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illustration by Edwin Lee

THE GROUNDS of the Kellogg campus is indistinguishable from the set of one of those midday BBC Channel films featuring the emotionally subdued enduring love of an aged-couple – aptly titled “Geriatric Gestures of Endearment”.  Surrounded by the crashing waters of Lake Michigan, complemented by twenty-eight different varieties of spruce, and accented with Greco-Roman sculptures peaking out from a maze of exotic shrubbery.

Inside, Kellogg men wearing bespoke seersucker suits gingerly holding smoking pipes with their finely manicured hands exchanging light-hearted banter about making a “killing” shorting [insert overvalued stock ticker].  And out back, Kellogg women gracefully skating across a checkered-pattern lawn half-heartedly playing badminton in their Christian Louboutin red-soled stilettos chatting about the number of children they saved from [insert trivial 3rd world ailment].

If this is your impression of Kellogg, please stop reading — I’ll be hard pressed to further the fantasy.  Otherwise, hopefully the recounts of my Kellogg EMBA experience will be insightful for aspiring EMBA hopefuls, evoke nostalgia for Kellogg alumni, or satiate my voyeuristic EMP 86 classmates hoping for a kitschy radio disc jockey shout-out.  Mike Zwonitzer it’s your birthday / we gonna party like it’s your birthday / we gonna sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday.

As a former speechwriter, I always find writing in my own voice rather trying — one tends to lose your own voice when helping others find theirs.  But, we’ll give it the “ole college go”.  Lets kick this off in early 90s DJ Kool fashion.  Let me clear my throat.  Ahem.  Ahem.  Cue the brass introduction.

My name is Michael and I’m in the 86thcohort of the Kellogg EMBA program — started Kellogg in January 2011.  My professional career (to-date) is a collection of interesting experiences, started off at Salomon Brothers after reading Liar’s Poker, then went to work for the Democrats after being unsettled by the Gordon Gekko “greed is good” culture of the late 1990s, later moved back to New York and dabbled as a Saks Fifth Avenue catalogue hand model to selecting music tracks for Ralph Lauren fragrance commercials, then drove West to create television and film properties, to a tenure at IBM as an executive speechwriter and strategist, to now co-authoring a book with David Wilhelm, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman and 1992 Clinton-Gore National Campaign Manager.

THE OPEN HOUSE I attended May 2010 at the Evanston campus seemed ages ago — when Apple stock was trading at a mere $199/share, before Charlie Sheen’s world tour of cocaine-fueled bad behavior, and Iron Man 2 was tops at the box office.  Last weekend, like a 2010 version of myself, a new crop of prospective students attended the Evanston Open House.  Many had similar questions, “How are study groups assembled”, “How has your Kellogg experience been”, and “What can I read to prepare for the EMBA program”.  The answer to the first two questions is “carefully” and “great”, but the latter is somewhat difficult to answer.  There isn’t any series of texts you can read or subject matter you can gain proficiency that will better prepare you for the program.  Rather, an earnest conversation with your partner (e.g., spouse, lover, or houseboy) is often overlooked, but most essential.  Ensure you lucidly communicate “why” you want to attend the program, “what” support you need to excel and your partner needs during your absence, and “how” it will enrich both your lives.  As the program progresses, it’s not macroeconomics or international finance that’ll give you fits — but the lack of encouragement and support you receive from home.  In sum, if you can’t muster enthusiasm and excitement from your partner on the merits of your candidacy — I doubt you’ll be able to convince the Admissions Committee either.