Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2009

Growing global leaders

Now entering its fifth year, the Miami Executive MBA program gives life to the spirit of international collaboration

By Rachel Farrell

It was a Sunday morning in the fall of 2009, and another weekend of classes was wrapping up on the Kellogg School's Miami campus. The Executive MBA students were packing up their belongings and thinking about their respective flights home.

But before they could leave the classroom, Brian Otte EMP-75 stood and announced that he had something to say. Otte was chairman of the EMP-75 class gift committee, which included Didier Choukroun, Ana Morales, Donald "Blue" Jenkins, and J. Anthony "Jim" Beard, all EMP-75.

"For the past two years, you have had the luxury of being at the number-one EMBA program in the world," Otte said, looking into the eyes of his fellow students. "Think about that — don't take that lightly. When you make the decision to come to a prestigious school like Kellogg, you should absolutely think that there is a responsibility to continue the legacy.

  Brian Otte
  Brian Otte EMP-75 Photo © Steven P. Widoff
  Carlos Roman EMP-71 Photo © Andrew Chin
  Gloria Guevara
  Gloria Guevara EMP-75 Photo © Nathan Mandell

"At the end of the day, there are going to be other individuals who come to Northwestern and Kellogg. But EMP-75 is limited to just us 35 people. And the big question we all need to ask is, what is EMP-75? We are the only individuals who can determine that."

When pledge time rolled around a few weeks later, students had an answer for Otte: EMP-75 was a class that was 100 percent committed to supporting Kellogg. EMP-75's pledge total of $223,450 broke Kellogg records for the most promised by an Executive MBA class and was the highest average amount ever pledged per Executive MBA student. Students also chipped in for cash gifts for the wait staff and the cleaning crew at the Hyatt Regency, where they had stayed during their program. Clinical Professor Harry Kraemer Jr. '79 was so inspired by EMP-75's generosity that he contributed $1,000 to the class gift.

It's an exceptional story, consistent with the spirit of the Kellogg School's newest Executive MBA program, now entering its fifth year. 

Situated in Coral Gables, Fla., the Miami campus bears a certain resemblance to its counterpart in Evanston — if Evanston were blessed with palm trees and ocean breezes. 

It features the same curriculum, instructors and coursework as other Kellogg Executive MBA programs, and students are held to the same high academic standards. The interior of Miami's Executive Education building has even been designed to look like the James L. Allen Center, Kellogg's flagship EMBA facility in Evanston. 

But there are some subtle but important variables that make the Miami campus a distinctive place. About 30 percent of the program's students live in Latin America, and a high percentage work for family businesses or private companies. The format of the Miami EMBA program is more concentrated than the program in Evanston (students gather once a month for four days, as opposed to several times a month for shorter periods), fostering deep bonds between students and professors. The campus culture, which many say feels hospitable and even "Latin," produces graduates with a passionate connection to the school.

As a result, the Miami campus gives life to the Kellogg School's mission in a unique and powerful way. As a group, Miami students exhibit a strong commitment to thinking globally and leading internationally. They embrace the notion of teamwork and are quick to offer words of advice or share their business network with their Kellogg peers. And an overwhelming percentage of alumni have given back to the school, pledging gifts, serving as ambassadors or working with Kellogg professors to build connections in the Latin American business community.

"The Miami campus complements the Kellogg culture with Latin American soul," explains Carlos Roman EMP-71, director of the Oracle Corporation, Asia Pacific Division. "And that makes Kellogg even better."

Global aspirations

When Roman first set foot on the Miami campus in 2007, he was already thinking globally.

A native of Puerto Rico, Roman had worked abroad through a series of roles within the Oracle Corporation. For eight years, he served as solutions director for the company's Latin America division, where he marketed and sold Oracle products to target companies across Latin America. Prior to that, he served as a solutions specialist for the firm's Central American, Caribbean and Andean regions. He also spent time in the U.S. while he was stationed with Oracle's North American division.

Roman was ready for his next challenge. "I really wanted to take it to the next level," he says, "and the next level was Asia-Pacific."

So Roman took full advantage of what the Miami campus had to offer. He networked with his classmates from Hong Kong, India and Italy and other regions of the world. In Kraemer's course, Leading a Global Company, he expanded his cultural awareness and global critical thinking skills. He used his Global Initiatives in Management elective to travel to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where he made connections with business leaders in the region.

When graduation rolled around in 2008, Roman felt prepared for the "next level" — and Oracle executives agreed. They appointed him business development director for Oracle's Asia-Pacific division, which challenged him to lead marketing initiatives in the high-growth regions of south Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan) and southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia).

It was quite a promotion. "I went from managing a team in countries with single-digit growth in Latin America to double-digit growth in Asia Pacific," Roman says proudly.

Roman eventually learned that it was his advanced understanding of global business — gained as a result of his Kellogg experience — that got him the job. Executives from India and China "told me they felt I understood their business better than those who worked in Australia, where the market conditions are very familiar," says Roman. In that moment, "I really felt that I had made my mark." 

A joint effort

When she served as vice president of Sabre Travel Network in Mexico City, Gloria Guevara EMP-75 was responsible for providing products, technology, content and systems that connected travel agencies such as and American Express Travel to consumers in Mexico.

But because Sabre Travel Network is a joint venture, Guevara reported to a board of directors composed of representatives from several different companies. "It was different from reporting to one manager," Guevara says. "There were some unique challenges when I was reporting to a board."

One of those challenges was talking openly about business obstacles with board members who represented competing airlines. So when she arrived on the Miami campus, Guevara was relieved to find a host of classmates who were willing to talk through those concerns with her.

"A lot of times, during break I'd talk to my peers and say, 'I'm facing this in my company. What do you think about that?'" she explains. "And they would share their experiences. That was very, very valuable. It was like free consulting with executives who already had a lot of experience." Guevara was able to apply their advice — along with lessons learned in the classroom — as soon as she returned to work on the following Monday.

That open dialogue and collaborative culture became invaluable to Guevara during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak in Mexico — an event that could have been catastrophic for a travel company such as Sabre. At the time, it was Global Electives Week on the Miami campus, and Guevara was approached by Kellogg EMBA students visiting from Hong Kong and China. They shared the lessons they had learned as executives dealing with swine flu and avian flu outbreaks in Asia. "They told me what steps to take to protect my company and employees," Guevara says.

Guevara applied their recommendations and developed a communication plan that helped Sabre emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed. "It was amazing," she says.

That experience led to a major opportunity for Guevara in March, when she was appointed minister of tourism for Mexico by President Felipe Calderón. The position is highly prestigious: The tourism industry is Mexico's third-largest source of revenue.

"It was an honor to accept the invitation from President Calderón," Guevara says. "It will give me an opportunity to continue supporting the wonderful [travel] industry and, most importantly, to contribute to my country."

And with her Kellogg MBA in hand, Guevara is ready for her new role. "Kellogg has helped me to develop some very important skills for this job ahead," she says.

An 'instrumental' team

In June 2008, on his last day teaching Innovation Strategy & Management for the quarter, Robert Wolcott, executive director of the Kellogg Innovation Network (KIN), told his Miami students about his plans to create a KIN Global Summit in 2009. The objective of the summit was to "build prosperity in the world," Wolcott said, and the event would focus on a country that had recently undergone a dramatic transformation.

One of the students, Pablo Restrepo-Saenz EMP-71, raised his hand. "Why don't you feature Colombia?" he asked.

Wolcott was pleased at the suggestion; Colombia was one of the countries on his short list. But he was even more pleased when, after class, Restrepo-Saenz and Sarah Nagelmann EMP-71 approached Wolcott and offered to help him develop the conference agenda.

Over the next several months, Restrepo-Saenz and Nagelmann became "instrumental in making KIN Global happen," says Wolcott. Restrepo-Saenz helped arrange meetings for Wolcott with a range of leaders in Colombia — including the minister of national defense, the leader of the largest bank in the country, and a renowned literary critic — and recruit them as speakers for the summit. He also elicited topics that Colombian delegates wanted to address during their panel sessions, and even led a panel in the plenary working session, "The Challenges of Achieving Sustainable Prosperity:  Colombia's Progress and Future."

Nagelmann also introduced Wolcott to Admiral James G. Stavridis, Commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Stavridis delivered a keynote address that was "one of the highlights of the summit," Wolcott says.

"The punch line is, I said, 'Here's what we're trying to do at Kellogg.' And they stepped up and made things happen."

More importantly, the summit helped Kellogg build connections with key business leaders in Latin America. The timing couldn't be better, says Kraemer, who estimates that Latin America will offer "substantial growth opportunities — as significant as those in Asia" in the next 10 to 12 years.

And when that time comes, the Kellogg School will be ready. "I cannot imagine that there will be a school with a better, deeper, broader network in Latin America in five or 10 years than Kellogg," said Wolcott. "[The Miami campus] has been a great seed for our school in the world."

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