Invigorating the Student Experience at Kellogg

As the associate dean of MBA programs and the dean of students at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Betsy Ziegler is tasked with making sure that students at Kellogg have an exceptional experience from the very first moment they come in contact with the school.

In this exclusive interview with Stacy Blackman Consulting, the former McKinsey & Co. executive explains how she plans to further improve the admissions experience for prospective students, and shares her top priorities for the coming year.

As associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students, you have a unique position at Kellogg School of Management in that you lead all of the student-facing operations teams””admissions, student affairs and career management. What specific initiatives are you working on to enhance and invigorate the student experience at Kellogg?

Kellogg is known for its distinct, world-class student experience and culture. The first priority on my team was to map that experience end-to-end, and now we’ve started to optimize the experience based on what is truly most important to students.

In this last year, we collected research and had insightful conversations with students so we can identify meaningful ways to continue to best deliver on their needs. I’ve built up my team, adding key hires in and the Career Management Center, Admissions and Financial Aid, while also optimizing admissions processes across Kellogg programs. I’ve been closely involved in leading several of the initiatives outlined in our strategic plan, Envision Kellogg, such as leading the program review committee and participating in our curriculum review. In addition, we have implemented three exciting initiatives in our Part-Time program, including an accelerated option, a study abroad program and the ability for students to take three classes per quarter.

My goal is for Kellogg to operate like the best service companies in the world. Whether a student is in the Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA program, we are nimble and responsive from the first touch point with Kellogg through graduation when our graduates make the transition to our global alumni community.

Through your position, Kellogg has unified the Admissions teams in the Part-Time, Full-Time and Executive MBA programs. How does that change improve the experience for applicants?

We’re looking at the admissions process through a broader lens in order to attract the best and brightest students to Kellogg, and then to set them on the right MBA program path based on their personal and professional goals. We’re working toward common applications and providing an exceptional experience for prospective students, regardless of the program they pursue.

The bottom line is a Kellogg MBA is a Kellogg MBA, but what is different is the channel by which you enter the school ”“ and each channel must meet the very specific needs of the students within it. Our new accelerated program in the Part-Time channel is a good example of creating added flexibility for these students.

The School recently launched a strategic plan coined, “Envision Kellogg.” Could you sum that up for our readers, and explain what opportunities for students will arise from this new framework?

Envision Kellogg is our comprehensive framework for how Kellogg will shape business education and thought leadership in the 21st century. Among other things, we are rethinking how and what we teach as part of our educational mission. Students regularly partner with administrators on various programs and initiatives at Kellogg, and there will be many significant ways for new students to participate and engage in the strategic plan’s implementation. Participating in conversations about our new curriculum, informing our new building design, and working on high-touch consulting projects with the Dean’s Office are just a few examples.

What plans does Kellogg have to further leverage social media and boost brand awareness?

We have to meet prospective students where they are and where they go to get information, and we’re continuously evolving how we use social media to interface with them. For example, we now invite prospective students to join a community hosted on Facebook ”“ a fundamental change for how we communicate with candidates today. We’re looking to continue to enhance our social media presence and capabilities as we recognize its power and potential for reaching our community.

We’re about to come up on your first anniversary at Kellogg in June. Tell us what has been your biggest challenge this past year, and what priorities you have set for the next 12-18 months.

I had thought the biggest change coming in to Kellogg would be the culture shift in moving from the fast-paced world of consulting at McKinsey to higher education. But, I have been impressed by the ability of the Kellogg community to pivot, move fast and be thoughtful in terms of decision-making and creating impact.

Over the next year, my team will be focused on a range of priorities, from finalizing the transition to one unified admissions group to launching a video strategy for the school. I’ll continue to be closely involved in several of the Envision Kellogg initiatives, such as scaling the One-Year program, implementing new ideas and initiatives across degree programs, and working with my counterpart, Associate Dean for Global Programs Paul Christensen, to unify the programs in our Kellogg Executive MBA Network worldwide.

And, I’ll continue to spend the majority of my time with students across all of our programs ”“ walking the halls, visiting our various campuses, and partnering with students to ensure they are enjoying a best-in-class student experience at Kellogg.

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