Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Summer 2001Kellogg School of Management
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Managing the ship of state
These Kellogg alums are putting their business education to work in the political arena

By Rebecca Lindell

All of Dave Schulz's management skills came into play the day in 1981 when Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne marched into his office, patronage chief in tow.

The 5-foot-tall mayor looked the 6-foot-3-inch Schulz right in the eye. "I'd like to know where my projects are," she asked Schulz, who had just authored the city's first $500 million capital improvements agenda.

Schulz, then a deputy public works director, took a moment to compose himself. "Mayor," he replied, "give me 48 hours, and I'll tell you." Two days later, the 1974 alum strode into the mayor's office and plunked a thick stack of papers onto her desk. "What's this?" asked Byrne.

"The printouts from the first computerized project tracking system for the city of Chicago," replied Schulz, who had spent a feverish two days creating the system.

From that point on, Schulz was Byrne's point man for getting big projects done -- completing the El line to O'Hare Airport, for example, or overseeing one of the largest street reconstructions programs in city history. He went on to become budget director for Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, and later was elected to the top post in Milwaukee County in Wisconsin.

"With all due respect to the widget-makers of the world, there's no more challenging job than running a public enterprise," says Schulz, who stepped away from the political fray in 1992 to head Northwestern's Infrastructure Technology Institute. "The Kellogg education puts you in a position to understand that complexity, and brings you some very important tools to help manage it."

Dorothy Coyle '01  
© Nathan Mandell
Dorothy Coyle '01 is director of tourism for the city of Chicago

Most Kellogg grads pursue business endeavors after graduation. After all, that's what an MBA equips one for -- to lead and grow successful organizations. An energetic minority of alumni, however, say the political arena is the perfect place to fulfill their management aspirations.

"Government is high-profile and fast-paced, and I think it needs people with the type of knowledge a Kellogg degree provides," says Dorothy Coyle, a 2001 graduate of The Managers' Program. "There's so much potential to make an impact, and so much work that needs to be accomplished."

Coyle should know. As director of tourism for the city of Chicago, she oversees a department of more than 50 people seeking to establish the city as a must-see travel destination. Last year, Chicago welcomed more than 30 million visitors, and her job is to make sure that number continues to grow.

Such a broad mandate creates great opportunities for people like Coyle, who rose to the top of the department after beginning in media relations 11 years ago. "You have a lot of opportunity to make significant contributions," she observes.

The TMP grad brought her Kellogg education to bear directly on the city's tourism issues through her group projects, which became a boon for addressing questions the daily hustle-and-bustle left little time to solve. One project took a sweeping look at the city's ability to handle motor coach tourism. The many buses coming into Chicago were bringing thousands of visitors and untold dollars into the city, but no one had a clear handle on the scope of the industry or how to capitalize on it.

That picture grew clearer as the result of a Kellogg market research study Coyle and her classmates performed. For the first time, the group established how many visitors the buses were bringing to the city, the challenges they faced, and how to improve their experience.

As a result, the city is now able to take action on issues such as tour-bus parking. "Many agencies need to coordinate their efforts to address this market, and establishing the economic impact makes it a real priority for people," Coyle says. "It was a guessing-game before the study. The numbers gave us an accurate picture of what was happening so that we could make better decisions."

  John Hoeven '81
photo courtesy of North Dakota REC/RTC
John Hoeven '81, governor of North Dakota

Kellogg's most prominent political alum is probably John Hoeven '81, who was elected governor of North Dakota in November. Hoeven, a banker before becoming governor, points to his Kellogg training in finance and accounting as key to his business and political success. "That understanding of business and numbers is vitally important in government -- especially in the executive branch, where you are working with agencies and budgets," he says. "That's a critical part of the job, as well as being able to work with people."

Hoeven's top goal as governor is to create more economic activity and better-paying jobs in North Dakota. To accomplish that, his business education will prove vital. "I believe that business is about building relationships," he says. "Quality government also means a good customer-service orientation."

That Kellogg value guided Hoeven during the state's last legislative session, when he spearheaded the consolidation of numerous state offices into one Commerce Department. "Our resources were fragmented," he says. "People were chasing all over trying to get things done. This way, we will reduce the red tape, and that will enable us to give better customer service to our citizens."

What makes Kellogg a prime place for nurturing political talent? The school's culture, which emphasizes teamwork and contributions to the greater good, self-selects for those inclined to lead, says Professor Don Haider, director of Kellogg's program in public/nonprofit management.

"A lot of people come here with political talents that we nurture, refine, direct, and add further value to," Haider says. "We've been able to reach out and attract people with those kinds of qualities."

Certainly, the school is replete with political role models. Dean Emeritus Donald Jacobs served on the staffs of several U.S. banking committees before assuming the helm of the school in 1975. Haider himself spent many years in top positions in the U.S. and municipal governments after joining the school's faculty in 1973, including a stint as budget director and chief financial officer for the city of Chicago. Professor Walter Scott has served in the federal Office of Management and Budget. Haider and fellow Public/Nonprofit faculty member Anne Cohn Donnelly have served as White House fellows, as have several alumni.

In fact, the school may claim the next governor of Illinois on its faculty: Public Management Professor Michael Bakalis is an announced Democratic candidate for the 2002 race. Numerous other political figures have taught and lectured at the school, including former presidential candidates Jack Kemp and Jesse Jackson.

Students in the Global Initiatives in Management program regularly meet with top-ranking officials in the countries they visit. And many Kellogg courses explore the impact of business on government, and vice versa.

"Public service is something everyone should consider at some point in their lives," Haider says. "It adds immeasurably to your skill set. You have multiple constituents, unsolvable problems, extraordinarily high expectations, and you're asked to do the impossible in a very short amount of time. You're relating to people who often have not been hired for their main skills, but for other qualities. On top of that, you have to succumb to the electorate every two to four years.

"These are skills you don't get in the corporate world. You can take them back into your business life, and they will help you understand the stakeholders and the increasing complexity of the business world."

Dorothy Coyle has certainly found that to be the case.

"The Kellogg degree is really marketable to any type of job. The important thing is how you use it," she says. "I know I am a better manager now because I have the tools needed in today's dynamic and complex marketplace."

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University