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Meetings of the minds

Kellogg’s wide-ranging business conferences expose students to insights from experts and alumni from around the world

7/19/2012 - There's only so much you can learn in class. For many Kellogg students, gaining real-world experience and interacting with professionals is key to rounding out their MBA studies.

Fortunately, Kellogg hosts a wide variety of student-organized conferences on hot-button topics each year that attract business leaders from around the world.

“We learn concepts in class, but here we have the chance to hear directly from those engaged in these matters and to do so in real time,” Shirley Liu '12 said of the 2012 Kellogg Marketing Conference. “It creates a capstone feeling and insights we can take with us.”

Hundreds of students like Liu sought out the practical experience and varied perspectives of the conferences’ high-profile panelists and speakers, ranging from former Nigerian President H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo to Honest Tea Co-founder Seth Goldman. Here are some highlights from Kellogg’s exceptional roster of 2011-2012 conferences:

  • Innovating Social Change Conference — “The Next Generation of Social Impact" was the theme of this Oct. 15, 2011 conference, which centered around the notion that turning a profit and doing good are goals that can be achieved simultaneously. Keynote speaker Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman urged attendees to “help create the future you want to live in.” Other speakers included Darell Hammond, CEO and founder of Washington, D.C.-based KaBOOM!

  • Kellogg Real Estate Conference — Hosted at the University Club of Chicago, the Nov. 2, 2011 event assembled about 200 real estate practitioners, industry experts and students to assess the pulse of the real estate industry and identify new opportunities. The Great Recession may have pummeled the real estate world, but Walton Street Capital managing principal Neil Bluhm noted in his keynote address that solid opportunities exist in the still-wounded climate. The conference also included panel discussions on “Post-Crisis Debt and Equity Capital Markets” and “Demand Drivers and Development.”

  • Business of Healthcare Conference — Carrying the theme “The Right Prescription for Value in Healthcare,” this event gathered industry professionals, academics, alumni and students at the James L. Allen Center Nov. 9, 2011 to discuss how to create value in healthcare and the implications for the overall system. Highlights included keynote talks from Leavitt Partners Senior Adviser Charlene Frizzera and DaVita CEO Kent Thiry. Six moderated panels explored the industry’s most pressing issues and greatest opportunities.

  • Kellogg Marketing Conference — If you want your brand to stay relevant, tune into customers and “co-create” value, advised expert speakers and panelists at the two-day event on Jan. 20-21, held in downtown Chicago and Evanston. More than 600 professionals, alumni and students participated in frank, multi-layered discussions about the challenges facing marketers, including those posed by mobile technology, social media and discerning consumers. Keynote speakers included General Mills CMO Mark Addicks and Mastercard Worldwide CMO Alfredo Gangotena, addressing the theme “Closing the Loop: From Conversation to Value Co-Creation.”
  • Private Equity & Venture Capital Conference — The private equity industry is poised to thrive in the coming decade, predicted keynote speaker Peter Barris, managing general partner of venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. The Feb. 15 conference in downtown Chicago also featured a keynote address by Adams Street Partners CEO Bon French ’76, who was optimistic, noting that governments around the world are embracing this model of capitalism and innovation.

  • Black Management Association Conference — Marking its 25th year, Kellogg’s longest-running student conference, hosted Feb. 24-26, featured the theme “Standing at the Crossroads: Building on the Past to Execute for the Future.” Keynote speaker Edith Cooper ’86, Goldman Sachs global head of human capital management, stressed the importance of making an impact by pursuing excellence and maintaining professional passion. Other highlights included a keynote from Capri Capital Partners president Gwendolyn Butler ’84.

  • Kellogg Africa Business Conference — Urging attendees and entrepreneurs to “grab the opportunities,” former Nigerian President H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo spoke March 31 of the immense business potential blanketing the African nation. Seeking strategic action plans to further enliven Africa’s growth, conference leaders, attendees and presenters embraced the event’s pragmatic theme — “Unlocking Africa’s Potential: Defining the Next Steps.”

  • Kellogg Tech Conference — Industry practitioners, students and tech-savvy marketers gathered at the Donald P. Jacobs Center on April 14 to investigate how social, local and mobile, or “SoLoMo,” are revolutionizing consumer interactions. The event provided a platform to discuss some of the world’s most robust technological advancements and their applications to business, with presentations by Heidi Browning, Pandora senior vice president of strategic solutions, and representatives from Facebook, Starbucks, American Express, foursquare, Google and Verizon, among others.

  • Latin America Business Conference — Exploring the challenges and opportunities posed by the region’s economic evolution, the April 21 event featured the theme “Stepping Up to the World Arena.” Former Brazilian Central Bank director and current EVP of Itau Bank Sergio Werlang focused on growth drivers that have propelled Brazil to new economic heights during the last 10 to 15 years. Other speakers offered a variety of perspectives on business development in the surging Latin America region.

  • Kellogg Turnaround Management Conference — The core ingredients of turnaround success and the challenges and opportunities in today’s economic environment were the focus of the May 2 event, held at the University Club of Chicago. Detailing the revival of Samsonite, Ares Management co-founder Antony Ressler cited key strategies for turning around struggling companies. Other highlights included panel discussions on the valuation of distressed companies and the distressed investing outlook.

  • Kellogg India Business Conference — Continuing its tradition of supporting India’s progress by hosting dynamic conversations about the nation’s growth and development, Kellogg on May 12 presented this spirited exploration of India’s next entrepreneurial steps. From keynote addresses by Param Uberoi, Pernod Ricard South Asia chairman, and The George Foundation founder Abraham George, each presenter highlighted the strategies Indian organizations are using to flourish and promote innovation.

  • Greater China Business Conference — The success of global companies such as Kraft Foods and Lenovo in China were the focus of keynote talks at this May 18-19 conference. Highlights included Bob Holden, former governor of Missouri and chairman of the Midwest-U.S. China Association, who delivered a keynote address on outbound investment opportunities from China. Cheng Li, director of research and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, also discussed upcoming changes in China’s leadership and how those changes will affect the political and social climate in the region.

The coming academic year includes a full slate of conferences as well.