Chicago Booth Magazine Fall 2018


Personalities, characters, visionaries, trends, emerging ideas, industry insight, history, evolution, and more. Features explore the topics that matter most to the Chicago Booth community with memorable storytelling and insightful reporting.


The Innovator

A digital countdown clock sits atop a giant flat-screen monitor in Tyson Foods’ Innovation Lab. It reads 11 days, 0 hours, 1 minute and 14 seconds—and counting. The lab’s brain trust—led by Sally Grimes, ’97, Tyson’s group president, prepared foods—sit comfortably dispersed around the room. Today Grimes is getting the rundown on the Innovation Lab’s latest snack-food creation ¡Yappah! from her handpicked team, many of whom have colorful, self-appointed titles, such as culinary ninja and experimental brand dreamer. Grimes herself doesn’t really need a distinguishing sobriquet—she’s well-known around the halls of Tyson as not only a food innovation guru, but a key leader helping position the company for growth. She runs about $10 billion of Tyson’s $40 billion business worldwide, guides operations for 45 of the company’s 100-plus plants and facilities, and leads 20,000 team members, whom she readily admits are the backbone of the business. Despite her executive-level responsibilities, she has been intimately involved in many of the company’s biggest successes. Grimes is pleased with everything she’s hearing from the team. As promised, ¡Yappah! will be in stores within 11 days, a mere six months after the countdown clock began and the assorted flavors of the chicken-based snack now displayed before us were just an idea. <br/>


Pioneers in Education

Booth graduates eager to make an impact are finding new ways to apply their MBA—by taking on one of the toughest challenges in the United States today. A growing cadre of Booth alumni are gravitating toward the education sector and applying their business background in a variety of roles, all with the goal of making a difference in the lives of students. It’s an area that badly needs more innovation. In the United States just 59 percent of students who enter a four-year college graduate within six years, according to data from the US Department of Education. And in 2015, 46 percent of scientists rated STEM education for grades K through 12 as being below average, according to the Pew Research Center. For some alumni this less-than-stellar data offers an opportunity to take their careers to different corners of the education landscape—from nonprofit management and school leadership to consulting, investing, and edtech, to name just a few. The combination of addressing some of the nation’s most pressing problems while doing work that’s meaningful on a daily basis is a powerful draw. Meet six alumni advancing bold ideas and envisioning new solutions for the classroom and beyond.


Reconnect Revisited

Reconnect encapsulates the Booth experience: heart-warming, laughter-filled moments with old friends, classmates, professors, and staff. A recharge of the rigorous Chicago Approach in Back to the Classroom sessions with brilliant faculty—and no exams to worry about! Cutting-edge business insights at Management Conference. It’s an enriching weekend that strengthens the bonds across Booth generations. This year’s reunion welcomed more than 2,000 attendees from across the country and around the world, facilitated by enthusiastic alumni volunteers. Boothies reconnected over Chicago’s world-class cuisine at Friday night class dinners sprinkled all around the Windy City. Saturday’s homecoming, a family-friendly BBQ, brought together Booth graduates at Harper Center and on the quad. Alumni clamored to get back in touch with the Booth spirit of inquiry at Back to the Classroom sessions on topics ranging from blockchain technology with Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and Charles M. Harper Faculty Fellow Luigi Zingales, to innovation and entrepreneurship with adjunct professor of entrepreneurship Ellen A. Rudnick, ’73, and Polsky Center executive director Starr Marcello, MA ’04, MBA ’17. At Management Conference, Chicago Cubs executive chairman Tom Ricketts, AB ’88, MBA ’93, not only celebrated his 25-year Booth reunion; he also gave the conference’s keynote address—and may well have been the only Reconnect attendee with a World Series ring. <br/>


A Quantifiable Impact

Steve Czech, ’98, is a quant. That’s how he ended up in an underappreciated but lucrative corner of the alternative-investments market, lending money directly to companies who are no longer attractive to commercial banks (for regulatory or strategic reasons) and who don’t want to issue equity or mezzanine debt. Since inception, his firm Czech Asset Management, LP, based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, has managed approximately $4.5 billion of committed capital, which it loans to medium-sized companies that generate annual revenue between $75 million and $500 million and annual EBITDA of $7.5 million to $50 million. This business used to be the purview of commercial banks, which maintained long-term relationships with corporate executives. But industry consolidation and regulatory changes drove banks to push these loans off their balance sheets, creating an opportunity for Czech and a host of other Booth graduates who are his colleagues and competitors.