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Julie Tye ’78, president of adoption agency The Cradle, spoke at the 10th anniversary celebration for the Kellogg Board Fellows Program.

Julie Tye '78

On a mission

The Kellogg Board Fellows Program celebrates a decade of high-impact leadership

By Kate Proto

6/24/2014 -
KBF by the Numbers:

Launched in 2003 by 3 Kellogg MBA students 

4 leadership team members, all students

50 fellows selected each year (121 students applied for 2015 cohort)


401 KBF alumni, 48 graduating 2nd year fellows, 50 incoming 1st year fellows


172 partner organizations in past 10 years


Forget “doing well and then doing good.” What about finding opportunities for students to engage in impactful work while they are still students?

That prospect is what makes the Kellogg Board Fellows Program “one of the crown jewels of the school,” Daniel Diermeier, the IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice, told a packed house at the program’s 10-year anniversary celebration in May.

With program founders, alumni and partner organizations in attendance, the celebration highlighted the history and impact of the highly competitive program, which selects 50 full-time Kellogg students annually to serve in (non-voting) board fellowship appointments while contributing to a diverse array of local nonprofit organizations through board service and project work.

This experience, coupled with rigorous coursework before and during their 14-month fellowship, “has led to a significant percentage of KBF alumni going on to serve on a board after obtaining their Kellogg MBA,” said Liz Livingston Howard, director of nonprofit Executive Education.

Student-initiated and student-led

When three students approached her during the 2003-04 school year with the idea for KBF, senior lecturer in Social Enterprise Anne Cohn Donnelly jumped at the opportunity to serve as its inaugural faculty director.

A decade later, Donnelly addressed the KBF community with enduring respect for the shared characteristics she sees among the fellows. “Kellogg Board Fellows are civic-minded, public service is at your core, and you intend to give back throughout your lifetime,” she said.

At the celebration’s opening remarks, Diermeier expounded upon the KBF program’s unique connection to Kellogg’s heritage. “The Kellogg Board Fellows program represents everything that makes Kellogg great,” he said. “It is a student-led initiative that brings together practitioners and academics for direct social impact.”

Experiential learning powered by academic rigor

KBF leadership team member Elizabeth Rauner, who organized the anniversary event, currently serves as a board fellow for venture philanthropy fund A Better Chicago. Recently, she presented the board with a proposal to create a governance committee structure, which could offer board leaders a more strategic approach to managing risk and finances.

Rauner’s initiative is characteristic of board fellows’ contributions, blending their broad-based MBA education with focused, advanced board governance coursework that is a required part of the fellowship. Diermeier noted how this skill set aligns with employer demand. “There is a need for nonprofits to apply business practices in an integrated and innovative way,” he said. “When you talk to nonprofit leaders today, they are looking for the knowledge that our MBA leaders have.”

Lasting impact

KBF has had enormous influence — but perhaps the most significant impact of all is how the engagements have improved the fabric of the nonprofit partner organizations and the quality of leadership in the local nonprofit sector.

In her remarks at the KBF celebration, Julie Tye ’78, president of The Cradle, said “The concrete outcomes and projects [provided by the fellows] are incredibly helpful, but more importantly, the nonprofits benefit from the presence of the students on the boards,” Tye said. “ The opportunity for us to teach and model good governance means we, the board of The Cradle, need to be at the top of our game.”

Donald Haider, Faculty Director of Kellogg Board Fellows since 2011, is delighted to usher KBF into its next decade. Discussing the feedback he has received over the years, he said “many students tell me that the fellows program is the reason they came to Kellogg, or that it’s the best thing they did at Kellogg.”

That’s a crown jewel that won’t lose its luster.