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By Lance Wheeler, EMBA 2022
(He, Him, His)

As the youngest of four children in a lower middle-class Mormon family, a clear picture was painted of what my values should include: kindness, hard work and a life centered around my family’s faith. Seems easy, right? Coming out as gay presented significant cognitive dissonance as I struggled to balance external expectations with my sense of self. Through optimistic perseverance, this experience eventually solidified my core values: prioritization of people, hard work and continuous personal development.

Prior to the pandemic, working in the field of hospitality, sales and events provided me with an incredible platform to continually practice my core values while building diverse connections and long-lasting relationships. As someone who deeply values time with people, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged my ability to experience hope both personally and professionally; something I had not experienced since before coming out as gay. This lack of hope and connection drove me to take a step back and determine how I could refocus on my core values to continue developing.

Growing among Kellogg’s diverse leaders

In June of 2020, as the country was grappling with challenges of the pandemic and social justice, I received an invite to a Pride@Kellogg virtual chat and panel discussion for the Evening and Weekend MBA Program. Upon joining the presentation, I was greeted with a vibrant and refreshing perspective from various LGBTQIA+ students and alumni on the importance of diversity and inclusion at Kellogg. This conversation propelled me to start exploring obtaining an MBA again, an idea that I’d been pushing off for years. After a few months of research, it became very clear Kellogg’s focus on connection, community and development of diverse, brave leaders was woven into the fabric of current students and alumni alike. I was elated to see Kellogg’s cultural alignment with my core values. Given my career path and life circumstances, I dedicated my focus to the Executive MBA application process.

Though it has only been six months since I started the rigorous EMBA program, I’m amazed by the renewed sense of hope my Kellogg community has already provided. My cohort is full of diverse, smart, low-ego leaders that will undoubtedly impact the world in beautiful and meaningful ways. In my opinion, the power of this community is built from the diversity that is represented throughout Kellogg. I’m proud to say how comfortable I feel being my authentic self at Kellogg, something I never imagined could be a reality when I was growing up in a small town in rural Utah.

Kellogg’s ability to curate psychological safety through collaboration and diversity has provided me with an impactful platform to continue developing into the best version of myself, personally and professionally. I know my experience at Kellogg will continue to strengthen my business acumen, hone my leadership toolkit, and provide unrivaled long-term value to me and communities I support. I’m honored to be growing on this journey at Kellogg and grateful to feel appreciated as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.