Kellogg School of Management grads know the business school experience is life changing — and that oftentimes, students learn just as much from the relationships forged here as from any syllabus. That’s because as vast as the Kellogg community is, it is equally close-knit. Graduates and students alike are renowned for championing a “pay it forward” culture where deeply rooted connections flourish.

Sometimes, those connections come through formal channels: alumni generously giving of their time to talk to a class or participate in an on-campus speaking event. Still others support students and alumni alike through recruitment efforts, clubs and interest groups, and mentorship programs.

But scratch the surface and you’ll find myriad stories of classmates, teachers, staff and alumni coming together to support one another in ways that are at once simple and profound: a sharing of interests. A timely word of encouragement. A nudge to take a risk.

To hear more about the supportive and connected Kellogg community, we talked to alumni to learn about the people who made an enduring differences in their lives.

The neighbor turned lifelong friend

As told by Neal Uppal ’12 MBA

“When I started at Kellogg, I lived in a mid-rise apartment building on Chicago Avenue in Evanston. My next-door neighbor, Sidharth Kakkar ’12 MBA, happened to be in my class. As I got to know him, I found out he had already started companies, even before business school, and he continued to pursue entrepreneurial ideas while at Kellogg.

“I didn’t really have much exposure to that world at the time, and so I credit him for starting to expose me to the tech field and to entrepreneurship. Since graduation, he’s gone on to found successful companies. I’ve learned so much from him about what it actually takes to start something new, how to take an idea and turn it into something, and how to move quickly.

“Today, he’s one of my closest friends. Our families are very close, and we see each other every couple of weeks.”

After Kellogg, Uppal set his sights on the tech industry. Today, he is the vice president of business operations for Cruise, a self-driving ride-hail and delivery startup based in San Francisco. Cruise recently became the first company to offer fared driverless rides in a major US city.

The picture-perfect connection

As told by Julia Stamberger ’02 MBA

“In undergrad, one of my favorite hobbies was film photography, with single-lens reflex cameras and real film. I remember vividly a particular day in class at Kellogg with Professor Mohan Sawhney, when he presented a full case demonstrating how the digital camera was going to soon replace the analog camera completely. I was like, ‘No, this can’t happen!’ But, sure enough, he was right.

“That lesson hit spot on the way that certain technologies can innovate and displace, and do so quickly. That kind of fast evolution has been extraordinary, and having the insight of leaders like Mohan who are ahead of the game is quite impactful. And in fact, Mohan and I have remained friends in the 20 years since — he chimes in with great comments on my Facebook posts.”

Taking those lessons to heart, Stamberger has carved out a career in innovation and entrepreneurship. Her latest venture, The Planting Hope Company (TSXV: MYLK), is focused on creating innovative and disruptive new plant-based and planet-friendly food and beverage products.

The one who raised the bar

As told by Bernard Dallé ’96 MBA

“When I went to Kellogg, Philip Kotler was the undisputed ‘godfather of marketing.’ Being in close contact with such a towering figure demystified the world of marketing for me and inspired me to raise the bar in terms of what I expected of myself.

“Other professors also left a deep impression on me. Deborah Lucas, my finance professor, lit in me a real passion for finance which is still burning today. I admired her and would occasionally reach out to her for advice. I also recall an organizational behavior course taught so engagingly, and it opened my eyes to the importance of culture and organizational design, which has been extremely helpful throughout my career.”

After graduation, Dallé joined the London office of Index Ventures, a European venture capital firm, where he would later would go on to serve as operating partner.

The friend who pushed me (in a good way)

As told by Tracey Fetherson ’21 MBA

“A classmate, Jamie McLaughlin ’21 MBA, really saw in me the kind of leader that I could be that I wasn’t yet willing to embrace.

“We met because we both volunteered to plan CIM (the incoming student orientation). I was a heads-down person who just wanted to get the work done. But in our conversations, she always pushed me to hold up a mirror and see myself in the way that she saw me — to appreciate who I was and recognize what other people valued in me.

“She’s probably the single classmate that I have learned the most from, having watched her interact with peers, administrators and incoming students with a sense of poise and clarity but also approachability.

“Today in my career, I try to adapt some of her style into how I plan meetings, how I communicate and how I drive progress.”

A former U.S. Marine Corps captain, Fetherson is based on the East Coast and works as a senior manager of strategy and innovation for retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods.

The nudge I needed

As told by Yolanda Macias ’92 MBA

Dean Jacobs inspired me. As a leader, he was accessible, and he encouraged people to use their ‘EQ’ as much as their IQ. We all so appreciated that.

“I also think about a professor who passed away not too long ago; a former classmate and I reminisced about the deep impression his negotiations course had left on us.

“It was a class that encouraged vulnerability. You had to really put yourself out there, and we learned pretty quickly that if you don’t break that fourth wall, if you don’t put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you’re not going to learn or grow. That was an important lesson for me at that age — to be vulnerable, take that risk and grow from it.”

An entertainment industry leader, Macias serves as chief content officer of Los Angeles-based entertainment company Cinedigm, where she oversees global content acquisitions, digital and physical sales, and marketing.

The kindred spirit

As told by Jessica Schultheis ’12 MBA

“When I was at Kellogg, I really wanted to focus on social impact and find professional opportunities in that area. And so I connected with a classmate, Hannah Gay ’12 MBA, who was also interested in that career path.

“It was great knowing someone who was aligned with my interests — someone I could spend time with thinking through course opportunities, extracurriculars, internships and career searches. We really encouraged each other, even though we weren’t necessarily looking for the same jobs.

“Just having someone to walk that path together, especially when it wasn’t a common path at the time, was special. It created a bond between us that continues to this day.”

Today, Schultheis works at social media company Meta as a product manager focusing on mental health and social impact within the company’s Facebook platform.

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