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“Our obligation is to foster a seamless, exceptional, end-to-end experience.” — Betsy Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students

Betsy Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs

Delivering an exceptional experience

When it comes to the Kellogg student experience, Associate Dean of MBA Programs Betsy Ziegler is setting the bar at unprecedented heights


1/17/2012 - Elizabeth "Betsy" Ziegler has big plans for Kellogg.

Since joining the school in June as associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students, Ziegler has been focused on enhancing and invigorating the student experience at Kellogg. Through initiatives in Kellogg Admissions, the Career Management Center, Records & Registration and Student Life, she is striving to create a "seamless, integrated experience" for students — from their first interactions with Kellogg to the day that they graduate.

A graduate of Harvard Business School and a former principal with McKinsey & Company's Chicago office, Ziegler brings enormous expertise and passion to this newly created role. Here is her story — and her vision for making the Kellogg student experience better than ever.

Making a change
Before joining Kellogg, Ziegler spent 12 years at McKinsey & Co. — where she was at the top of her game, charged with leading McKinsey's Life Insurance Operations and Technology practice and co-leading its Financial Institutions Operations and Technology practice.

But the economic downturn caused Ziegler's portfolio to change, and her focus shifted away from the financial sector and toward the social sector, particularly in the areas of microinsurance, the performing arts, higher education and economic development. This exposure to the social sector "lit me up in a way I never expected," recalls Ziegler.

The experience was so powerful that Ziegler eventually decided to step down from McKinsey and explore leadership opportunities in the social sector, where "I could apply everything I'd learned to address a different set of problems," she says. Moreover, Ziegler felt drawn to a role in which she could set the strategy and execute on that strategy.

One afternoon, while Ziegler was waiting to meet a friend for lunch, a story in the Chicago Tribune caught her eye. The story, "Seven to Watch," featured a profile of Kellogg Dean Sally Blount. What Ziegler read excited her, and she emailed Blount to find out more.

Finding her fit at Kellogg
To Ziegler's delight, Blount responded warmly to her correspondence. They met for lunch, which turned into a three-hour discussion about working in the social sector in general and higher education in particular. That meeting eventually led to a consulting opportunity for Ziegler at Kellogg.

As a consultant for the Executive MBA Program, "I fell in love with Kellogg," says Ziegler. "I got to know the senior team … and I liked what I saw. I liked being on campus every day. It was intellectually stimulating."

When Blount shared that Kellogg was looking for an associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students, Ziegler eagerly applied for the role. The position "was an opportunity for impact," she says. "It brought together all the things I love about problem-solving and operations. I was very excited about it."

But, as Ziegler jokes, "The universe wasn't done testing me yet." While she was considering whether to join Kellogg, Ziegler was offered a significant role at a high-growth, highly respected company in Chicago. Dozens of people encouraged her to take the position, calling it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." But after outlining on paper what she wanted out of her life and career, Ziegler realized that Kellogg was the right fit. She accepted the job on the following Monday.

"I know I made the right decision," Ziegler says. "And I know I can make an impact at Kellogg."

Forging ahead
Indeed, since arriving on campus, Ziegler has hit the ground running. Building on Kellogg's legacy of offering an exceptional student experience, she has been keenly focused on learning about Kellogg students and "problem-solving with my team, trying to figure out the areas that we can continue to get better in," she says. "We all aspire to excellence."

During the next six months, Ziegler says that she and her team plan to pursue several top priorities, among them:

  1. Map the MBA experience: By carefully outlining the student experience end-to-end, Ziegler's team will identify the big interactions that matter most to Kellogg students — such as receiving an acceptance letter or going to their first class — and "make sure we get those exactly right," Ziegler explains.

  2. Restructure admissions: By unifying admissions teams in the Part-Time, Full-Time and Executive MBA Programs under a new assistant dean, the Office of Admissions will streamline processes and leverage best practices across programs. This new organization, which will unify rather than centralize the admissions group, ensures that Kellogg continues to foster a best-in-class admissions experience for new and prospective students. "I want everyone in admissions to have their 'Kellogg hat' on," Ziegler explains. "Regardless of your program affiliation, your focus should be on bringing the best and brightest to Kellogg — and then connecting those people to the Kellogg program that's right for them." 

  3. Amp up social media: New efforts to develop and maintain the right presence in social media are underway. Through these new mediums, "I want people to experience the culture of Kellogg that you feel when you show up."

While Ziegler's role is unique in management education, she notes that creating a best-in-class MBA experience "is an important thing to get right," she says. "We want to ensure that we're structured to deliver on things that matter the most to students.

"Our obligation," she continues, "is to foster a seamless, exceptional, end-to-end experience, from the time that someone becomes a prospect through the day that they graduate from Kellogg."