“Hoosier hospitality.”
That’s what Kyle Bender calls it. An Indiana native, he subscribes to the Heartland faith in the ‘greater good.’ This belief led him to join Teach For America, where he built a high school technology curriculum from scratch. Soon enough, he was spearheading a 20-member team’s fundraising efforts for the organization. These roles reinforced his public spirit, that sense of optimism, commitment to service, and genuineness of connection that also defines the Midwest.
He found this same spirit when he visited the Kelley School of Business last year. “I mentioned to a Kelley professor that I wanted to improve my Excel skills before attending business school,” Bender remembers. “He offered to share a tutorial for the Jumpstart and Modeling Spreadsheet courses he taught at the time, and followed up several days later with the resource. Interactions like these confirmed Kelley was the right fit for me.”
A REFLECTION OF THE HOOSIER STATE
You’ll find plenty of stories about Kelley’s “personal touch” from first-years like Bender. Caitlin Jones, for one, received a handwritten note from Dean Idie Kessner – Poets&Quants’ reigning Dean of the Year – congratulating her when she accepted her offer to join the Class of 2021. Her classmate, Jake Frego, enjoyed a similar experience, calling Dean Kessner and her leadership “very accessible and generous with their time.” This set the tone for what came next, Frego adds.
Military Club meeting
“These ‘personal touches’ are important because they indicate that Kelley is a place that values each individual and seeks to invest fully in him or her. I am confident that I have found an MBA program that not only is characterized by strong academics and reputation, but that also fosters lasting relationships.”
The Kelley School culture harmonizes well with the area’s values. Indiana is a place where a greeting is as sincere and someone’s sadness to see you go. It is the golden rule come to life, a live-and-let-live ethos where being friendly, humble, and helpful are the fibers that hold together the social fabric. At the same time, the area is known for its slower pace and roomier space, giving students a chance to truly explore their interests and build deep and defining relationships.
A LARGE AND GLOBAL NETWORK
“Our culture is the best you can experience,” Dean Kessner told P&Q in December. “And it does make a difference where you go. We are different in our collegiality, our collaboration, and our teamwork. No other school is quite like what we have here.”
Tyler Yoder, a 2019 Kelley MBA and P&Q MBA To Watch, took inspiration from the Kelley code. “I vividly remember Idie Kessner talking about the three core qualities of Kelley students: “The talent to succeed, the humility to grow, and the tenacity to persevere.” As I interacted with Kelley students, I found each of these qualities to be true, especially the students’ humility. They talked about how Kelley students do not define their success by how quickly they move to the “corner office,” but rather when the entire team around them succeeds.”
It is these values that are carried by 115,000 Kelley alumni into their careers. These shared beliefs and experiences make for a potent network – a lesson that Justin Speller learned after he decided to join Kelley’s MBA Class of 2021. “I was running through the Seattle airport with my Indiana sweatshirt trying to catch a flight and out of the blue I hear “Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers!” (which is our Indiana chant) and was immediately greeted by a third-generation Kelley alumna and his wife. It was then that I recognized the vast reach of the alumni network and instantly knew where I wanted to spend two years.”
MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS FROM ELI LILLY TO SXSW
Entrance to the Kelley School
Speller himself – a Biology and Anthropology major as an undergrad – joins the Class of 2021 from Bank of America, where he served as an assistant vice president. His claim to fame? He built and launched a learning management system used by 40,000 students. That’s not the only big number racked up by class members. As a Deloitte technology analyst, Aditi Sharma’s work was so impressive that her client signed on for another $14 million dollar project. In contrast, Cassie Deguzman developed a repositioning plan that enabled her employer, a dairy marketing cooperative, to boost sales by $15.6 million dollars. In Indianapolis, Kyle Bender raised $16 million dollars for Teach For America – and become more acquainted with the Kelley School in the process.
“Over half of the board of directors I managed at Teach For America had a direct tie to Kelley – either they were an alumnus or their kids went through the program.”
The Class of 2021 also boasts its fair share of organizers. At Eli Lilly, Jake Frego oversaw the firm’s strategic planning process that produced financial projections through 2030. Tyler Patrick Ray’s passion is retail. In Japan, he launched a t-shirt line that he sees “people walking around in my neighborhood wearing.” At South By Southwest (SXSW), Caitlin Jones created documentation that connected all stakeholders. Her efforts streamlined communication and made all the various moving parts visible to decision-makers.
“After my first SXSW Conference & Festivals experience as an employee, I recognized the need for an effective process on how we internally tracked the placement of the 25 unique conference tracks, staff workspaces, and venue sales spaces located across 19 city-wide hotels and venues during the planning phase of the event,” Jones explains. “With help from the logistics and programming teams, I created a real-time document the entire company could reference to ensure that we did not overlap the use of conference event spaces for the 10-day international event. The document was immediately beneficial and continues to be used to maintain accuracy across all departments and committees, from graphics and signage creation to sales and sponsorship client use to keynotes and featured speaker placement.”
MBA team meeting
TRIAL BY FIRE…LITERALLY
This year’s class is also a study in perseverance. Take Rong Xue. At PPG, this chemist had to test 13 solutions and 500 formulas to perfect a product after a recall. Over 17 months, she suffered repeated setbacks before she eventually saved the line. “To find a good solution, I read numerous technical books and papers, proactively reached out to other chemists, participated in vendors’ workshops, and tried their new ingredients,” she recalls. “After considerable trial-and-error, I finally found a solution that met all the requirements! This project turned out to be a great success: All 30 formulas were revised, with better quality control and reduced costs.”
Think that’s intense? Try being Nate Zimmerly, a U.S. Army Operations Supervisor who was deployed to Liberia during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 – an eye-opening experience to say the least, he says. “I helped open two Ebola Treatment Centers in two extremely remote locations deep within the jungles of the country. I lived and worked with the local population to open these two treatment centers. During this time, I learned firsthand about the struggles that the majority of the world’s population faces on a day to day basis.”
Danielle VeZolles’ moment of truth came after a year as general manager of a boutique hotel – her first job after college. During her vacation, the property suffered extensive fire damage and had to close for three months. As a result, her role shifted from the steadiness of running an operation to the uncomfortable position of restoring a historic building.
“Throughout the closure, my leadership skills were put to the test as I navigated unfamiliar territory,” she explains. “I met with several restoration companies, meticulously analyzed their 150-page proposals, negotiated prices, and selected a company to do the restoration work in three months. Under my leadership, the repairs were successfully completed under budget two weeks ahead of schedule – and we opened just in time to accommodate a group who had booked the entire hotel for a weekend. Thrust into an ambiguous situation, I grew considerably, navigating the complexities of people management, customer service and leading through crisis.”
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See the Entire Meet the Class Series

Students meeting with the Kelley School in the background.
A STRONG STEM PRESENCE
The Class of 2021 is smaller than its predecessors. It boasts 135 full-time students, down from the 185 students who entered the year before. This can be traced to applications, which fell from 1,082 to 741 in one year. Overall, applicants enjoyed a one-in-two chance of being accepted in 2019 – or a 49.4% acceptance rate to be exact.
Average GMAT scores also declined with the incoming class, falling from 674 to 666 (though 41% of the class scored 700 or above). That said, average GPAs actually inched up from 3.33 to 3.34. In addition, 33% of the class are women, down from 35% in 2018. That said, the percentage of international students held steady at 36%. Another 36% of the class hails from the Midwest – negating the notion that Kelley is just a “Midwest” school. Another 16% of the class comes from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with the West and Southwest (8%) and the South (4%) also represented in the class.
In terms of education, the largest segment of the class – 39% – majored in Science and Engineering as undergrads. Another third hold degrees Business, with the remainder of the class falling into the Social Sciences and Humanities bucket.
A RISING POWER IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The Kelley MBA is known as a haven for career changers, thanks to its personalized coaching culture that materializes in the program’s trademark Leadership Academies and Me, Inc. orientation. Beyond that, Kelley possesses the resources of a much larger business school. It ranks as the #2 online MBA program and a Top 20 undergraduate program. As a result, Kelley MBAs can piggyback off of resources given to 8,000 undergraduate business majors and another 1,000 online MBAs. In fact, Kelley’s 325-member faculty is larger than the entire full-time MBA cohort, giving students easy access to an array of business expertise.
Highly regarded by academics as a top business school for management, marketing, operations, and accounting, Kelley has also emerged as a startup Mecca. In 2019, the school ranked #8 in P&Q’s inaugural MBA entrepreneurship ranking, thanks to a mix of diverse programming, talented faculty, and committed peer students, says Ryan Underdahl, a 2019 Kelley MBA and founder of Civic Champs.
Kelley MBAA Board members
“I had the opportunity to learn from a number of dynamic professors who brought real-world experiences to the coursework and helped me identify opportunities, understand the intricacies of starting and growing a business, and gave me the tools to strategically tackle the issues I face every day,” he explains. “The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship [a[also][also]d invaluable feedback, connections, and direction. We were also fortunate enough to win the Johnson Center’s Clapp IDEA Competition which provided us with a great amount of exposure that has been extremely beneficial. Finally, the informal organizations at Kelley, namely my fellow classmates, provided unrivaled support. I was fortunate enough to learn alongside a group of truly bright and compassionate individuals who constantly made themselves available to me to discuss our business, get their feedback, and help hone our idea and value proposition.”
LOTS TO DO IN BLOOMINGTON
Kelley’s thriving startup scene is just one of the unexpected benefits of the program. For example, some applicants picture Bloomington as a small, sleepy town, leaving students with little to do after dark…let alone the weekends. However, 2019 grad Tyler Yoder found it to be exactly the opposite.
“I believe Bloomington rivals major cities in terms of the diverse opportunities available to students. For some, it may include eating their way down Fourth Street with cuisine from around the world. For others, taking advantage of performances at the world-renowned Jacobs School of Music or an IU basketball game could be up their alley. I enjoyed running the B-Line trail with classmates on Saturday mornings and wrapping up at the farmers market.”
Beyond the wide-ranging activities, Bloomington enables Kelley MBAs to build deeper relationships through their closer proximity. “Just the other night, several of my classmates and I played board games and listened to live music for a few hours at Switchyard, the new local brewery in town,” Yoder adds. “I have hosted meals at my apartment, hiked with classmates in the Brown County State Park, had book discussion groups at local restaurants and played basketball against Kelley faculty in Assembly Hall.  Bloomington has been an ideal location for me to get my MBA.”
Class of 2020’s David McCoy leading a meeting
CAN GET A JOB ANYWHERE AFTER GRADUATION
Another myth about the school? Students only land jobs in the Midwest. In reality, just 47% of the Class of 2019 stayed here – down four points from the previous year. At the same time, Kelley is hardly a consumer products factory, either. Just 15% of last year’s graduating class entered the industry, less than consulting (21%) and technology (19%) – and barely more than healthcare (12%). Miguel Klee Roldan, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, came to Kelley from San Diego and ultimately returned to the West Coast with Amazon. One reason: he was able to network with several Kelley MBAs in the region.
“The alums that I met were not only helpful throughout the recruiting process, but also helped reassure me that moving to the West from Indiana was not impossible,” he writes. “Additionally, when I worked at Amazon during the summer, there was a group of Kelley alums at Amazon who met with me and my classmates every week of our internship to help us with our projects to ensure we were on track for a full-time offer. Kelley has the resources to get you to where you want to go. So long as you put in the work, you’ll get there.”
The Class of 2019 also enjoyed a big year, pay-wise, seeing base paying jump from $107,000 to $115,000 – a positive sign for incoming MBA students. What’s more, according to Forbes 2019 research, Kelley MBAs can expect their pay to increase by $63,500 within five years of graduation. That’s not the only good news coming out of Bloomington in recent months. Last month, Kelley received a $16 million dollar gift from the Jellison family, placing the school on track to meet its $200 million-dollar fundraising goal this summer.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE MBA DIRECTOR
What else can future Kelley MBAs expect? Last fall, P&Q reached out to Gale Gold Nichols, the executive director of the full-time MBA program. From new developments to underrated aspects of the program, here is what Gold Nichols told P&Q about what is coming up in the future at Kelley.
P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your program?
Gale Gold Nichols
GGN: “We have launched a joint degree program enabling students to earn an MBA and an MS in Information Systems. The program focuses on digital enterprise and prepares students to be leaders in the use of technology as a competitive advantage, creating value in digitized processes and user experiences. We are also partnering with our top-ranked Kelley Direct Program to offer our students the option to pursue an M.S. degree in Business Analytics after completing their full-time MBA. This is a great opportunity to earn a second graduate degree and valuable additional expertise that can enhance students’ skills and career options.
We’re delighted to be rolling out a brand-new GLOBASE program in Belo Horizonte, Brazil this year. It will be our first GLOBASE program in that country, and we are excited to add this location to our existing programs in China, Ghana, Indonesia, and Thailand. GLOBASE is our premier experiential learning program and is one of the most popular and valuable features of our program.
We hired four regionally-based team members for our Graduate Career Services office’s Employer Relations Team. Over the last 12 months, these team members, based in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, and Bloomington, have generated more than 1,200 new jobs from more than 200 companies who had not previously hired from Kelley programs.”
P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?
GGN: “I would say there are three areas:
1) Access to certified coaches who can support students in their personal and professional growth throughout their time at Kelley.
2) The academic flexibility that the program provides: students can design their own major, take graduate-level classes outside of the business school that can count toward their degree, and combine residency in Bloomington (for one, two, or three semesters) with completion of the MBA via our highly-ranked online program.
3) The tremendous growth and learning that can take place when a student takes part in one or more of our global programs—it’s not only fun to participate in a GLOBASE or study abroad program, but it can also spur personal growth, understanding of another culture and economy, and building of a professional network in another part of the world.”

University of Indiana campus
P&Q: Kelley is known as a program that fosters career transitions. How do you infuse coaching and mentoring into your full-time program? How does your top-ranked career center play a part?
GGN: “Coaching and mentoring begins for some students months before they actually arrive in Bloomington as they prepare for summer conferences and boot camps. It proceeds through our award-winning Me, Inc. program and continues throughout each student’s two years at Kelley. Each student is paired with a professional coach from our Graduate Career Services office, along with a second-year peer coach, who helps guide the student through their professional development and job search process. We also offer an exceptional second-year Leadership Academy that teaches students how to effectively coach others. Our GCS team consists of a group of seasoned business professionals who are also certified coaches; they are fantastic resources for our students.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT ME…IN A GOOD WAY
In fact, these coaches complete hundreds of hours of training, passing exams from both the CTI (the Coaches Training Institute) and ICF (International Coaching Federation). Not only that, but coaches work with students on personal and professional growth throughout the two-year program. Better still, there are no limits to how many times or how long students can meet one-on-one with their coaches.
This personalized approach kicks off at orientation with Me, Inc. During this two-week program, students look inward to better identify their drivers and values, always focusing on the why before the how. Following a four-step framework, students gain self-awareness through intensive feedback from coaches, faculty, peers, and second-year students. They also take tests to better understand their leadership profile and personality type. From there, they mine their experiences, talents, and goals to craft a narrative that reflects who they are and where they hope to end up.
A student team collaboration
Admittedly, Me, Inc. is an uncomfortable process, one designed to force first-years to confront their shortcomings. That’s exactly what these students need to change careers. The programming is a means to gain the self-awareness and practice the communication and teamwork needed to make the most of their two years in Bloomington. Even more, Me, Inc. demands purposeful planning, the kind that prepares students for the recruiting frenzy to come.
“What makes the program so special is how it is tailored to fit each individual differently,” explains Aditi Sharma. “Everyone would have a different takeaway from the program. It breaks you down to build you again. Such a rediscovery would prepare me well for the course ahead and help me make the most of our time at Kelley.”
ACADEMIES DELIVER HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
Me, Inc. is just one of the signature experiences of a truly distinctive curriculum. For example, the core courses are integrated, with all the business disciplines intertwined across a 15-week bloc. Working in four-member teams, students are exposed to how areas like marketing, finance, and general management connect with each other – and how decisions made in one area can reverberate across the others. Not only does this give them a broader view of business operations, but hones their ability to find more holistic solutions to issues they encounter.
With the fundamentals in place, first-years spend the second half of the year in Academies. Think of Academies as a resume-builder, where students can apply core learnings in field projects. To start, students choose one Academy related to their long-term career paths. These Academies include Business Marketing, Consumer Marketing, Capital Markets, Strategic Finance, Supply Chains and Digital Enterprise, Consulting, and Life Sciences (i.e. Healthcare). Along with gaining on-the-job experience, MBAs visit top companies in their fields to learn cutting edge techniques and network with prospective employers, experts, and champions. The Academies also come with regular observation and feedback from career coaches and second-year peer mentors to add perspective and polish.
“Academies serve to connect classroom knowledge with experiential learning to prepare students for their summer internships and, ultimately, their full-time career,” explains Danielle VeZolles. “As a career-switcher, participating in Academies is important because I want the opportunity to gain practical knowledge that will support me when it comes time to perform in a role. Through the Consumer Marketing Academy, I will participate in group projects and develop marketing recommendations, network with top CPG companies, and learn consumer marketing skills and industry best practices.”
Kelley MBA students hanging out after class.
HEADING OVERSEAS TO SERVE
After their summer internship, students can also return to complete a second Academy, with a menu that includes Leadership, Entrepreneurship Innovation, and Life Sciences. For example, Jennifer Solomon, a 2019 Best & Brightest MBA, signed up for the Leadership Academy. Along with a culminating project, she says, the course was supplemented by coursework that covered areas like servant leadership and coaching fundamentals. Ashley Emerole, currently a Kelley second-year, adds that the Academies’ experiential bent extended far beyond field projects.
“I did the capital markets academy,” she told P&Q in an October interview. “That prepared me in terms of what a financial services career would look like. As a first-year MBA, you’re able to meet with a lot of alums who work in different financial service capacities. You travel during your academy week to New York and Chicago and visit different firms, and you get a lot of hands-on training that ranged from stock pitch competitions to a case on whether Amazon should divest an asset. It was a lot of hands-on learning.”
While the Class of 2021 is looking forward to the Academies, they can’t wait for GLOBASE. Another institutional staple, GLOBASE mixes international consulting with social impact. Here, student teams head to locations like China, Brazil, and Vietnam to partner with small businesses and non-profits. Their goal: help them overcome business barriers and stimulate growth.
“I want the opportunity to gain international leadership experience and help change someone’s life forever,” says Justin Speller. “With the Globase program, I will be able to gain exposure to working abroad.”
NOT TOO BIG…OR TOO SMALL
For Tyler Yoder, GLOBASE ranked among the highlights of this Kelley MBA experience. “Happy Horizons Trust (HHT) is a non-profit/NGO that partners with schools in the rural Indian state of Bihar to lead educational activities ranging from storytelling to career development. Their team then equips young Indian women to lead those educational activities, many of whom have become teachers after their work with HHT. It was such an inspiration to work with their leadership team and hear stories of their impact on communities in this rural state. I was honored to help them take the next steps toward expansion and furthering their mission.”
Faculty leaving as fall approaches in Indiana
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of the Kelley School is career services. In the most recent student surveys conducted by the Financial Times and The Economist, Kelley ranked 3rd and 5th respectively in this area. How seriously does Kelley take career preparation? For one, Miguel Klee Roldan notes that he had three coaches – “a peer coach, an alumni coach, and a career services coach” – during his time at the school. For another, Kelley’s Career Services Center that operates out of a separate building – a testament to its importance. Last year, the school invested in a business team of four staffers – each covering a different region of the U.S. – who are focused on growing the number of prospective employers and opportunities available to students. The effort has already yielded results, with 1,200 employers hiring Kelley students in 2019.
“We don’t like the idea of bringing students in without the certainty that we can find our students jobs,” Dean Kesner told P&Q in December. “We owe an obligation to our students. We feel very committed to that.”
It is a commitment that Kelley MBAs reciprocate by going out of their way to make workload a little easier and the world a little friendlier – a little thing called Hoosier Hospitality. “I wanted a small program where I wouldn’t get lost in the numbers and where I could develop a close relationship with my classmates, professors, and the program staff,” adds Nate Zimmerly. “The Kelley program was just that. Kelley is big enough to always meet new people but small enough to never go unnoticed.”
What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates.
DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2021: THE GO-GETTERS

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MBA Student
Hometown
Undergraduate Alma Mater
Last Employer

Kyle Bender
Delphi, IN
Wabash College
Teach For America

Cassie Deguzman
Ferndale, WA
Western Washington University
Darigold

Jake Frego
Hudson, OH
University of Notre Dame
Eli Lilly and Company

Caitlin Jones
Austin, TX
The University of Texas at Austin
South by Southwest (SXSW)

Cameron Johnson
Springfield, VT
University of Maryland
U.S. Air Force

Conchita Linares
Cicero, IL
University of Illinois
Rolls-Royce

Tyler Patrick Ray
San Diego, CA
San Francisco State University
Gap Japan

Aditi Sharma
Chandigarh, India
Panjab University
Ernst & Young

Justin M. Speller
Chicago, IL
Emory University
Bank of America

Danielle VeZolles
Charlotte, NC
Xavier University (OH)
Stanley Black & Decker

Rong Xue
Liaocheng, China
Shandong University
PPG

Nate Zimmerly
Greenwood, IN
Bradley University
U.S. Army

Kyle Bender
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“A native Hoosier who loves to travel and has experience in education, policy, and technology.”
Hometown: Delphi, Indiana
Fun Fact About Yourself: 80 percent of my immediate family is left-handed, yet no MLB contracts were signed.
Undergraduate School and Major: Wabash College, A.B. in Political Science
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Managing Director of Development at Teach For America
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2016, I walked away from an impending promotion in corporate America to build out a fundraising team for an organization that had a consequential impact on my early career – Teach For America. Although I had no fundraising experience, I felt called to contribute during a period of transition for the organization. During my tenure, we raised $16 million and built a healthy reserve to support Teach For America’s work in Indianapolis.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? In just a short amount of time, I have found my MBA classmates to be genuine and people I’ve known for much longer than a few weeks. The Kelley admissions team has built a diverse class with backgrounds that challenge and support one another. It will be a fun and competitive two-year experience that creates lifelong relationships. I can’t wait to get started.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The Kelley network is one of the largest and strongest in the world. I am seeking first to deepen my analytical skills and foundational business acumen and then have a global reach through my expanded network. During my research, not only did I find Kelleys in high-impact leadership roles at the companies I admire, but they were also active and engaged members of their community. For example, over half of the board of directors that I managed at Teach For America had a direct tie to Kelley – either they were an alumnus or their kids went through the program.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am really looking forward to getting involved with the Real Estate Club. I have always been intrigued by the industry and hope that the club’s activities will provide exposure to an investment vehicle and avenue to reimagine communities. I also plan to prioritize self-care during my time at Kelley and plan to join the Golf Club in the hopes of finding a solution to a swing that has long prevented any type of success for me on the course.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? How would you accomplish the career goals you’ve just discussed without pursuing an MBA?
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Time spent working with civic and business leaders to address educational inequity affirmed my belief in the collective good that business can accomplish. These leaders were able to inspire those around them to drive toward a collective goal, while not losing sight of their company priorities and commitment to investors. I believe further developing competence and confidence through an immerse MBA experience will make me a better leader in the years ahead.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Purdue
How did you determine your fit at various schools? It was really important for me to find a full-time MBA program that would provide an immersive and defining experience. The culture was of paramount importance so I visited several schools and analyzed how people interacted with one another. At Kelley, there is a culture in which students and faculty alike form a unique community. They recognize each other’s passions and pursuits through traditions like the annual faculty auction, which I heard about during my campus visit. They also welcome prospective students in ways that can only be described as “Hoosier Hospitality,” exemplified by the student-led Hoosier Hosts Committee. I mentioned to a Kelley professor that I wanted to improve my Excel skills before attending business school. He offered to share a tutorial for the Jumpstart and Modeling Spreadsheet courses he taught at the time and followed up several days later with the resource. Interactions like these confirmed Kelley was the right fit for me.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In the week prior to my first semester in the classroom as a Teach For America teacher, I was asked to switch content areas and instead of teaching social studies (a familiar passion of mine) and start a technology program for 150 middle and high school students – 95 percent of whom had never used a computer before. What I didn’t know at the time was that I would not have computers in the classroom until week nine. The challenge led to levels of frustration and failure I had yet to experience in my young career. It also taught me the importance of humility, resourcefulness, and how to ask for help. We eventually received those computers and had a lot of fun along the way. I’m proud of the growth we made that semester, but more importantly, proud of the productive citizens my students went on to become.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Over the summer, I was fortunate to read The Second Mountain – The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks and found it to be highly applicable for anyone about to begin their business school journey. Brooks defines people on their second mountain as those who have transcended the traditional pursuits of prominence, pleasure, and success. They radiate joy because they have found their purpose in life and exhibit a deep commitment to their vocation, family, faith, and community. I am confident the Kelley community will help prepare me for my second mountain climb, where I hope to be in ten years!

Cassie Deguzman
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“Amateur adventurer, professional marketer. I love meeting people and see every glass as half full.”
Hometown: Ferndale, Washington
Fun Fact About Yourself: I learned how to ski a few years ago by joining Meetup groups and skiing with strangers almost every weekend for the entire season. I learned a lot about each person during the three-hour car rides and met people who challenged me to be a better skier each time I hit the slopes.
Undergraduate School and Major: Western Washington University, Business Administration – Marketing
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Darigold, Assistant Marketing Manager – Cooking & Creamers
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment has been the work I’ve done on the coffee creamer portfolio at Darigold. Creamers are extremely profitable for Darigold, but growth had stalled over the last couple of years. I established a plan to grow the business by $15.6MM by repositioning the line to compete directly with Nestle Natural Bliss, expanding distribution across the core flavors and increasing pricing to drive category dollars. To reposition the line, I worked with a design agency to update artwork to emphasize the all-natural formula and utilized a research agency to test the packaging with consumers to ensure that the changes resonated. I also worked with the product development team to reformulate the flavor that still used artificial ingredients. To expand distribution, I worked with our sales team to develop sales decks for category reviews at key retailers.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The MBA classmates I’ve met so far have been incredibly supportive. They’ve answered every question honestly and have been quick to connect me with other Kelley students that they think would be a good resource. I’m looking forward to being part of such a strong community!
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The Consumer Marketing Academy was a really important factor in selecting the Kelley MBA program. I searched for a program that would help me continue to develop strategic marketing skills through hands-on experiences with projects that have a real impact. By working directly with a consumer goods company on a practicum project, I will have the opportunity to hone my skills and make a tangible contribution before I even graduate.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Association of Women MBAs. I’m looking forward to being part of a community of strong, intelligent and supportive women, delivering on the five pillars of community, mentorship, professional development, prospective outreach, and local engagement.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? In my role as an assistant marketing manager, I worked on a team with five brand managers, all of whom have their MBAs from top programs across the country. I was consistently inspired by the experiences they shared with me, in both their MBA programs and post-business school careers. I also admired how well they were able to handle difficult business strategy challenges – which they would mention ‘is something I’d learn in business school.’
I realized that in order to continue to develop strong business and financial acumen, a supportive network and leadership skills, I needed to pursue my MBA.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota (Carlson) and University of Washington (Foster)
How did you determine your fit at various schools? To determine which school was the right fit for me, I attended each program’s preview weekend. It was important to me to get a feel for the city I might live in, meet the students I might be enrolled with, and get a better understanding of each program. Coming from out of state, I knew that I needed to pick a program where I felt comfortable. At both Kelley Preview Weekend and Experience Weekend, I felt welcomed by everyone I encountered. Current students went above-and-beyond to engage with prospective and admitted students outside of the structured events and demonstrated what it truly means to be a part of the Kelley family. I immediately knew that I could make this home for the next two years.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When a new vice president of marketing and innovation joined our team about two years ago and asked me about my five-year plan during our first one on one, I realized I didn’t have a good answer. I left that meeting slightly stunned but determined to develop a plan. Over the next few months, I worked closely with my mentor at work and my manager to identify what I enjoyed doing to get a better understanding of potential career plans. I realized that I loved seeing products I worked on appear on the shelf. I realized that, as a brand manager, I could impact everything about the product from formulation, positioning, pricing, and packaging. This reflection fueled my passion for brand management and set me on a mission to pursue a career that I didn’t think was possible.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? My goal is to continue to work on exciting, innovative brands and in 10 years I want to be in a role where I’m leading a team of brand managers to drive business and initiative results.

Jake Frego 
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“I am a man of faith committed to serving God and my community through business.”
Hometown: Hudson, Ohio
Fun Fact About Yourself: I enjoy working on my family’s farm in southwest Michigan. The farm is comprised of vineyards, apple orchards, and asparagus fields.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame; Finance
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Eli Lilly and Company; Senior Financial Analyst
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: This past spring, I led the Strategic Plan process at Lilly, which yielded internal financial projections through the year 2030. The work of my team guided leadership decisions regarding company strategic focus, preparation for industry change, and investment allocation.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Welcoming. When I visited Bloomington for the ‘Kelley Experience’ weekend, I was struck by the way in which the second-year students genuinely wanted to help me. As I searched for housing, multiple students opened their homes to me on short notice and connected me with their friends.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I was impressed by the ‘personal touch’ exhibited by Kelley throughout the admissions process. Following the interview day, I received handwritten letters from the Kelley MBAs who had hosted me and the other prospective students. In addition, I found Dean Kesner and her leadership team to be very accessible and generous with their time. These ‘personal touches’ are important because they indicate that Kelley is a place that values each individual and seeks to invest fully in him or her. I am confident that I have found an MBA program that not only is characterized by strong academics and reputation, but that also fosters lasting relationships.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am particularly looking forward to the Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) program at Kelley, through which I will complete a social impact consulting project with my peers. My team will provide a ‘pillar of the community’ business or nonprofit organization in Latin America, Africa or Asia with the tools to tackle its unique challenges. Through my team’s support, the organization will clear barriers to growth, identify opportunities for expansion and best prepare for the future.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “What is your biggest regret in life, so far?” This is a question that requires introspection and vulnerability.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Now that I have five years of work experience, I am prepared to drive a deeper impact and to assume increasing levels of responsibility. It is also a great time to return to the classroom to learn from the experiences of my peers. An MBA will polish my skills and provide training for effective leadership.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Duke Fuqua, Dartmouth Tuck, Michigan Ross, Northwestern Kellogg
How did you determine your fit at various schools? I largely assessed this via my interactions with current students, particularly in person during campus visits. I asked myself several questions: “Are the representatives of this school humble and do their goals and priorities seem to mesh with my own? How do the students interact…is there evidence of a ‘family’ atmosphere, or is the climate more business-like? And, what does the classroom experience look like? Are students engaged and able to challenge one another in a respectful manner?”  I desired a school with a tight-knit community, so the way in which students treated one another was very important to me. I understood that I would be most supported and challenged in an environment in which my peers know me well and are familiar with my strengths and weaknesses.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My receipt of the Sacrament of Confirmation in high school. Through this sacrament, one is strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live a Christian life and to use his or her talents for the good of others. The purpose of my work is to serve the Lord by leading and serving others.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? I could see myself in a leadership role at Eli Lilly, as I find much value in the company’s mission; Lilly’s medicines help patients and their families to live healthier and more active lives. Alternatively, I also could see myself in an entrepreneurial role or managing a small business.

Caitlin Jones
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“Native Texan and travel enthusiast always looking for ways to enrich the environment around me.”
Hometown: Austin, TX
Fun Fact About Yourself: Last November, I climbed Huayna Picchu, including the stairs of death, at Machu Picchu.
Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, Marketing
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: South by Southwest (SXSW), Planner
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: After my first SXSW Conference & Festivals experience as an employee, I recognized the need for an effective process on how we internally tracked the placement of the 25 unique conference tracks, staff workspaces, and venue sales spaces located across 19 city-wide hotels and venues during the planning phase of the event. With help from the logistics and programming teams, I created a real-time document the entire company could reference to ensure that we did not overlap the use of conference event spaces for the 10-day international event. The document was immediately beneficial and continues to be used to maintain accuracy across all departments and committees, from graphics and signage creation to sales and sponsorship client use to keynotes and featured speaker placement. Now communication for conference placement is streamlined and quicker, which means SXSW staff can focus on what it does best: fostering creative and professional growth.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? From the moment I scheduled my on-campus interview, I have been overwhelmed by everyone’s friendliness as well as their assistance. I received several emails and phone calls from alumni, faculty, and current students congratulating me on my acceptance and offering their time to talk all things Kelley. I even received a handwritten note in the mail from the Dean herself congratulating me! It was so encouraging to have such a friendly start to my time as a Kelley.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Kelley’s focus on knowing yourself and your personal brand through the Me, Inc. was a major factor in my decision. If you don’t know your true values and motivations for the changes you make in life, how do you know you’re making the right choice? Me, Inc. ensures that you are fully knowledgeable about your decision-making process so that you can be 100 percent confident in your choices for the rest of your career. I truly believe that knowing your personal brand and understanding your values provides the best starting point for success. To know that Graduate Career Services and the entire Kelley faculty is so dedicated to helping me not only as a student but as a person and leader is extremely comforting.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The first group I will sign up for is the Kelley Association of Women MBAs. Surrounding myself with a powerful and supportive female network will be vital to thriving in a world where, unfortunately, gender equality remains a struggle.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? It was detailing a time I failed. Whenever you are asked to talk about a time you failed, it can be uncomfortable. Failure is such a relative concept, but something we all must experience to better ourselves. While answering that question means recalling the failure, which can be painful, it also means you have the chance to show what you learned from it. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life have been through failure and I came out stronger as a result.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After spending a decade in the workforce, I realized I wanted to head in a different direction than the path I chose as an undergraduate. For a long time, I thought I wanted to be in event production forever. However, I’ve realized over the last couple of years that I truly enjoyed the logistics of event production and I wanted to use those skills in a different industry. Someone suggested I put together a list of my top three values. When I did, they aligned with pursuing my MBA. An MBA program gives me the opportunity to learn the skills I need to advance in a new industry while building a network I can count on for the rest of my life.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? The University of Texas, McCombs School of Business; USC, Marshall School of Business; Emory, Goizueta Business School; and Rice, Jones School of Business.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? There were a lot of spreadsheets when I first started exploring programs! In the initial phase of my research, I focused on the percentage of jobs at graduation and the class size. I knew I wanted a smaller class size so the experience would feel more personal. I was unfortunately not able to visit each campus in person, so it was extremely helpful to find ambassadors for each program who were willing to take the time to talk over the phone. Having those one-on-one conversations with people from each program was instrumental in figuring out if the culture was a good fit for me.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Studying abroad in Europe for six months while I was an undergraduate had a huge impact on my life. The experience gave me independence and a sense of adventure that I did not have before. Studying side-by-side with students from all over the globe enabled me to learn so much about their different cultures, viewpoints, and experiences. I was able to explore so many places in such a short period of time. Now I try to experience a different country and culture at least every other year.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?  I hope to be back in Austin working in the technology industry as an Operations Logistics Director leading the charge to improve process efficiencies. I also hope to have explored more of the world, mainly Southeast Asia and South America.

Cameron Johnson 
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“I work hard, but I play harder.”
Hometown: Springfield Vermont
Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve traveled to more than 20 countries.   
Undergraduate School and Major: University of Maryland University College, Bachelor of Science in Finance
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Air Force: Instrument & Flight Control Systems 
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Successfully leading the generation of three aircraft for Hurricane Irma support.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Driven. It’s a challenging process to get into and complete a top tier MBA program.  Everyone I’ve spoken with has their own reason for attending an MBA program, but drive is a unanimous characteristic between them all. 
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The fact that Kelley has more than 115,000 alumni greatly influenced my decision. Having a strong alumni network is essential to creating credibility and branding for the program and its current students. Kelley not only has a powerful global network, but the alumni seem eager to share their knowledge and support. All the alumni that I have reached out to have been more than willing to have a conversation with me and answer any questions that I have.  
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most looking forward to connecting with the Veterans Club. All of the current Kelley veterans have been very welcoming and I am excited to be a part of their club activities. It provides for a comfortable environment when you’re surrounded by individuals that not only share common career goals but also common career experiences.  I’ve noticed that the veteran MBA community really sticks together and pushes each other to succeed.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was asked to describe a failure in which I was involved. I didn’t want to describe anything to substantial or recent within my career. Instead, I chose to illustrate an occurrence that happened early on in my career that I was able to learn and grow from.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I wanted to gain access to a large business network while simultaneously opening doors to greater career opportunities. I also wanted to attend an MBA program because switching careers can be very difficult, especially when switching both industry and function.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Darden, McCombs, Texas A&M, Southern Methodist University and Leeds.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? National MBA rankings played a large role in my decision-making process, specifically U.S News & World Report. As far as culture, I attended Kelley Experience Weekend in March and I was truly blown away. After listening to the faculty speak and engaging with them one-on-one, I felt like they genuinely care about my future success.  I knew Kelley was the best fit for my career aspirations after speaking with current students and alumni and hearing their success stories.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are?  My decision to join the United States Air Force was the best choice I could’ve made. It provided me with so many opportunities I would not have received elsewhere. I met my wife of seven years, traveled all over the world, and received a free education.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Filling a director position within the e-commerce finance sector.

Conchita Linares
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“Energetic and active team player who loves looking for the next challenge.”
Hometown: Cicero, Illinois
Fun Fact About Yourself: As an avid runner, I have combined my love of running with my interest in travel, completing 11 half marathons in five states and training for my first full marathon this fall.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bachelors in Business Administration
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Rolls-Royce – Program Integration Lead
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working for an aerospace company as a non-engineer presented an amazing opportunity for growth. In my most recent role, I had the opportunity to support the F-35 LiftSystem®. I worked with the local depot repair facility to improve cost estimating and lead time reporting to achieve cost savings. My efforts directly impacted the production of one of the most advanced aircraft in history while supporting the warfighter.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?  Engaging, friendly, and motivated. Everyone is eager to get to know each other and enthusiastic about improving themselves as they pursue their career goals.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? It was the engagement from the staff and faculty and how that engagement impacts the Kelley experience. I was able to see their enthusiasm in every interaction and through the time they spent with me as a prospective student. It was clear the dedication to students would continue as I started classes, including through Me Inc. and the career academies. Both of these programs go beyond the traditional learning environment to challenge students personally and professionally while allowing each student to get the most out of their future careers.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Association of Women MBAs, Food Club, and Marketing Club. I have not heard of a pet club yet, so if we do not have one already, we should get one started.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “What is the question you expected, but we didn’t ask?” I was not expecting that one. It was a great opportunity to highlight a strong example I had not used, but it also created a sense of pressure since it was so open-ended.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I found my interest in consumer-packaged goods early in my career. I started as an operations manager and gained a “boots on the ground” experience in manufacturing. I loved having the connection to the end-user and seeing my products on supermarket shelves. A career switch moved me away from consumers but presented the opportunity to move into program management. Through managing program decisions and working with key stakeholders, I enjoyed seeing the impact I have on the program as a whole. However, while working in aerospace, I found myself missing that connection to the end-user and experiencing the relationship created between the product and the person in consumer-packaged goods. This realization led me to pursue an MBA. I plan to join my interest in the tactical and strategic aspects of brand management with my enthusiasm for consumer goods.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Mendoza, McDonough, Goizueta, and Johnson
How did you determine your fit at various schools? As most students do, I started by looking at school rankings (U.S. News & World Report). As I started to get further in the search process, I wanted to make sure I found a good fit and a school that was going to help me with my specific career goals. I knew I wanted to move into marketing and was specifically looking at consumer packaged goods companies. On a personal level, I needed to think about my husband and how we would manage my transition into business school and beyond. Clear priorities allowed me to assess my fit at each school. Campus visits helped me the most in getting insight into the school, faculty, and students. I also used local MBA expos and hometown coffee chats to meet students and ask questions.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was my first out-of-state move. I grew up with a very close-knit family and never imagined moving far from home. The move forced me out of my comfort zone and opened up possibilities of which I have never dreamed. After having this experience, I now continue to stretch myself and push beyond what I think are my limits. The experience also reinforced my original values and has allowed me to make life choices with more confidence.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? I plan to be in a marketing director position in a large consumer packaged goods company, working with a dynamic and creative team focused on improving the consumer experience.

Tyler Patrick Ray
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“An outgoing, optimistic and curious Californian with a passion for retail and love of travel.”
Hometown: San Diego, California
Fun Fact About Yourself: Since 2015, I’ve visited a new place every month. It could be an hour away or halfway around the world — it just must be new. I’ve made this one of my personal goals and still follow it today. Bonus fun fact: I met my fiancé on one of my trips!
Undergraduate School and Major: San Francisco State University, Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design and Merchandising
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Gap Japan, Senior Merchandise Planner
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My experience of having worked through almost all points of the retail lifecycle: from developing the concept to putting it in your shopping bag and everything in between. For me, nothing beats the feeling of seeing people wear products that you created or helped bring to life. I’m most proud of one of these accomplishments from my time overseeing the Japan menswear market: I helped bring to life an exclusive t-shirt program that has since been expanded globally and got to see people walking around in my neighborhood wearing the design!
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My classmates have been genuinely friendly, driven, and (most of all) excited for new experiences and all the memories we’ll make at Kelley.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Kelley’s thoughtful structure to the MBA program and career management are what made it my top choice. Specifically, for my goal of pivoting from the retail industry into consulting, Kelley’s Consulting Academy paired with their award-winning Graduate Career Services truly set them apart. The faculty has already been so supportive and proactive, making it clear that they are passionate about our success.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really looking forward to Kelley’s GLOBASE trip and the opportunity to consult for a foreign business and travel abroad with my classmates. I’m also excited to help bring Kelley’s LGBTQ+ community and prospective MBAs together through my new role as a Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) fellow.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I think one of the most challenging questions was along the lines of, “Picture yourself at graduation: what have you done over the last two years?” I found it challenging because, as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I want to use the next two years to push myself out of my comfort zone, try new things and take advantage of unexpected opportunities. I was able to show creativity in my response and come up with what I envisioned it to be like, but I know the reality is going to be life-changing and even better than I could imagine.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  I took the better half of a year to do some exploring and thoughtful planning of what the next move in my career would be. I found that I wanted to make a pivot in my career to strategy consulting, expand my network, discover new interests, and increase my professional management skills in order to accelerate my growth and become a business leader. Pursuing an MBA became a clear path to achieving my goals.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Texas at Austin – McCombs
How did you determine your fit at various schools? In true Californian fashion: The Vibe. Throughout the process of exploring MBA programs, cultural fit was one of the most important criteria for me. I knew it was crucial for me to find a collaborative environment with a diverse, authentic cohort that I could see myself working with, in the classroom or on a project team. Attending the Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) conference in October as a Pre-MBA was an amazing way to meet students from over 30 top-tier programs. Kelley really stood out to me as having everything I was looking for, which was cemented by the great connections I made with students, many of whom have already become close friends.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are?  My defining moment was “coming out” when I was 15. Looking back, I don’t think I realized what an impact it would have to start living as my true self at such a young and pivotal age. I was expecting a negative response from my family, friends, and community. To my relief and surprise, the outpouring of support could not have been more positive. Once I came out, I found a new pride and confidence in myself that I have carried with me through every aspect of my life.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?  Professionally, my goal is to become a partner in a retail/customer strategy practice at a world-class consulting firm and to be renowned for my impact and abilities. I will continue to be curious and want to learn as much as possible from others. Personally, I see myself spending as much time as I can with my wonderful nieces and nephews and exploring the world with my soon-to-be husband!

Aditi Sharma 
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“A fun-loving extrovert inside the body of a nerd.”
Hometown: Chandigarh, India
Fun Fact About Yourself:  I am a bibliophile, a dog lover and I love making friends. In an ideal world, if paying bills wasn’t a concern, I would have opted for dog walking as a profession.
Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Computer Engineering, Panjab University, India.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: I held the role of a Technology Consultant at Ernst and Young.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I started my career as a technology analyst for Deloitte. There, I demonstrated exemplary performances while working on the development, test case creation, and support for user-acceptance testing and deployment for the initial phase of a project. As an acknowledgment, I was entrusted to work on the request for proposal for the second phase with the same client. The client was impressed by our work to an extent that he signed for another phase worth a whopping $14 million. As a matter of fact, it turned out to be the firm’s biggest cyber engagement. Our team’s endeavors and competence were duly recognized and I won accolades such as outstanding contribution awards, applause awards, and client appreciation awards and was promoted to the next level in a short span of time. On a lighter note, getting into Kelley with a full-ride tops it all so far.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Everyone I have come across has been helpful and supportive. They are highly self-motivated, dependable, and would go out of their way to help you. Considering how demanding and competitive an MBA is, having a supportive bunch around would make this journey smooth and memorable.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? What sets Kelley apart for me is its community. While going through the admission process, I had the time to connect to a lot of B-school students but no other school gave me the same vibe as Kelley did. The current students I talked to were so warm, welcoming and patient. Kelley surely has a boast-worthy culture.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am looking forward to rediscovering myself through the Me, Inc. program that Kelley offers. What makes the program so special is how it is tailored to fit each individual differently; everyone would have a different takeaway from the program. It breaks you down to build you again. Such a rediscovery would prepare me well for the course ahead and help me make the most of our time at Kelley.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most difficult question for me was, “Tell me about a tough decision you made at work that caused harm to someone.”
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have three years of experience in the consulting world, starting with Deloitte (for close to 3 years) and now E&Y. My experience with these two firms has given me the required push for an MBA. I believe an MBA is an asset and a necessity to grow beyond a certain point in the consulting business. I have worked for three years in IT consulting for Deloitte providing Cyber Security solutions to our clients. The knowledge I gained through my bachelor’s degree in engineering has helped me in tackling technical issues and in coming up with quick automated solutions to the problems encountered. However, I am missing a holistic view of the day-to-day business and an MBA would help me bridge the gap between my knowledge about technology and Business.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Tepper School of Business, UNC Kenan-Flagler
How did you determine your fit at various schools? First, I went through all the MBA school rankings online and decided to stick with looking at the top 30 MBA schools. I maintained an Excel sheet to make it easier to compare different schools and help me make a more informed decision. Next, I went to the official websites to determine what the school has to offer and kept an open eye for the unique features. Then I reached out to the current students and alumni to get to know more about the school and got to know their perspective on those “key features.” Talking to people was an important factor because it also gave me an insight into the culture at the school. I looked for schools that had higher placement stats for consulting firms since my goal is to go back to consulting. I checked prospective employers and matched them to my dream jobs. The last – and the most important – factor was the scholarships offered by the program. Kelley turned out to be the perfect fit. It has a highly-ranked program, one of the best career services, a culture to boast about and gave me a solid scholarship that sealed the deal for me.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Back in high school, I was highly competitive and mean. I wanted to ace on the academic front and I never lent a helping hand to any of my classmates if they struggled with studies. I made it my goal to ace my pre-university exams. I worked as hard as I could and I left no stone unturned in my preparation for the exam. However, the result fell short of my expectations. I knew I did everything I could academically; it was the behavioral front where I was lacking. Disappointed in myself, I decided to be introspective and make corrections. I learned to alter my ways with the course of time. I became a helpful, good-spirited student who no longer believed that the only way up the ladder of success was by stepping on other people. There is enough success for everyone in this world. And, oh, I went on to ace those pre-university exams!
Where do you see yourself in ten years? I want to make it to the list of most powerful women in business. On the personal front, I see myself having a great family life and being a proud dog mama.

Justin M Speller 
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“Innovation strategist who loves connecting people, building teams and Cartman from South Park.”
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Fun Fact About Yourself: I was mistaken for comedian Chris Tucker for three months while abroad in Paraguay.
Undergraduate School and Major: Emory University, Human Biology and Anthropology
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Bank of America, Assistant Vice President-Implementation Consultant
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I’ve had the opportunity to build and roll out a Learning Management system that has impacted 40,000 students a year to date.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I would describe the classmates I’ve met thus far as collaborative. Everyone I’ve met is accomplished, yet no one boasts about what they have done in the past. Everyone is laser-focused on helping each other get to the next level. The collective mindset of my classmates is “let’s use our individual expertise to come together and accomplish things as one class.”
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Aside from my classmates, the key factor that led me to choose this program is the strong alumni network. I was running through the Seattle airport with my Indiana sweatshirt trying to catch a flight and out of the blue I hear “Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers!” (which is our Indiana chant) and was immediately greeted by a third-generation Kelley alumna and his wife. It was then that I recognized the vast reach of the alumni network and instantly knew where I wanted to spend two years.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I look forward to having the chance to participate in Globase, the program that sponsors international nonprofit consulting opportunities. I want the opportunity to gain international leadership experience and help change someone’s life forever. With the Globase program, I will be able to gain exposure to working abroad.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?  The most challenging question I was asked is “Why shouldn’t you be accepted to our program?”
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After five years in the consulting industry, I felt I was able to engage in conversations with business executives, but I was not able to dive deep into advanced business topics. Since I completed my undergraduate education in science, I knew in order to take my career to the next level I had to pursue a graduate business degree.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Rochester-Simon, Ohio State-Fisher, University of Maryland Smith, University of Minnesota, Georgia Tech-Scheller
How did you determine your fit at various schools?
U.S. News & World Report Ranking
P&Q Ranking
P&Q School Profile
Clear Admit Class Profile
Fall Event Visits
Diversity Weekend Visits
Consortium Maps Events
MBA Tour Event
I knew Kelley fit my career goals because of the long history of outstanding placements of the alumni. Kelley alumni touch every industry. It’s comforting knowing whatever I want to pursue there is a Kelley standing by to assist.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was coming out to my best friends my senior year of undergrad. After I did that, I was able to fully be my authentic self and I believe that has allowed my personal and professional life to fully bloom.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I see myself in a senior leadership role heading up a therapeutic area in the pharmaceutical industry.

Danielle VeZolles
Indiana University, Kelley School of Business
“Dependable people-person. Francophile. Avid yogi. Sheath dress aficionado. Driven to give back to my community.”
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Fun Fact About Yourself: I was very entrepreneurial as a child. When I was 11, I created my own consumer packaged goods company with a focus on low-cost meals and even produced some of the food. My signature product was called “Irish Beef Chunkers,” which was a slice of bologna glazed with honey and sprinkled with chives. I packaged several items in the refrigerator and it was all fun and games until my father asked me to eat them or halt production! I also opened my own discount store called “Danielle’s Dollar Door.” It was a pop-up shop located in front of my bedroom door where I sold items like greeting cards, beanie babies and jewelry for one dollar to my two sisters and brothers.
Undergraduate School and Major: Xavier University (OH) – Major in Public Relations and Minor in French
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Stanley Black & Decker – Associate Manager, Corporate Communications & Culture
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my first role out of college, I was the general manager of a boutique hotel. On the first night of my first vacation in over a year, a fire ravaged the hotel during our busy season. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was significant damage. The hotel closed and had no revenue for three months. My day-to-day management duties were cast aside for the daily project management of the building restoration. Throughout the closure, my leadership skills were put to the test as I navigated unfamiliar territory. I met with several restoration companies, meticulously analyzed their 150-page proposals, negotiated prices, and selected a company to do the restoration work in three months. Under my leadership, the repairs were successfully completed under budget two weeks ahead of schedule – and we opened just in time to accommodate a group who had booked the entire hotel for a weekend. Thrust into an ambiguous situation, I grew considerably, navigating the complexities of people management, customer service and leading through crisis.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Down-to-earth. My fellow classmates are some of the smartest, yet most humble people I’ve ever met. They’re very easy to connect with and immediately feel like old friends.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full- time MBA and why was it so important to you? A very appealing and unique aspect of the Kelley MBA program is the Academies. Academies serve to connect classroom knowledge with experiential learning to prepare students for their summer internships, and ultimately, their full-time career. As a career-switcher, participating in Academies is important because I want the opportunity to gain practical knowledge that will support me when it comes time to perform in a role. Through the Consumer Marketing Academy, I will participate in group projects and develop marketing recommendations, network with top CPG companies, and learn consumer marketing skills and industry best practices.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really looking forward to participating in the Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) program. GLOBASE is a global consulting program where students work in teams to solve a business challenge for a small-to-medium sized business or nonprofit based in an emerging market. The end goal is to create a positive social impact and to equip the client with the tools to grow their business.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “How would others describe you?” was a question I found challenging. It’s a question that requires you to assess and evaluate your own character traits, and speak about yourself in a way that feels a bit like bragging. I reflected on the positive remarks, compliments, and observations of my family, friends and colleagues over the years to guide my response and elaborated on my attributes with examples.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I’ve known for a while that an MBA was in my future, but I wanted to get enough work experience to learn what I wanted in my career long-term before making the investment to attend business school. As a career switcher looking to pivot into brand management, I knew that an MBA would change the trajectory of my career while equipping me with the financial acumen, leadership skills, and confidence to succeed.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? UNC Kenan-Flagler & Georgetown McDonough
How did you determine your fit at various schools? Cultural fit was a priority for me when determining which schools I would apply to. I thrive in collaborative and supportive environments and was looking for a program with a smaller class size. I visited each school at least twice to experience the culture first-hand and connected with as many students as possible in person and over the phone. When you have conversations with multiple students, you begin to hear the same stories and get a feel for the types of classmates you might have. I also spent a lot of time on the schools’ websites, Poets & Quants, and attending school admissions webinars.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I can’t say that I’ve had one defining moment in particular. However, I grew up in a family with parents who encouraged my siblings and me to be very independent and instilled a love of travel in us. One of the earliest international trips I remember was going to Quebec with my family when I was nine. I had just started taking French back home and my brother and I attended a French day camp at our hotel. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of my French studies and love of France and French culture. A few years later when I was 13, I went to France for the first time and was in awe of the language, the beautiful architecture, and of course, the crepes. That year, I formally started studying French in middle school as my foreign language of choice. Eight years, two high school summer French camps, two college study abroad trips to France, and 13 French classes later, I completed my minor in French. Having a fond appreciation and understanding of another culture has broadened my worldview and has helped me connect with the heritage of my ancestors. A goal of mine is to work in France full-time to continue to improve my speaking skills.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I see myself in a challenging yet fulfilling career, working abroad as a leader at a top CPG company and delivering innovative products to consumers.

Rong Xue
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“An energetic and motivated individual who loves to tackle challenging problems.”
Hometown: Liaocheng, China
Fun Fact About Yourself: Born in China, studied in Germany. and worked in the United States.
Undergraduate School and Major: Shandong University, Chemical Engineering
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: PPG Industry, Chemist
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I successfully solved the quality issues of one product line when I worked for PPG. This project was so difficult that I tried 13 different solutions and over 500 formulas at first, but none of them worked. What’s worse, more and more customer complaints kept pouring in and the company had to stop selling and recall some of the sold products. Facing pressure and failure, I did not give up. Instead, I decided to work harder until the problem was solved. To find a good solution, I read numerous technical books and papers, proactively reached out to other chemists, participated in vendors’ workshops, and tried their new ingredients. After considerable trial and error, I finally found a solution that met all the requirements! This project turned out to be a great success: All 30 formulas were revised, with better quality control and reduced costs. I am very proud that I helped the team complete this unsurmountable project in merely 17 months.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I talked to quite a lot of Kelley students while choosing a school and was interviewed by a Kelley student too. Based on these interactions, I feel they are very genuine and see that as the best quality of Kelley MBA students. The genuineness comes from their inner confidence and their faith in Kelley and their futures. Their sincerity is also reflected in their attitude towards me. They treated me as an individual who is curious about Kelley and wants to be seen, not only as one of the potential students or interviewees.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? A key factor was that the Kelley MBA program enjoys a high reputation in marketing and has strong connections with industry, especially with companies in the Midwest, a place where my family has been ever since we came to the U.S. years ago. The major motivation for me to pursue an MBA degree was to complete my career transition from a technical specialist to a product manager and Kelley is a perfect place for me to achieve my career transition.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school?  On one hand, I wish I could build my business knowledge by taking courses from different disciplines such as marketing, finance, operation, etc. On the other hand, I wish I could enrich my mind by learning with my classmates who have different backgrounds but share the same ambition of making the world a better place for our children.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question was why I have so many restarts in my resume and how I survived them. That was a great question but very hard to answer because my life changed dramatically in the past decade, including location changes (from China to Germany and then to the United States), industry changes (from consumer packaged goods industry to coating industry) and identity changes (from a workaholic to a full-time mom who took care of two young children and then to an MBA candidate). There is no simple answer and I am still trying to answer the question in pursuing my self-fulfillment in work and life.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? For years, I was a technical person both at Unilever and PPG. In the past two years, I began to realize my great passion was doing business. So, I decided to pursue an MBA to complete my transition from technical to marketing. In addition, I wanted to be the role model of my daughter. My mom has been my role model and I learned from her at an early age to aim high, stay grounded, follow my heart, and (most importantly) never give up no matter how difficult the path was by witnessing how she, as a competitive athlete, earned the respect of the team by her strong determination and optimism. My daughter was born right before I started the MBA application and I had hoped I could become her role model by giving her the same power and strength to pursue her dreams and live a life she wants when she grows up.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Notre Dame and Carnegie Mellon.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? First, I knew I wanted to attend a compact MBA program with a collaborative culture. I feel most comfortable learning and exchanging ideas in such an environment so I could easily open my mind and express my opinions without worrying about making mistakes. Secondly, I wanted to join a program that could provide me the best training and networking to complete my career transition.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? For a long time, I felt good about myself: smart, self-disciplined and hard-working. However, there was a big change when I moved to Germany where I needed to face life’s challenges all by myself: adapt to a new culture, study a challenging major, pick up a new language and work two jobs at the same time to barely support myself. At the age of 22, I lost all my glory unexpectedly and had to restart building my confidence. Luckily, I was not knocked down and eventually survived all the challenges. The experience was my defining moment and I realized my success in my first 22 years depended too much on outside support and serendipity, which couldn’t last or carry me further to the next success. It is the inner strength that the panacea to life problems. What I experienced in Germany made me humble and brave.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? By then, I hope to have founded my own life coaching company which will help people live their lives to the fullest.

Nathaniel (Nate) Zimmerly
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t try… twice.”
Hometown: Greenwood, Indiana
Fun Fact About Yourself: The first time I earned the title of Captain was on my college cheerleading squad.
Undergraduate School and Major: Bradley University, Bachelor of Science in Construction
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: U.S. Army, Brigade Assistant S3 (Operations Supervisor)
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I had the opportunity to deploy to Liberia during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. This might sound a bit nerve-racking, but it was one of the most rewarding, defining professional periods of my life. I helped open two Ebola Treatment Centers in two, extremely remote locations deep within the jungles of the country. I lived and worked with the local population to open these two treatment centers. During this time, I learned firsthand about the struggles that the majority of the world’s population faces on a day to day basis. It was an extremely humbling experience and shaped much of my perspective of the world I hold today. In the future, I hope to return to these villages one day and contribute to their communities by making investments in their local industries and commerce.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? It’s hard to define the classmates I’ve met down to one quality but if I could, I’d say genuine. I spoke with A LOT of students from different programs before I decided to submit applications. My conversations for speaking to students followed an outlined, 30-minute format with questions specific to that program, according to the research I had conducted. My conversation with a Kelley student was entirely different. Spanning over two hours, at the preference of the student – I learned more about the program than any other conversation I had over my three years of MBA program research.
This was just my first taste of what I came to find with all the Kelley MBA students and eventual classmates that I would encounter. After I applied and accepted the offer from Kelley, I found it very easy to converse with my fellow classmates as they all seemed to hold this genuine characteristic. I have no doubt as my time in the program grows, I will continue to encounter this trait as it’s what drew me to the program from the start.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? From my first visit to Kelley, I found the program uniquely invested in its students. From the program size to the highly-ranked career services, Kelley takes a holistic approach to ensure the success of its students. As I researched schools, I found myself reflecting on the same reasons I choose my undergraduate school: I wanted a small program where I wouldn’t get lost in the numbers and where I could develop close relationships with my classmates, professors, and the program staff – the Kelley program was just that. At around 200 students per class, Kelley is big enough to always meet new people but small enough to never go unnoticed.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most interested in contributing to the Veteran’s Club, Energy Club, High Tech Club, Innovators Club, Systems & Operations Management Association, and (of course) the Beer Club. As I exit the military, I am looking forward to educating myself in as many industries as I can and I believe clubs are an excellent way to do that in a fun, social atmosphere.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I came into the interview nervous as any MBA applicant. I’d prepared myself for as many questions as I could think of and entered the interview. When I sat down with a Kelley student, I found that by demonstrating I had a clear purpose and intent for pursuing an MBA, my responses came naturally. My interviewer asked me to describe what brought me to an MBA and why I decided to seek an MBA and if you can answer that question, clearly and concisely, you will be well prepared for a Kelley MBA interview.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As a veteran, transitioning into the civilian world can be a daunting obstacle. Many of our soft skills give us a leg up in the civilian world, but only if you can translate these skills into a language that employers can understand. This is a challenge for any MBA student, but it’s an especially problematic challenge for veterans. Pursuing an MBA provides veterans with a space to refine and apply our skills into a civilian atmosphere in the most effective process.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Texas, McCombs School of Business. I researched and visited Ross and Kellogg, both great schools, but when I got into the application process, I stuck with Kelley and McCombs to ensure I submitted quality applications over quantity.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? As many MBA students can attest, my search started with a spreadsheet and program rankings from Bloomberg Businessweek, U.S. News, and Poets & Quants. As I neared the end of my military service, I used a spreadsheet to prioritize programs based on fields such as location, ranking, size, and average starting salaries. As part of my research, I included notes about some of the non-tangible program aspects, which I used to ‘rack and stack’ programs over one another. By the end of my research, the amount of information and data I collected was rather intimidating.
As important as the research process was, I truly found a ‘fit’ for each program by visiting the campuses and interacting with students. These visits generated that ‘feel’ for a program that no spreadsheet can replicate. I’d strongly encourage anyone considering an MBA to not get too ‘caught up in the numbers’ when working through schools. The best way to determine a fit is to get on the phone with students and get on the campus. You’ll find out very quickly if the culture is a fit for you. Talk with as many students as your time allows and find students whose career goals are similar to your own. You’ll learn information not only specific to that school but information about industries that interest you and is transferrable between programs.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Earning my commission as an active duty Engineer officer in U.S. Army. Being part of a smaller undergraduate program, I had the privilege to take my oath of office in front of my graduating class. Up until the moment, I had worked extremely hard to develop my active duty and engineer branch applications and, in that moment, I finally stepped into the shoes I’d worked so hard to earn. The two years up to that moment were full of lessons in maturity and integrity, a moment that ultimately led me to pursue an MBA. Part of my reasoning for joining the military was to ultimately pursue higher education and an MBA ultimately became that ideal degree. For veterans, an MBA is a great pathway to applying military leadership skills into civilian leadership roles. My career until now was defined by earning my commission and my pursuit of an MBA is a stepping stone towards greater accomplishments.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? In the next ten years, I hope to reach upper management, having achieved continuous high levels of performance and quality, and to continuous learning by obtaining credentials in PMP, Six Sigma & Knowledge To Go.  In my job, I will have reached positions of executive leadership, developing future leaders and pivoting my industry towards sustainability-centric practices.
 
 
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