Executive Scholar Testimonials

  • For Rick Parrin, the Kellogg experience has been all about relevancy. "I chose Kellogg for executive education because two of my family members attended, and it has a solid reputation," he says.

     "At the start, I was concerned that the courses would be more academic, but I found that the classes brought in folks who were in touch with the reality of business. The whole approach was less academic and more practical," Parrin says. "The peers who attend are in business across all industries, and the professors were driven to be relevant. They wanted to give us something we can take away and use, rather than just an intellectual experience.

    Parrin found the classes to be exciting, as well as pragmatic. "The classes are all highly interactive," he says. "The content drove the interaction. The classes were not a one-way discussion, they were content-driven, and you had to play a role. The entire approach was relevant to the marketplace, even the course materials. The professors were teaching how critical thinking applies to jobs - they were really teaching an approach to the work environment and an approach to people, as opposed to having a textbook environment." The proof of relevance, of course, lies in whether you can actually apply the classroom experience and the knowledge gained to the workplace.

    "Just to pick one course - Negotiation Strategies for Managers. I use that every day. What we learned in that class is useful in any negotiation, including one-on-one negotiations. Always have an alternative to the negotiated agreement, don't leave too much on the table. The professors gave us a useable, flexible approach to each negotiation we're involved in, and it leads to productive outcomes.

    "Finance for Executives was an immediately relevant course. It helped me understand how to put financial matters in perspective. It's not a course on number-crunching, it's the interpretation of what's being fed to you by financial analysts," he says. "It's perfect."

    Rick Parrin
    Assistant Vice President
    H & R Block

  • During one of his company's annual performance planning sessions, David Pothast realized that he had reached a point in his career that called for him to take his business education to a different level. He took the time to research several executive programs and found that the Kellogg School's Executive Scholars Program fit perfectly with what he wanted to do.

    "It's important that Kellogg is a top-rated MBA school. But even more importantly, Kellogg allowed me to sit down and decide what courses to take, and what track I wanted to follow. I chose the General Management track because it fit into what I'm doing now and what I would be doing in the future. It was also important that the classes were held one week at a time, rather than one three-week course, which can be difficult to schedule."

    Pothast started with the Accelerating Sales Force Performance course in 2004, looking for, and finding, ideas that he could put to work. "Before each class, I determine that I'm going to take two things from that class - when I leave that class, there are two things I'm going to do differently. You can't expect to become a different person - if you think you're going to reinvent yourself and be completely different after the class, you're going to fail. But you can see that there are different ways to do things."

    The difference, he found, is in the small things. "After taking the Leading High-Impact Teams course, I have better meetings now. I've learned how to motivate a team; I have become open to ways to create innovation. Instead of hour-long meetings, every meeting lasts half an hour. I've had some meetings where everyone stands, just to create a different feel. I've become more aware of the mob mentality - just because someone is quiet in a meeting doesn't mean he doesn't have anything to say, so you find a way to get that person talking. I found different ways to recognize people, and that it's important to recognize people for things they've done that don't always get noticed."

    The root of the learning experience lies in the way the professors run their classes. "The professors aren't preaching," Pothast says. "They allow for a lot of conversation, so much so that the classes become a mirror to your career. You get to hear what the professor is thinking and also what the people in your class are thinking. They come from different industries, they have different careers, and I just become a sponge in those classes."

    But the Kellogg experience is more than classwork. In fact, like many other participants, Pothast thinks he learned as much after class. "We had great conversations in the evenings. Sometimes after dinner, we'd sit around and talk about things, get each other's opinion. I'm having this issue, what would you guys do? During your work day, you never have time to take a step back. And I think this is important, too. Overall, it allows you to take a step back to think about your work, do some soul-searching. What kind of leader would I be? What can I do better?

    "I would recommend the program to anyone at a senior level who's managing teams. Kellogg is a great opportunity to see how different people do things, to come back with different ways to handle things. I'm better connected to what's happening in the work world."

    J. David Pothast
    National Sales Director
    Johnson & Johnson

  • "I think Kellogg has a fabulous curriculum," says Bill Bro. "The faculty have joked with me that they will keep adding courses so I'll have to come back."

    And come back he has. To date, Bro has completed seven executive education classes at Kellogg - five to receive his Certificate of Professional Achievement in Nonprofit Management, and two in addition. "Although I got the certificate, I keep coming back," he says. "I want to take all the courses they offer. I have left each course with valuable knowledge." The two keys to Bro's commitment to executive education at Kellogg are the diversity of topics covered and the competence of the faculty. "The competence of the faculty makes the program equivalent to any MBA program for the effective administration of nonprofit organizations."

    When Bro decided to enter an executive education program, he had two primary considerations - the reputation of the institution and availability of financial assistance to offset the expenses. "For nonprofit executive education programs, Kellogg has financial assistance available," Bro says. "That's very important for small charities. And it was an important personal consideration because our association couldn't pay for it and I was paying out of my own pocket."

    The payoff for Bro and the Kidney Cancer Association was immediate and significant. "After attending the Fundraising and Marketing course," he says, "we secured our largest grant ever - a $250,000 grant. For a small charity, that's a large grant. That was directly attributable to the course. The course focused on how organizations have tendency to undermarket themselves, because the organizations themselves are small. The professors disputed the notion that size of the organization is equivalent to the level of funding. The methods of solicitation they discussed, how to make a presentation - I was able to put into practice. Since then, we have secured many large grants, some of them larger than the $250,000 grant."

    Another vital aspect of his coursework at Kellogg is the faculty's emphasis on governance and accountability. "Had it not been for my Kellogg experience, we wouldn't have understood the importance of transparency at all levels of our organization," Bro says. "It resulted in our organization being certified by the National Health Council, which means that we are in compliance with the health council's forty-one standards of excellence. It also brought an important message to our board and changed the board's focus. They are now committed to transparency throughout our organization."

    Bill Bro
    Chief Executive Officer
    Kidney Cancer Association

  • Three years ago, Brian Sinta found himself in the middle of his career as a sales manager. He was making good money, he had achieved a lot of success, but he felt it was time to pursue an MBA.

     "I wasn't sure that an MBA would help me all that much at this point in my career, so I asked for and got a lot of advice. A professor at Harvard Business School recommended the executive approach, rather than an MBA. That way, I could focus on what I wanted to take, on the things that could really help me immediately. I wanted classes that would deal with challenges I had at work right now and those I would confront shortly, and I thought that Kellogg could be the place."

    "What I liked about the classes was that the professors stimulated and facilitated conversations," Sinta says. "They were more interested in finding out what has worked for others rather than just getting through the content. There were thirty to forty executives with a wealth of experience in each class. The professors facilitated conversations during class, and that led to some great sidebar conversations in the evening."

    Sinta soon realized that his requirement that the courses relate to his immediate work concerns was actually one of the foundations of the Kellogg School approach. "I found that every class helped immediately. I took the Accelerating Sales Force Performance course at a time when our company was going through changes in our compensation program, and I could and did sit down with executives who threw out four or five ideas about compensation programs."

    The combination of professors with real business experience and a class filled with executives encouraged to share their experiences made the Executive Scholars Program an incredibly valuable time for Sinta. "What's great about the whole process is that you're hearing about what's out there, what really happens in the real world, rather than what should happen, as you often get from consultants," he says. "Just as one example, in Energizing People for Performance, the professor had us work in breakout sessions in the evening with three or four other people. And when you do that, you get advice based on real life. It was very powerful."

    And, best of all, Kellogg has had a dramatic effect on Sinta's career. "When I started the Executive Scholars Program, I was a line-level sales manager, and now I'm vice president of sales for the company," Sinta says. "That's what Kellogg has done for me."

    Brian Sinta
    Vice President of Sales

  • Dan Kaiser wasn't necessarily sold on executive education before taking a class in Business Marketing Strategy at the Kellogg School. "I chose Kellogg based on its reputation," he says. "I tried executive education at two different schools before trying Kellogg, but the first class I took at Kellogg was the best experience I've had.

     I liked it because of the rigor. In the corporate world today, the stakes are higher and you need that level of executive education to keep up and to go faster than the others."

    After taking the Business Marketing Strategy class, Kaiser was interested in more executive education, but it would have been difficult for him to pursue other classes if he were limited to classes lasting four to five weeks. The flexibility of the Executive Scholars Program gave him the opportunity to take several interrelated classes over the course of a year. And each of the classes added to Kaiser's knowledge of the business world.

    "I liked the fact that the classes were very relevant to the thinking I have to do in this company," Kaiser says. "The lectures were tremendous. The professors seem to do a nice job of exploring business challenges. They take the current hot topics and tie them back to the context, that is, the larger set of strategies. They're merging the thinking from a more strategic perspective with what's going on in business today. I work in the insurance industry, but even the particular issues that don't involve issues in our industry involved business dilemmas that have tremendous application across the board.

    "The program helped me bring the latest thinking on subjects and tie that back to other companies and how they handled it," he says. "The students were engaged: they raised issues in classes, they shared experiences. They were open, talkative, and in business situations similar to mine. Through all the classes, I was getting actual feedback from other students - tips, good suggestions, or just good discussions. You're not likely to find a peer in your own company who is dealing with the same problems you are. But when you're with someone in another company who is dealing with the same issues that you are, it becomes an experience that connects you to your world, and that's very powerful."

    Having finished the program, Kaiser finds himself at a new level in his company. "Just having four classes - independent of the content - sets a pretty high bar for the others in the company," he says. "The intensity of development models a level of commitment to knowledge, effort, and personal development for a lot of others in our company."

    Daniel Kaiser
    Senior Vice President
    CUNA Mutual Group

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