By Craig Davis
I did not know what to expect from Kelley Connect Week. I knew I had signed up for the #1 onlineMBA program in the country and that “orientation” weeks at top-tier MBA programs were not meant to be easy. So as I sat, perhaps a bit apprehensive, in our first session on Saturday evening within a room full of very professional looking individuals I wasn’t sure how to interpret Professor and Faculty Chair Phil Powell’s statement “You will not be the same people when you leave next week as you are today”. Reflecting back, I can say that his statement was entirely true. The Kelley School of Business’s impeccable approach to Kelley Connect Week (KCW) transformed me by generating connections that I truly value and creating an immediate and positive impact on my job performance.
Putting the Connect in Kelley Connect Week
I had many great experiences during KCW, but one of the most important to me was the opportunity to make connections with my classmates. The diversity of the cohort was incredible. I found individuals that I shared something in common with (such as a love of Purdue basketball - I won’t share names to protect identities) which made me feel comfortable and at home at IU. I also met individuals who provided different perspectives than my own such as those who attempted to explain how all the components of a plane “talk” to each other (that conversation flew over my head just like the planes they were talking about). This diversity made this a great learning experience and made us comfortable in a new environment.
Some connections were especially impactful, namely those I made with my case competition team (Ameya Kokje, Lauren Meyer, Andy Schwerha, Ryan Young). What an amazing group of individuals that were representative of the spirit of KCW in both diversity of background and passion for learning. From a project standpoint, we learned from each other’s experiences, helped correct each other when we headed down the wrong path, and ultimately produced a great product. From a personal perspective we became friends. Even after working countless hours in one room that started to resemble an episode of Hoarders, we took time to socialize and learn about one another. That time was invaluable to our cohesiveness as a team. We learned about upcoming weddings, met significant others, learned about each others’ jobs (who knew that if your beer smells like bananas, it’s German yeast?), and saw pictures from military flight training exercises. I believe that these are not the “hey we hung out one week” kind of friends. They are the kind of friends that I hope to maintain long beyond our MBA studies. I am grateful to my team for the KCW experience I had because it would not have been the same without them.
Connect Week Makes Immediate Impact On the Job
KCW not only allowed me to gain great connections, it also had an immediate impact on my job. On the Monday morning I returned from KCW, my boss handed me a presentation I had not seen before and said, “You are presenting this to our Executive Vice President and his direct reports in two hours. Be ready.” I’ve been through this fire drill before, but I am fairly new in this position and had not yet become comfortable speaking to that group. Frankly, my previous two presentations had been below my personal standard due to nerves. However, this time was different. During Connect Week, Kelley School faculty coaches provided our group with great feedback during our group presentations – much of it was very positive. I also received very good individual feedback on my speaking style as well as a couple of points of improvement. Cumulatively, they made me regain my confidence in my presentation skills.
Fast forward to the work meeting, and it turned out to be a bit more of “hot topic” than I had anticipated. I was able navigate the varying (and strong) opinions to confidently present the facts at hand. After the meeting, my boss indicated that I had handled the situation very well. Since that time, I have noticed that I am asked to attend such meetings more often and my participation level in these sessions has risen. KCW gave me feedback and confidence to improve my public speaking, and it is already having a positive impact on my career.
While the two items I outlined above were each enough to make Kelley Connect Week a positive experience, I could type pages upon pages about my other experiences at KCW that made it such a fantastic way to enter the program. The knowledge gained, the chance to learn from and work with excellent professors and speakers, the social experiences (Sink the Biz – Google it), and the full immersion in an intellectually stimulating environment were all so impactful that it is almost too much to put to words, let alone a brief synopsis. I can only say that Professor Powell was right; I’m not the same person. I am better for having gone through the KCW experience and I undoubtedly made the right decision by choosing to pursue my MBA through Kelley Direct.
About Craig Davis
Craig Davis works in Commercial Strategy for a Class 1 Railroad. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife and his garden. Craig received his undergrad from Texas Christian University and spent several years in the Oil and Gas industry before moving into the Transportation industry. He is a first-year student in the Kelley Direct Program where he is currently pursuing his MBA.