Cara Houck, KSM ’12
Miller Canfield P.L.C.
Attorney & Partner
"Away from my legal practice, I have been personally involved with helping to build and run a center for orphaned children in Ethiopia. My Kellogg Executive MBA experience has been an incredible resource to help advance this project."
Why does a successful attorney decide to pursue a master’s degree in business? For Cara Houck, it began with a desire to gain a better understanding of business so she could serve her clients more effectively. But the spirit of collaboration she discovered in the Kellogg Executive MBA program has impacted her life in ways she never imagined.
Kellogg is very much about collaboration and teamwork and this approach was taught from various angles in the Executive MBA program. Although my class had approximately sixty people, we were assigned to teams of five or six students who ordinarily would never have crossed paths in the “real world.” These teams were to stay together for the two-year duration — for better or for worse. Just like in the real world of business, we had to learn to adapt despite our different educational, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I developed a very strong appreciation for the diversity we shared and ultimately embraced it.
By living together during our class work weekends, my team often found ourselves talking about our personal lives, which brought us closer. In addition, our class decided to constantly change our seating so we could get to know one another on a more intimate level. Some of us had health issues, some had lost young children, some fought for our country and some went through divorces. By stepping outside of our day-to-day lives and sharing with each other, we were able to build strong lifelong bonds.
In some courses, teams were randomly selected to participate in games, exercises, and competitions. Interestingly, sometimes we had to negotiate against one another to get the best deal, while keeping in mind that the new relationship could develop into a long-term one. For me, I realized that even as a lawyer I need to think long term. Most of what I do is case by case, so I typically only encounter one opposing counsel at a time. In the law’s adversarial environment it is not unusual for tension to build, creating an “enemy” kind of relationship. Kellogg opened my eyes to this by emphasizing that there is always a possibility that paths may cross again — that in any profession, reputation is key, and treating those with whom you interact with respect is critical.
Focusing on the long term and having classmates from diverse backgrounds and countries also opened my eyes to thinking globally — and led to a collaboration outside the classroom that has impacted my life significantly. Away from my legal practice, I have been personally involved with helping to build and run a center for orphaned children in Ethiopia. My Kellogg Executive MBA experience has been an incredible resource to help advance this project.
Using our class’s Facebook page and email account, I enlisted some of my classmates and other Kellogg alumni to raise funds for construction, and several of us have traveled to the center together to meet with the children and check on the project’s progress. We are also planning to open at least two more of these centers in the future — so this will be a very long-term working relationship.
New friends, new colleagues, new ways of working together. My Kellogg Executive MBA experience has given me so much, and I am eager to use the knowledge and connections I gained there to give something back.
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