Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2001Kellogg School of Management
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Married to the MBA
For these couples, Kellogg offers twice the challenge, and double the reward

by Rebecca Lindell

  Kristen Tegtmeier '01 and Doug Higgins '01
© Nathan Mandell
Kristen Tegtmeier '01 and Doug Higgins '01

The honeymoon for newlyweds Kristen Tegtmeier and Doug Higgins came to an abrupt end.

After two blissful weeks in Bali, the couple returned home to San Francisco to find a message from the moving company on their answering machine. "We'll be there tomorrow," the movers promised, signaling the beginning of an intense adventure for the pair.

Twenty-four hours later, the couple's belongings were in a moving van bound for Evanston, while Tegtmeier and Higgins headed north to begin their married life with a group of strangers in the forests of Washington State.

Their companions didn't remain strangers for long. The trip, arranged by Kellogg Outdoor Adventures, was designed to allow entering Kellogg students to get to know each other before classes began. Camping, hiking and sea-kayaking with other soon-to-be first-years allowed the couple to achieve an unusual degree of intimacy with their new classmates.

It was an unusual way to begin a marriage, Higgins admits. "Here we were, married less than a month, and we sort of missed out on the normal adjustment period," he says. "But this was the way we had decided to go."

Each year, the Kellogg student body includes a handful of married couples who have made the commitment to love, honor and cherish each other through midterms, 10 p.m. group-study sessions and the recruiting season.

Shared hobbies and romantic dinners get shelved for homework and trips to the library. Time alone together -- without the intrusion of group projects or classmates -- becomes as rare as an open table in the atrium at noon.

Most say they wouldn't do it any other way.

"It's been a phenomenal experience for us," says Higgins, who will graduate in June with his wife. "You're on the same wavelength as a couple, even though you're both working really hard and not seeing as much of each other. You can share all the privileges of school -- like new friendships and spring break."

For Higgins and Tegtmeier, those perks have included a Global Initiatives in Management trip to Chile and Argentina. The pair found the region so interesting that they decided to spend the fall studying and traveling together in South America. "That was such a highlight," says Tegtmeier. And it hasn't been the only one. "We've been sharing a lot of experiences, and we've been able to support each other."

Michele and Brian Martin, both first-year students, concur.

Sharing the MBA experience has been "pretty intense," Michele admits. "We don't have a lot of time, so you don't always make time for each other. But we've been having so much fun that we haven't realized that it's been five months and we haven't gone out for dinner together alone."

The two recently tried to remedy the situation by planning a Saturday-night date -- without classmates -- during which they would consciously try to "not talk about Kellogg," Brian says.

It couldn't have been easy. The two took three out of four classes together this past quarter. But the benefits of attending Kellogg together have become apparent to the pair.

Michelle '95 and Paul Smith '93 and family  
© Nathan Mandell
Michelle '95 and Paul Smith '93 and family

"School gives you the opportunity to see other sides of your spouse," says Michele. "We've realized we work well together because of our different personalities. We have totally opposite work styles. But we seem to complement each other."

Perhaps the biggest hardship cited by Kellogg couples is the double financial hit: two lost paychecks, as well as two big tuition bills to pay.

"Doing this was a tough decision financially," says Michele. "You both have to be very committed to saving money and sticking to a budget. The financial stress could really cause problems for newlyweds who haven't lived together long. You need to have a lot of mutual respect going in."

Students in The Managers' Program don't necessarily give up their incomes when they enroll in the part-time program, but they do give up something perhaps even more precious: their free time.

Paul and Michelle Smith know. The couple overlapped just one quarter as students at Kellogg. As difficult as that quarter was, it was easy compared to the challenges of going through Kellogg separately.

"When we were in school together, we had something very much in common," recalls Michelle, who graduated in 1995 and was an IBM marketing manager until recently. "After dinner, we could study for an hour or get our reading done together. But once Paul was finished, he had to find something else to do while I was in school."

"We definitely would have overlapped as much as possible if we had to do it over again," agrees Paul, a 1993 graduate and senior marketing manager at Motorola.

Still, the sacrifices seem to have been worth it. "It was an incredible experience for us," Paul recalls. "It was intense, and while I thought I'd be happy to get it over with, I found I really missed talking to professors and interacting with other students."

  Susan and Bill Abrams
Susan and Bill Abrams at their 1990 graduation

Bill and Susan Abrams, both of whom graduated in 1990, say they are still reaping the rewards of their shared Kellogg experience. The two had just finished a grueling two years as analysts on Wall Street and were ready for a change of pace when they arrived in Evanston in 1988. "It was a great way for us to spend a couple of years together -- having fun and learning a tremendous amount," says Bill, CEO of "We'd spent two years working very intensely, and after that, everything seemed relatively stress-free. Being in the classroom environment and having time for yourself felt like an enormous luxury."

Susan agrees. "Going through Kellogg together looked to me vastly easier than if one of us were working, when a 10 p.m. study group might really have been disruptive," says the former marketing and strategic planning executive at the Chicago Children's Museum and author of The New Success Rules for Women. "We took classes together, we socialized together -- it was a great phase in our lives."

The demands of a marriage aren't made easier by the pursuit of a Kellogg degree. But as these couples attest, the personal and professional rewards can be tremendous. "When two people have the same goals," observes Brian Martin, "they can go after them more strongly than if they were doing it on their own."

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University