Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2002Kellogg School of Management
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  Marketing Conference keynote speaker Kevin Kessinger
© Nathan Mandell
Marketing Conference keynote speaker Kevin Kessinger shares his insights about the credit card industry.

Student Conferences
Meeting of the minds
Conferences assess “turbulent times”

By Matt Golosinski

Each year, the Kellogg School’s student-run conferences bring together some of the best minds in academia and the business world to explore issues confronting managers today. This year, whether considering marketing, technology or investment strategy, the conferences focused on a common theme: the impact of the 2001 economic downturn.

On Jan. 19-20, the Digital Frontiers Conference (DFC) celebrated its eighth anniversary, with some 600 students, faculty and business leaders convening to discuss recent trends in the IT sector. Keynote speakers included Tom Siebel, CEO of Siebel Systems; Peter Thiel, CEO of PayPal; and Brian Ferguson, chairman and CEO of Eastman Chemical Co.

DFC general manager Josh Holmstrom ’02 said organizers of the conference, whose theme was “Transcending the New Economy,” broadened the event’s appeal by showcasing technology’s impact on a variety of industries, both in the New and Old Economy.

“We tried to change the focus of the conference to make it less technical and instead provide a stronger general management perspective about technology and its impact on a bunch of businesses,” Holmstrom said.

Panel discussions considered nanotechnology, online auctions, cutting-edge media and last year’s turbulent market.

Tom Siebel at the DFC.  
© Nathan Mandell
Tom Siebel, far right, CEO of Siebel Systems, interacts with Kellogg students after his DFC keynote.

In his keynote, Tom Siebel emphasized the rapid change in the IT sector and advised people to keep the market downturn in perspective, saying that “20 years from now we’ll look back and see that we were at the beginning of the greatest economic expansion in history.” He also stressed the importance of ethical behavior and chastised corporate leaders whose “misplaced values” put shareholder concerns before all other interests. Siebel advised students to pay more attention to organizational behavior. “If you can recruit, train and keep the best people, you will win every time,” he said.

The fifth annual Kellogg School Marketing Conference emphasized the ways marketers have reexamined their strategies in the decline of the e-commerce space. Panel discussions at the Jan. 30 event ranged from finding the right marketing career to building brand loyalty. Keynote speaker Kevin Kessinger, COO of Citi Cards North America, discussed the challenges of developing his business, which now claims 93 million customers. Strategies for growing this base include maintaining high levels of service and focusing on product development and innovative pricing, he said.

At the Feb. 20 Kellogg Private Equity Conference, panels included a discussion of global investment strategy and late-stage investing. Keynote speaker Avy Stein, co-founder and managing partner of Willis Stern & Partners, provided an overview of recent activity in the private equity space. He advised investors to “know their exit strategy before their entrance,” and said that private equity managers need to think through risks more strategically.

Zell Center holds inaugural conference
On Jan. 25, Donald P. Jacobs, dean emeritus and director of the Zell Center for Risk Research, opened the center’s inaugural conference, titled “Risk Perceptions and Capital Markets.” Nearly 90 participants from U.S. and international academic institutions attended, presenting papers in the fields of economics, finance and psychology. These materials are available at the Zell Center Web site.

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University