“Committed scribe of quotable moments (327 in the past two years!).”
Fun fact about yourself: I did traditional Serbian dancing for eight years before moving away to a residential high school.
Hometown: Lansing, IL (originally from Serbia)
High School: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Major: Finance, Business Analytics, and Law, Ethics, & Decision-Making
Minor: Spanish and Math
Favorite Business Course: Ethics, Life Sciences, and the Business of Medicine
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles During College:
Leadership and Extracurricular Activities
- Indiana University Board of Aeons, Board Member (August 2018 – Present): Selected as one of 11 students from 250+ nominees to serve on IU President McRobbie’s university-wide student advisory board.
- Kelley School of Business Dean’s Insight Board, President (May 2018 – Present), Vice President (May 2017 – May 2018), Board Member (January 2016 – May 2017): Elected by fellow board members to lead 12-student advisory board that researches strategic questions for Dean Kesner and presents findings to the Dean’s Council.
- Student Consulting Organization for Peer Engagements (SCOPE), Co-Founder (June 2017 – December 2018): Founded and led consulting initiative to assist campus organizations with strategic, brand, and human capital challenges.
- Honors Leadership Team, Leadership Team Member (August 2018 – Present): Collaborate with Kelley’s Honors advisors to oversee mentorship of sophomores and juniors in the Honors Program.
- Summer Case Interview Program, Director (May 2018 – August 2018): Connected 47 Consulting Workshop students with 42 alumni to complete 175+ case interviews over the summer.
- Kelley Undergraduate Consulting Workshop, Member (August 2017 – Present): faculty-Selected as one of 30 students in rigorous program designed to build skills in analysis, presentation, and teamwork and develop detailed knowledge of the consulting industry.
- Women in Business, Diversity Associate (August 2017 – May 2018), Social Responsibility Associate (August 2016 – May 2017): Selected as one of 26 women from an applicant pool of 262 individuals to create diversity and social impact events for 80 members.
- Social Enterprise Engagement at Kelley (SEEK), President (May 2016 – May 2017), Vice President of Education (January 2016 – May 2016), Member (August 2015 – January 2016): Elected by peers to lead the development of 11 skill-based initiatives, guiding the execution of four events and two consulting projects that engaged four community partners and 70+ students.
- BKD-KLLC Emerging Leaders Program, Leadership Education and Program Developer (September 2015 – May 2016): Created and facilitated the first annual Spring Leadership Conference for program participants.
Awards and Honors
- Sherry Mills Graduating Woman Business Student Award, Recipient (August 2018)
- Buena Foundation Scholarship, Recipient (August 2017)
- Chicagoland Regional Atlas Shrugged Essay Competition, One of 3 Finalists selected from candidates in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin (July 2017)
- Fred Riley & Evelyn Hess Blanford Scholarship, Recipient (August 2016)
- International Atlas Shrugged Essay Competition, One of 25 Finalists selected from 1,600+ candidates (January 2016)
- Chicagoland Regional Atlas Shrugged Essay Competition, 1st Place Scholarship Recipient selected from candidates in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin (December 2015)
- Dean’s Scholarship, Four-Year Recipient (May 2015)
- Merit Finalist Scholarship, Four-Year Recipient (May 2015)
- Belgrade Business International Case Competition, Participant (Upcoming)
- Hong Kong International Case Competition, 2nd Place of 15 teams (October 2018)
- Marshall International Case Competition, 3rd Place of 20 teams (February 2018)
- Brigham Young University’s National Language Case Competition, 1st Place of three Spanish teams (November 2017)
Where have you interned during your college career? (List Companies, Locations and Roles)
- Deloitte Consulting (Chicago, IL), Strategy & Operations Summer Scholar (June 2018 – August 2018): Collaborated with 30-person team to complete due diligence for merger of health system and post-acute care provider, identifying a $20 million turnaround opportunity for the client.
- Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati, OH), Finance & Accounting Intern for IT Solutions (May 2017 – August 2017): Consolidated data from 35 spend owners to map $175 million in outside professional service costs across five years, recommending a four-year strategy for contract renegotiations and competitive bidding to capture $5 million in savings.
- Waitbot, Inc. (Chicago, IL), Business Analyst (July 2016 – August 2016): Evaluated opportunities for in-network ridesharing for technology startup specializing in algorithm-based solutions for reducing wait time in the public and private sectors.
Where will you be working after graduation? I’m excited to join the Boston Consulting Group as an associate in Chicago, IL.
What company do you admire most? I admire Patagonia for living its values of quality, integrity, environmentalism and not being bound by convention:
- Quality: Patagonia sells products made from organic cotton and recycled materials with the premise that they will last a lifetime.
- Integrity: Advertisements feature real people engaging in real outdoor activities, and employees embody the spirit of adventurousness upon which the company was founded.
- Environmentalism: Through its 1% for the Planet initiative (i.e., a pledge to donate 1 percent of annual sales to preserve and restore the natural environment), Patagonia has given $89 million to grassroots environmental groups since 1985.
- Not Being Bound by Convention: Unlike fast fashion counterparts, Patagonia encourages thoughtful consumption (e.g., it placed a “Don’t Buy This Jacket” in the New York Times before Black Friday in 2011). It focuses on value creation that extends beyond the bottom line, serving as a wonderful example of sustainable business.
Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor, Juliana Kozak Rogo, teaches Econometrics and Predictive Analytics for Business Strategy. These classes, frequently described as two of Kelley’s most difficult due to their emphasis on economic and statistical theory, are made meaningful thanks to Juliana’s thoughtful examples and skill-building assignments. She emphasizes student development more than any assessment score, encouraging us to bring our best work to the classroom and homework assignments. The stories she shares during lectures and care she takes to learn about her students create one of the best learning environments I’ve experienced at Kelley. I know that I will remember and apply most, if not all, the content I learned in Juliana’s courses to my board work and future career.
What did you enjoy most about your business school? My friends joke that I live in the SPEA/Business Information Commons, the library Kelley shares with the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). When I am not in class or meetings, people know they can find me in the collaborative space. I love spending my time there, because I believe the library epitomizes the best that Kelley has to offer: a strong peer support system. Even during the most stressful times of the school year or recruiting cycle, students make the time to mentor underclassmen, help each other perfect case or technical interviews, and collaborate on passion projects. All of this energy and camaraderie amounts to a constant buzz in the library (and a not-so-elegant scramble for seats). I know it is one of the places I will miss most after graduating, and I will fondly remember all of the support I have received and given there.
What has surprised you most about majoring in business? On my first day as a college (and business) student, I must have heard the word “networking” more than two dozen times. Networking would help me narrow my interests within business and select a major. Networking would open doors for internships and full-time work. Networking would keep me engaged as a member of the largest business school alumni network in the nation. Coming from a high school of 600 people who lived together on a nine-acre campus, I was absolutely terrified of networking. It seemed too disingenuous on the side of students and too evaluative on the side of employers.
I was happy (and more than a little relieved) to learn that this first impression of networking was wrong. As I got into the habit of speaking with professionals and alumni, I started to find our conversations not only enjoyable, but energizing. With some thoughtful questions and sincere interest in the life of the person with whom I was speaking, I started to learn more about business than I ever imagined. I discovered what the consulting life actually entails, got tips for navigating male-dominated industries as a woman, and realized just how challenging it can be to facilitate organizational change. The more I networked, the more curious I became and the more meaningful relationships I built. I was surprised to find so much substance and excitement behind a buzzword like “networking,” but after seeing just what an instrumental role it played in my educational experience, I will always champion it.
“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…Healthcare Management and Policy (HMP). After working on healthcare projects as an intern at Deloitte Consulting, I am interested in pursuing a long-term career in the healthcare space. My love for tackling complex problems, improving systems, and advancing the human condition makes me believe I would have enjoyed studying HMP.”
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? For most of my life, I was convinced I would become a doctor. My stuffed animals were patients, and my drawings were aspiring reproductions of anatomy book diagrams. I didn’t know which specialty I’d choose or fully understand how expensive medical school could be, but I knew I enjoyed science and wanted to help people. Looking back, my mom was much more realistic, frequently asking how I planned to be a doctor if I had to avert my eyes during medical scenes in movies. It wasn’t until I spent a summer researching at the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery at the University of Chicago that I began to rethink my plans.
As a rising junior in high school, I assisted a team investigating the role of gut microbes in regulating dietary fat-mediated alterations of nuclear hormone receptor expression and metabolism. The project was fascinating, and I quickly learned the technical vocabulary and protocols needed to function rather independently in the lab. I ran tests, completed dissections, and read scientific journal articles for six weeks. Everything was going as planned. On my last day at the Center, I had the unique opportunity to observe another team collect blood samples from mice before euthanizing them. Halfway through the procedure, I almost fainted in the lab.
I went home feeling a slightly embarrassed and very certain that I could not devote my career to being a doctor. Having people’s (or animals’) lives in my hands seemed too stressful, even if I could stomach procedures like the one I saw that day. After writing my 21-page research paper, I realized that my favorite parts of the summer consisted of analyzing data from the lab and connecting seemingly disjoint pieces of evidence into substantial conclusions. When I began to explore other areas of study that required such work, business stood out as a prime candidate. The rest is history.
Which academic, extracurricular, or personal achievement are you most proud of? Having served on the Kelley School of Business Dean’s Insight Board for nearly seven semesters, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to research topics ranging from student engagement to alumni relations, from strategic positioning of Kelley in Indianapolis to mental health initiatives in Bloomington. The most challenging and impactful project during my tenure took place in Fall 2018, when the Board was tasked to identify the lowest-cost mentorship platform that maximized value to almost 2,000 participants.
As President of the Board, I facilitated meetings with Kelley’s pilot vendor, interviewed a prospective endowment donor, and collaborated with administrators to outline clear goals and metrics for the mentorship initiative. With this context in mind, I guided my team in conducting an ideal versus current state analysis of the program and researching alternative platform vendors. Despite the project ambiguity, accelerated timeline, and need to reconcile different stakeholders’ opinions, our team proved successful. We identified an improved mentorship model that promises to save Kelley $65,000 annually. I am happy to know that my teams’ efforts have enabled data-driven progress with the school’s mental health initiatives.
Which classmate do you most admire? I admire Emma Lullo, a fellow senior and my Vice President on the Dean’s Insight Board, for her never-ending desire to give back to our community. Emma was instrumental in the successful completion of the aforementioned mentorship project, spearheading conversations with platform representatives and helping younger members on our team develop their skills. Her passion for mental health and empowering others manifests itself not only through our work on the Board but also in her creation of Kelley’s first annual Failing Successfully Summit, which brought together students and faculty members to discuss how our community can embrace failure and be more resilient. Whether I am attending an event that Emma created, collaborating with her on a case competition, or meeting with her about Board work, I know that I can always learn something new from her. It has been an absolute honor getting to know her during my Kelley journey.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? I am forever grateful to my parents, Marija and Srbislav Stancov, for teaching me the value of education and being my role models for resilience, optimism, and compassion. We immigrated to the United States from Serbia when I was three years old, arriving with $4,000 of debt, a couple of cheap suitcases ripping at the seams, and no home to call our own. Even while my parents worked to achieve financial stability for our family, they prioritized being present in my life and encouraging my educational endeavors. They reviewed my homework after night shifts, helped me bring home mountains of books from the library, and cheered me on through eight years of science fairs. They dried my tears when I felt inferior because I was coloring in middle school while peers from more affluent areas were writing essays, learning new languages, and participating in math competitions.
To this day, the greatest gift I’ve ever received was the online biology course my parents bought me for Christmas so I could apply to the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA), a rigorous residential high school in Aurora, IL. My parents supported me through five grueling months of biology studying and SAT preparation, allowing their only child to move away from home at 15 years old to finally be in a challenging school environment. They encouraged me to go on study abroad trips through IMSA, taught me object-oriented programming, and drove me to the train station on summer weekdays so I could research at the University of Chicago or intern for Waitbot. They took me on a college road trip, paid for out-of-state tuition at Indiana University, and most recently helped me practice case interviewing. For these reasons, I cannot feel proud of my accomplishments without feeling equal gratitude for my two greatest supporters, advocates, and champions.
What are the top two items on your bucket list? (1) Improve access to and quality of education for students in the Chicagoland area; (2) Help reform the American healthcare system to better allocate resources and ensure every individual can receive the care they need
What are your hobbies? I enjoy reading (mostly nonfiction or realistic fiction), going to yoga, visiting BloomingTea (the cutest, coziest tea shop in Bloomington), spending time with family and friends, and watching Grey’s Anatomy.
What made Simona such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?
“Simona is more than just as invaluable addition to the Class of 2019, she is an indispensable member of the class. She is the recipient of numerous top scholarships. She is the recipient of multiple distinguished awards. She has been a member of Kelley teams that have won national and international case competitions. She has been an outstanding intern for companies like Deloitte Consulting and P&G, and she has secured an associate’s position with BCG following graduation. She is a co-founder for the Student Consulting Organization for Peer Engagements and was the president of Social Enterprise Engagement at Kelley. She represents the best and brightest with a near-perfect GPA. For all these reasons she has distinguished herself at Kelley. Yet, it is her leadership as president of the Dean’s Insight Board that truly epitomizes the word “indispensable.” Elected by peers to serve as president, Simona leads this prestigious organization, which interfaces directly and intensely with the School’s deans, the Chairperson of the Undergraduate Program, and directors of the program. While in the past, this group has done much to advance our school’s undergraduate program, this year the group’s work to analyze, build, and advance the cause of mental wellness goes to the heart of what Kelley is all about – a welcoming, collaborative culture where every student can grow and thrive. Throughout her four years at the Kelley School, Simona has lived our brand message – “Go from Moment to Momentum.” She has created moments which have allowed our School to gain tremendous momentum, and for that we are truly grateful.”
Idalene “Idie” Kesner
Dean, Kelley School of Business
Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management
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