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  The Dean's Initiatives
  The Dean's Initiatives:  Partnership

Networking—the Kellogg School way
Class representatives and club presidents keep the Kellogg spirit alive

By Rebecca Lindell

It happens all the time.

  • You're ready to make your next career move, and the person who provides you with the crucial job lead is a fellow Kellogg graduate. Or you receive a phone call from a recent alum who is researching career opportunities in your field.
  • You're traveling in a far-off land and notice a Kellogg sweatshirt on a fellow sojourner. You strike up a conversation and create a new friend and potential business contact.
  • You think about the people who are closest to you, and a few Kellogg classmates are near the top of the list. You might even be getting together with some of them this weekend.

  Roxanne Hori visits alums
© Frank Heffelfinger
  Roxanne Hori, Assistant Dean and Director of the Career Management Center, speaks with recruiters after a roundtable discussion in Minneapolis / St. Paul.
However it is manifested, the alumni network provides abundant support and friendship for thousands of Kellogg grads. Nurtured through alumni club activities, reunions and the Class Notes section of Kellogg World, the network is as much a part of the Kellogg experience as group projects and CIM Week.

"The network serves an incredible purpose, on both a personal and a business level," says Jana Pompadur Kierstead, who represents the Class of 1997. "It helps people look for jobs, start businesses, socialize and extend the Kellogg brand. It's a very important network."

To be sure, Kellogg's emphasis on teamwork encourages strong bonds between classmates. Lifelong friendships are often born during late-night study groups, club activities and GIM trips.

But the strength and vibrancy of the network is due in large part to its infrastructure—a volunteer corps of several hundred alumni dedicated to extending the Kellogg experience beyond graduation.

More than 100 of these alums serve as class representatives, soliciting and compiling news about their class for each issue of the alumni magazine. Another 60 or so are presidents of alumni clubs in cities as far-flung as Sydney, Seoul and San Diego. They organize social events such as cocktail hours, community service projects and lectures by visiting Kellogg professors.
Many are as busy with career and family responsibilities as any other Kellogg alum. Why take on the added task of building one of the world's great alumni networks?

For many, the answer is simple: a sheer love for the school and the opportunities and friendships it created.

"Kellogg is such an amazing place," says Rosalind Van Tuyl, who represents the Class of 2000. "There's an unbelievable spirit of friendliness and community. It's not just the students, but the administration, faculty and service people. It's the most valuable thing to me in the world. I want to be a part of helping it grow."

"I really value this community and this group of people," adds Katie Glockner Seymour, co-representative for the Class of 1984 with Alisa Levy Klein. "Our class got along well and had a great time. I like to keep our connections strong."

After graduation, representatives become the hub for news about class members. Each compiles a thrice-yearly column based on e-mail notes, phone calls and letters from classmates around the world. Many relish the opportunity to reach out to peers years after graduation. The responses are often heartwarming and gratifying.

"I get loads of responses back," says Melanie Brownrout, representative for the Class of 1998. "Sometimes people write back and say, 'I don't really have anything to report, but I just want to check in.' It's rewarding to get so many people communicating."

Brownrout, former editor of the Kellogg student newspaper The Merger, was nominated for the job by her classmates. "I love writing," she explains. "This is an opportunity to do that, in a really fun way."

Brownrout says she never likes to think of Class Notes as a "gossip column," though she admits to being questioned by classmates who "come up to me and say, 'OK, so tell me the dirt on so-and-so because you must know what's really going on!'"

"It's great to talk to people and find out who's getting married and having babies and so forth," adds Kierstead. "People really seem to appreciate the work you do to keep the class up to date."

The job can also be an important way of gathering support for life transitions. Seymour notes that as class rep, she has been in contact with many other women striving to balance careers and young families. "You feel like you're not the only one with a crazy life," says the mother of three. "That sort of camaraderie has been very beneficial over the years."

Dean Jain at Intuit  
Bay Area Alumni Club leaders meet with Dean Jain during a visit to Intuit.  
Still, as graduates settle into their lives, they're less likely to report a promotion, marriage, birth or retirement than those whose memories of Kellogg are relatively fresh. That doesn't have to be the case, Seymour says.

"You don't need to wait for a big event- people just like to hear about family life or other activities," she says. "They just like to hear about how other people are doing."

Karl Abt '48 agrees. In fact, the longtime class rep has taken it upon himself to increase the flow of news to his classmates. Through questionnaires or phone calls, he inquires about careers, families and other activities. "If you wait for a letter to come in telling you the news, you'll never hear anything," he notes.

He aims to contact at least five alums for each issue. He almost always finds a pleasant reception, even from peers he has not heard from in half a century. "Everybody is always happy to talk," he says. "It's a nice communication."

Abt is driven by both pride in the school and a sense of gratitude, having attended Kellogg on a scholarship. He's found other ways to stay involved, including playing clarinet in Northwestern's alumni band.

The passage of time has made Abt's job as class representative more compelling. In some ways, he feels he is bearing witness to the accomplishments of his peers. "People have led interesting lives," he says. "It's nice to keep their classmates aware of them."

Club presidents face a different challenge. Their goal is to create opportunities for alums to reconnect and re-experience the Kellogg culture. Their role requires initiative and creativity. But many say it's worth the extra effort for the chance to interact with new and old Kellogg friends.

"Personally, I've realized how much I've gotten out of attending Kellogg, and because of that, I've wanted to give back to the school," says Sarita Soldz '91, president of the Atlanta alumni club. "I love meeting Kellogg people and finding out what they are doing. Everyone has a pretty amazing story. And of course, the people I've met are just great."

Soldz notes that alumni clubs provide many opportunities for Kellogg grads to meet each other, including social, networking and educational events. Soldz and the Atlanta club have coordinated cocktail hours, luncheons, Atlanta Braves baseball outings and a forthcoming career workshop.

The work can be time-consuming, but rewarding. "I looked at what I could do for the school and decided I could make the biggest impact not just by giving money, but by also giving my time," says Soldz. The return on her investment is a thriving Atlanta alumni base that enjoys an increasing array of opportunities to get together.

Niraj Singh '00 is trying to bring some of that to New Jersey. The alum, who moved to the Garden State from Chicago last spring, has taken it upon himself to revitalize a club that had largely gone dormant.

To do this, he has established contact people from the last 15 graduating classes among the 650 alumni in New Jersey, and is working to establish a board. His efforts will get a boost on Dec. 11, when Dean Dipak Jain will be the guest of honor at a club dinner (for more information or to attend the event, contact Singh at

"An alumni club is a great networking opportunity," says Singh. "At the end of the day in the corporate world, it's who you know, as well as what you know. I figured that if we could start a forum like this, it would be a great place to leverage our connections with each other, as well as enjoy each other socially."

The Kellogg alumni network has perhaps never seemed so important as it did in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.
Class representatives and club presidents report that the phone lines and e-mailboxes were jammed with inquiries from classmates seeking information about friends and acquaintances. Many say they were glad to be the person their peers turned to—and thrilled to be able to report that almost everyone had escaped unscathed.

"People were looking to me to give them information about our classmates," says Van Tuyl. "I was flooded with e-mails, and I started sending out notes to everyone on the distribution list. It was amazing to me how quickly our class had responded. Within a day and a half, we'd learned about the safety and whereabouts of about 130 people from Washington and New York. I was stunned by how quickly our class had come together."

"I know that Kellogg was where a lot of people's heads turned initially," agrees Kierstead. "It certainly impressed upon me how close we still are."

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University