Be different. Stand apart. Create a distinct voice, story, and strategy.
That’s the first advice you’ll get in any advertising firm. And Kelley appears to have taken it…back in the 1960s. That’s when the school rolled out its I-Core curriculum. Call it Kelley’s defining experience — the memories that graduates bond over at reunions or on Facebook threads. In a nutshell, Icore, which stands for Integrated Core — is a block of four courses taken during junior year. Here, Kelley expands upon the concepts that business majors absorbed during their prerequisites. Packed with real-time, hands-on projects, iCore requires student teams take deep dives into cross-functional business issues. Not only do students come away understanding how individual functions run, but also experience how adversity and uncertainty can throw off the ability of these functions to work together. iCore also requires intensive daily prep, with grades based solely on mid-terms and finals — and a 100 page case analysis that teams must produce in 10 days!. Not surprisingly, students refer to I-Core as a “rite of passage” — with the ultimate reward being a “I-Core Survivor” t-shirt.
“The integrated core, and its accompanying week long business case form quintessential Kelley DNA and serve as a commonality anytime I encounter a fellow graduate,” writes an anonymous 2019 Kelley grad. ”The I-Core experience is successful because it mirrors real life by placing students together where the stakes are high, authority is unclear, and the answer is ambiguous. Group work is typically limited to a single course in isolation, but I-Core shatters the silos by drawing across disciplines such as finance, operations, marketing, and leadership. Kelley has created a controlled Lord of the Flies moment in their curriculum, with three years of coursework before dropping students on an “island” and asking them to navigate to shore together. I-Core creates beautiful results from the most unlikely pairings. There is no self-selection in I-Core and the faculty leadership team intentionally controls [this] to create diversely-appointed teams. I-Core was important to me because it challenged me to put faith in strangers, compromise for the greater good, and ask for help. It was equal parts business knowledge and equal part social leadership.”
That’s not the only unique wrinkle in Kelley programming. Kelley Compass is a series of three courses focused on professional development. Taken one per year starting as freshman, Kelley Compass tackles issues like personal branding, resume-writing, emotional intelligence, and leadership. This fall, Kelley also unveiled a practicum where students work as brand managers for companies like Procter & Gamble and Maytag. On top of that, business majors can apply to 15 industry-specific workshops that expose them to the language, expectations, and intricacies of fields like commercial real estate, capital markets, technology, and even sports.
“Kelley’s Consulting Workshop prepared me with the hard and soft skills to contribute value to my internship and full-time teams,” writes another 2019 Kelley alum. “It empowered me with the knowledge I needed for recruiting and helped me develop (what I hope to be) lifelong friendships with classmates and alumni.”
Such experiences are one reason why the Kelley School produced the second-highest composite score for Alumni Experience in P&Q’s annual survey of undergraduate business school alumni. It also explains why Kelley leaped from 19th to 11th in P&Q’s 2022 undergraduate business school ranking.
Indeed, student satisfaction is one of Kelley’s great strength according to the Alumni Experience survey, a collection of 17 questions answered by Class of 2019 alumni from 94 top undergraduate business programs. Notably, Kelley produced the 2nd-highest average score when alumni were questioned about how well their alma mater enhanced their soft skills. Kelley tacked on a 4th-best score when graduates were how prepared their school made them for their careers. At the same time, Kelley ranked among the ten-best in areas like career advising, academic advising, and alumni accessibility. Considering Kelley’s reputation for having one of the world’s top career centers, it is hardly surprising that Kelley scored among the best for the school’s ability to place students with practicing professionals and alumni.
Most telling, however, was how Kelley alumni viewed their time at the school. It produced the 3rd- highest mark — 9.79 on a 10-point scale — when it comes to whether they would recommend Kelley to family and friend. It was a score just .07 of a point behind the top score (Wharton).
How does Kelley achieve such results? To answer that, P&Q turned to Patrick Hopkins, chair of the Undergraduate Program and the Glaubinger Chair for Undergraduate Leadership. Here’s what Hopkins had to say about how it is able to prepare students so well for the world of work.
5 QUESTIONS WITH PATRICK HOPKINS
P&Q: What are your undergraduate business program’s two biggest strengths and how do make students better prepared for business once they graduate?
Hopkins: “Our Undergraduate Program is an entire ecosystem that relies on raw materials (our talented students), a climate of collaboration over competition, the curriculum, and our engaged faculty and committed staff. We keep micro-evolving and macro-evolving to meet the needs and wants of students and their families:
* Creating a residential experience that immerses students in business concepts during their first year.
* Offering a short-term leadership development camp prior to that start of the freshman year
* Offering a three-credit course that introduces students to virtual learning tools and the kind of teamwork the Kelley curriculum will call for prior to the start of the first year.
* Promoting health and wellness in a variety of unique ways through online mentoring platforms, conferences, a physical space that prioritizes decompression in healthy ways, and face-to-face conversations with staff members who have a social work and counseling backgrounds.
* Prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusivity and belonging within the school, with multilateral strategies touching on faculty recruitment, student support and student recruitment.
We also integrate career preparation into the curriculum, and we are unique in our approach of accelerating skills and concepts to meet the internship and job search life cycle. In their first year, students wrap their heads around what it means to create a personal brand, then move into how they present that brand to others and, finally, what it means to contribute meaningfully in a professional environment. Our Kelley COMPASS courses do not only prepare students for that first work experience, but for what they will need to know to search for that third or fourth job. A Kelley education is a lifetime investment.
In addition, our undergraduate alumni network is amazing, but what’s truly interesting is that our graduate program alums are also incredibly supportive of the Kelley undergrads. These are two separate populations in terms of experience, life goals, and academics… But, the Kelley ethos crosses academic borders. So, when we talk about a network of alumni, we’re not only talking about the undergraduate population.”
P&Q: What are some new and upcoming developments in your program that will enhance the business program for future business majors?
Hopkins: “We are working closely with partners across campus to ensure that the Kelley curriculum leverages the strengths of our university as a whole. We have partnered with our colleagues in the Economics department to develop tailored courses for business students and recently rolled those out to all Kelley undergraduates. Student satisfaction and performance in these new courses has been strong and we are exploring additional opportunities to develop similarly collaborative course offerings across the university. Additionally, international education has long been a strength of the Kelley Undergraduate experience. After the slowdown of the past two years, we’re excited to expand our sophomore Global Foundations Core offerings and will send students to 15 different international locations this spring on study tours with faculty. The locations and content offerings evolve each year and each class of sophomores has access to unique internationally focused coursework to satisfy degree requirements.”
P&Q: One of the most innovative aspects of the Kelley curriculum is its I-Core, a series of foundational courses that integrate various business disciplines so students can experience their many interconnections on a day-to-day basis. Tell us how I-Core works and why it is such a profound learning experience?
Hopkins: “The I-Core, or Integrated Core, is a full semester, 13-credit-hour experience that occurs at the mid-point in students’ undergraduate career at Kelley. Students enroll with a cohort in which they study Finance, Marketing, Operations and Leadership. The semester culminates in a rigorous, 10-day team project where students develop a cross-functional solution to a real world business case. Many alumni will tell you this experience is one of the highlights of their academic experience at the Kelley School.
It’s also worth noting that several years ago we realized that our students thrived in this cross-disciplinary environment so much so that we wanted to offer an opportunity for them to have a similar experience earlier in the undergraduate curriculum. All incoming first year students enroll in our How Business Works course that allows them to experience teamwork and problem solving across disciplines from day one.”
P&Q: In the alumni survey, Kelley received the second-highest scores for helping students develop soft skills. What types of programming does Kelley offer through your classroom curriculum, extracurricular activities, and career services that enable your students to sharpen these skills?
Hopkins: “Our Failure Summit is a great example of this. For the fourth year, we’re offering a one-day conference for students that delves into what it means to fail, why that’s ok, and how to learn and recover. It puts front-and-center that experience of not being perfect, which can be a unique experience for our Kelley students. They are used to being extremely high achievers in high school. Tanking that first project, not acing that exam—those experiences can severely undermine high-achieving students’ confidence. We normalize those moments. That kind of perspective is important so our students can receive both congratulatory and corrective feedback in the workplace, implement it, and get back to the task at hand.
Our student organizations help us by organizing networking events with corporate partners and alumni, by hosting resume reviews, and by staging events like etiquette dinners. Our director of admissions once ran into two recruiters from a large company at the local ice cream shop and they were telling her, “Your students are so great. They know how to eat and talk at the same time!” It sounds funny, but that is a real skill, to be able to talk over a meal in a meaningful way. So, our programs and organizations build those kinds of experiences in for students.”
P&Q: In that same survey, grads ranked Kelley among the best for helping them prepare for the world of work. Kelley is regarded as having one of the top career centers in the world. How does the school leverage this strength to help business majors?
Hopkins: “At Kelley, we start working on professional development with students right away. We have three semesters of required professional development training through our Compass curriculum (one in each of the freshman, sophomore, and junior years), plus programming run by Kelley Undergraduate Career Services that is targeted to each year of school, such as a First Year Fast Track for freshmen. We have dedicated professional career coaches, as well as a significant peer coaching team, that work with students throughout their entire time at Kelley. Our employer relations team works with over 1,000 companies on their recruiting strategy to ensure that our students are getting many career opportunities and companies are getting the talent they are looking for.”
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