missing. My itinerary consisted of sitting in on a class, taking the student-lead campus tour and attending the information session (wasn't so keen on this one since I had already been to one in San Fran).

The first thing that strikes you when you walk up to the campus from the train station is how so unimposing the Donald Jacobs center is. The full-time MBA operates out of the Anderson Hall in the Donald Jacobs center. Apparently there is another facility which houses the Executive MBA program, but I couldn't cover that one. Very ordinary looking early-80s architecture; vinyl and cheap mosaic abounds. I don't know if it is all the expectation built up over the weeks, but the whole building thing didn't do it for me. Once inside, the rest of the facilities seemed to be pretty much along the same lines. Not much bright lighting except for the atrium-like area that doubled up as a cafeteria and congregation space. I went up to the second floor to the Admissions office to pick up a class schedule. I was greeted by a rather bored-looking gentleman. Now I must say this or I will lose all interest in blogging: This was clearly the most unhelpful part of the visit. An alien in this country, my antennae twitch at the slightest notion of someone trying to say things between the lines (or words as in this case). Over time I have learnt to figure out the undertones of an uhuh (american for yes) by listening for the length, timber and accompanying body language. So there are are uhuhs and uhuhs; ranging from the innocuous to the get-out-of-my-face ones. Well Mr. CornRows, your uhuhs were not entirely lost on me, but I think I managed to let it not get to me. I scrounged around on the counter and found class and event schedules. Turned out that I was a little too late for the 8:30 AM classes, but too early for the 10:30 AM ones. I knew the class schedules from the website, so it was really me not planning for enough time to get to the campus. Anyway, I decided to kill some time by exploring the rest of the building. A display case with books authored/co-authored by faculty took the prime spot next to the fabled Kellogg stained glass window. Several recognizable names including Philip Kotler, Dipak Jain and Mohan Sawhney.

I ran into an applicant from Switzerland, a civil engineer, hoping to graduate with a real-estate concentration. We settled down in the atrium with coffee and discussed the whole admission thing. He was being interviewed the next day at Kellogg and this was the last leg in his two-week school-visit road trip. I discovered later on that there were about a dozen other visitors that day, most of whom I would run into again at the Chicago GSB Fall Preview the next day.

Considering that Kellogg has this stellar reputation of the best marketing school, we decided to sit in on a marketing class, Marketing Management, taught by Prof. Alexander Chernev. There were five other prospective applicants who were in the same class. The professor asked us to introduce ourselves. Most students seemed genuinely happy to see prospective students; some more than the others. This was a first-level, core class of about 65 people. We learnt later that the elective classes are much smaller in size, about 25 to 30 in number. The material taught was pretty straightforward. The prof illustrated some marketing principles using the failure of New Coke as a case study. Participation from the class was mixed. Some students were scrolling through the case right in the class. Others were more enthusiastic; some others had a hard time putting their hands down. However, I noticed that about 60% or more of the class did not really participate. Perhaps this is one of the first few classes of the Class of 2006, but somehow it didn't add up. Overall a good class; great presentation aids and moderately participative. I wish the case study sparked some debate. I thought the topic was fairly contentious and I was hoping for some discord to bring in fresh perspective. After the class ended, noticing that not many stayed around to talk to the prof, I took the opportunity to chat with him briefly. I wondered if any of the electives offered covered marketing technology to enterprises since it differed from retail marketing. I was told that the fundamental principles were the same and I would be better off looking at the course catalog to see if such an elective is offered. Yet to do that. One of the current students sitting next to me was extremely helpful and patient. She even offered me and another prospective student her calling card and offered any help over e-mail. I was impressed to say the least.

The tour followed. I think there were about ten of us prospective students lead by a first-year student. We were taken around the building and shown the study rooms and the computer room. Looked like any other school, nothing to write home about really. The student was very forthcoming and helpful and stopped every now and then to explain various aspects of the admission process and answer questions from us. He sounded very enthusiastic about the GIM (Global Initiatives in Management) program, an elective with some class work followed by two-week research trip abroad. The class president, a very friendly and outgoing guy stopped by and chatted with us for a while.

I grabbed some lunch from the cafeteria since I decided to stay around for the information session at 2PM. Students were sitting around in groups eating lunch and discussing course-work; the legendary Kellogg teamwork in action! At the info session, learnt nothing new besides what I already knew from the San Fran info session and the website. The adcom, a Kellogg alumni herself, took time to courteously and patiently respond to even the most outlandish of questions. [Update: just remembered - Kellogg has a 360 degree feedback system, where your peers evaluate you on several criteria (no, not anonymously) and the evaluation s count towards your grades. Also, Kellogg has a grade non-disclosure policy, which I think is student-initiated.]

I left with the impression that there is more to Kellogg than meets the eye. I decided that I will not be hung up on the facilities. The students were definitely friendly and seemed to be at ease with their groups/cohorts. The adcomms were helpful and accessible too. I would undoubtedly be thrilled beyond words if I did get accepted, no question. However I wish Kellogg had put together a formal event for prospective students a la Chicago GSB, which by the way has by far surpassed all my expectations. But more on that tomorrow. If not a formal event, at least more attention to detail and emphasis on the impalpable strengths of the Kellogg program would have been nice. Oh, and Kellogg, please lose Mr. Spite or replace him with a sign saying "Schedules to your left" or something to that effect.


  • At 10:39 AM, Blogger aregon23 said…

    Nice post! We should meet up soon so I can get some of the more gory details that are not possible to post on a public blog! :)

  • At 1:53 AM, Blogger britchick said…

    From what I can tell, you're not the only person to have had problems with that guy, so at least it's nothing personal.

  • At 12:16 AM, Blogger sorebrek said…

    Thanks BC - believe me, I felt quite let down, to the point that I had to blog about it. On retrospect, I think it is another regular guy who isn't happy with his job - who is these days? :-)

  • At 3:45 AM, Blogger Shawn T Lippert said…

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