2017

Stories related to "Alumni."

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Meet the Dean

Incoming dean Madhav V. Rajan shares his personal story and lays out his vision for Chicago Booth’s future—including the critical role that Booth’s global alumni network plays in building on the school’s successes. Chicago Booth Magazine: You’ve called yourself a “lifelong learner.” Can you take us back and share an anecdote about a moment in your childhood or school years that sparked your interest in business and/or academia? How can Booth instill a similar love for learning in future generations? Dean Rajan: Steve Jobs famously noted that you can only connect the dots looking backward, and that is certainly true in my case. I did not think through or plan out my career. My decision to study business for my undergraduate degree was based purely on the fact that my older brothers were engineers and I wanted to learn something different. I then moved to pursue a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University, for the simple reason that my father worked in Pittsburgh. I did well in my first-year courses and was approached by a faculty member, who asked whether I had considered doing a PhD. I had not, but he persuaded me by noting that I would get paid to study, which seemed an amazing concept! This particular professor was in accounting, and that’s how I ended up in that field. However, Carnegie was unique in not having an economics department separate from the business school. Every student in accounting, economics, and finance did virtually the same coursework. Looking back, I have benefited immensely from the breadth of study and interdisciplinary training I received at Carnegie. Even then I wasn’t sure I would become an academic. Many of my PhD friends ended up in consulting, and I always thought the same would happen to me. But I liked academic research and teaching and was successful at it, so when I got a job offer from Wharton, it was an opportunity to keep going. Coming to Booth, I am firmly of the view that the school should support lifelong learning for its alumni. Two years ago, the school launched Back to Booth, which are short, nondegree classes for alumni. These courses provide opportunities to relive the Booth classroom experience with fellow alumni, and to learn about the latest ideas from faculty across the school. I cannot imagine a better way for alumni to keep connected with the school and to continue to learn from our great instructors and the latest ideas they are working on.

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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/>

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The Book of Booth: Sinuhe Arroyo, ’11 (EXP-16)

Armed with a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Innsbruck, Taiger founder and CEO Sinuhe Arroyo, ’11 (EXP-16), came to Booth to hone his vision of building a global AI business. The result: a company that has offices in five countries and is becoming a global leader in cognitive automation for the financial sector. CBM: What was the genesis of your idea for Taiger? Arroyo: After completing my PhD and my first acquisition, I realized that I wanted to build my own business and play to my strengths. I took some of the research that I had been doing during my PhD and started building a product. In that sense, we are a textbook case of technology transfer from academia to business. Because I had a strong academic background, the transition to run a business was not necessarily easy. However, the Executive MBA Program helped me put the pieces of the puzzle together. You start realizing how you can assemble the business, and everything starts to make sense. You think, “Why is this not working? Why is this like that? Boom, that’s why it’s not working.” And then it just flows. That’s a beautiful feeling. CBM: How did the Executive MBA Program help you acquire new customers? Arroyo: It boils down to building trust and negotiating. I am constantly negotiating with customers, providers, employees, partners, and investors. Professor Lars Stole set the foundations for me to understand and think in pure economic terms with his Microeconomics class. Also, I really enjoyed my Negotiations class with professor Ayelet Fishbach, where all those concepts from Micro come to life. It was very beneficial to understand the different approaches and mechanisms you can use to negotiate. <br/>

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At Home, Abroad

Kendra Mirasol, ’93, had one major goal while growing up in Janesville, Wisconsin. “I remember always wanting to get out,” she said. She studied German in high school and moved across country for college at the University of California, Irvine. During college, Mirasol worked in a hotel in Lindenberg, a small Bavarian mountain town. “They spoke zero English,” she says. “It was so fantastic for exposure learning. You had to sink or swim.” After graduation, in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall fell, Mirasol lived in Kranichfeld, East Germany. She stayed with a pen pal whose family struggled to get by under Communist rule. “They were basket weavers—they got paid $1 per basket.” While attempting to leave the country, she was interrogated at the border for three hours because she forgot to file the correct paperwork at the police station. <br/>“Those are exciting experiences,” said Mirasol, now president of IOR Global Services, a global mobility and talent development solutions company. Without work- and study-abroad programs, she said, “My life would be so boring.” Mirasol came to Chicago Booth to supplement her German literature and language background with business acumen. She was able to maintain a global perspective during her interactions with international students. Mirasol could tell that a good friend of hers from Japan struggled to adapt to the direct, unfiltered mode of classroom discussion favored by some American classmates. “It was so difficult for him to even contribute one idea,” she recalled. “He was probably the smartest man in the school, and when I saw that happening, I felt I had a responsibility to facilitate.” These types of cross-cultural support are needed every day, around the world, on a personal level, and in boardrooms. In April 2016, Mirasol’s passion for international exchange—and for the broader benefits of a global economy—motivated her to accept a volunteer role on the board of directors at the nonprofit Cultural Vistas. <br/>

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Building on Big Ideas

Though you might not realize it, you’ve likely encountered USG Corporation’s landmark product recently, maybe even today. In fact, it may very well be in the room where you’re sitting right now. That’s because the company’s drywall, flooring, ceiling, and roofing products are part of countless homes and buildings. As the creator of the iconic and ubiquitous Sheetrock brand of wallboard, Chicago-based USG has led the building-materials industry for more than 116 years, with a storied history of innovation and sales of $3.2 billion last year. It made panels for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It helped build homes for American GIs returning from World War II. And in November 2016, Jennifer Scanlon, ’92, became the first female CEO in the company’s history. “We are a transformed company,” Scanlon said, just days before leading USG’s first-ever Investor Day in New York City. “That transformation came in a number of ways—interestingly, from a lot of the initiatives that I led prior to becoming CEO.” A Chicago-area native, Scanlon joined USG in 2003 after studying government and computer applications at the University of Notre Dame and holding roles at IBM and in operations consulting. In recent years, she has made USG more global and more responsive to its customers. She was named president of the international division in 2010, when it included only Canada, Mexico, Europe, and a small operation in Asia. She went on to lead the divestiture of the European business, and then assembled an Asian joint venture called USG Boral, with $1.2 billion of revenue in 2017.

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Improving Your Outlook

Randy Bellows, ’88 (XP-57), has been attending Economic Outlook for a decade. Established in 1954 as Business Forecast, Chicago Booth’s annual event provides a forum for professors to evaluate emerging trends and share key insights about where our economy is headed. Having retired after a long career as an ophthalmologist, Bellows is an avid investor, and he considers the event one of his most important resources for information—which was his motivation to attend both the Chicago and New York events last January. “Booth faculty are a step ahead of the ordinary media,” said Bellows. “These people are leaders whom I respect, and when I have the privilege of sitting in front of them and hearing what they have to say, it’s valuable enough that I sit there, take notes, and look at those notes all year long.” At the two sessions, with over 1,300 total attendees, leading Booth economists discussed critical issues facing the global economy. They shared their insights into the outlook for Wall Street and Main Street 10 years after the financial crisis, and discussed whether we might be headed toward another. The events were covered by a number of media outlets, including CNBC, Financial Advisor, and the Chicago Tribune. During the event in New York, John Authers, senior investment commentator for the Financial Times, moderated a discussion between Randall S. Kroszner, Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics; and Erik Hurst, V. Duane Rath Professor of Economics and John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow. Both economists said they anticipate strong growth this year, and neither believe there to be a threat of inflation or recession on the immediate horizon.<br/>

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This is Working for Me: Sandra Stark, ’95

Fifteen years ago, Sandra Stark, ’95, went west to Seattle to Starbucks Coffee Company, where she worked with three others in new ventures, a group that behaved like a VC firm: buying Tazo Tea, introducing the Starbucks Card, and looking for other growth opportunities. She wasn’t managing a huge slice of the company’s total $22.4 billion business, as she does these days as a senior vice president managing the global product organization, but it gave her a first glimpse of the fast-growing company’s equitable culture. It’s this culture, she says, that informs “what we do and how we treat people—farmers, suppliers, partners in stores, customers—along the way. It permeates everything we do, it sets the tone, and it helps answer many, many questions. It’s our true north and it’s why I’ve been here 15 years.” A native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and mother of three tweens, Stark recharges with her kids: skiing and playing tennis and basketball. “I have everything I could wish for in my life. Every single day I think, ‘I am so lucky to have this job.’” Coffee is the heart and soul of our business. Product is my responsibility: beverages, food, merchandise. It starts with coffee and expands from there. What’s the strategy? What’s the right portfolio? What’s the innovation? How are we staying ahead? Currently new to the mix are our Blonde Espresso, made with lightly roasted beans; nitrogen-infused cold brew, which is less acidic and richer tasting; and Teavana Tea Infusions. With merchandise, we’re thinking, what do our customers need to create the right coffee experience at home?

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A Toast to Data-Driven Marketing

We had just 48 hours. None of us got much sleep. It was 2015, and I was part of a team of Booth students tasked with digging into Kraft consumer data to come up with an actionable solution to a real marketing problem—revitalizing its beloved Capri Sun juice drink. It was a crash course in real-life brand management. Participating in that Kilts Center Marketing Analytics Case Competition emerged as a standout experience for me at Booth. I found this experience so valuable that I wanted to pay it forward after I graduated. When I heard Kilts was looking for new case competition sponsors, I rallied my fellow brand managers at MillerCoors to participate. People were at first a little wary and were unsure about what we would get out of it. Though the investment in terms of cost was minimal, this would require time from our CMO, our vice president of innovation, and other team members. But I knew how to sell this—especially because I had been a participant myself. Even though I had never organized anything like this before, I was confident the partnership would be equally valuable to Booth students and MillerCoors. Students would get a crack at exploring real data-driven marketing. For MillerCoors, it would be a recruiting opportunity as well as a way to bring fresh ideas to a difficult marketing problem. It turns out we had a pretty big one: we had to figure out how to market a new beer brand to an audience that’s trending toward wine and spirits.

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This Is Working for Me: Martin Nesbitt, ’89

Entrepreneur and civic leader Martin Nesbitt, ’89, is five years into his latest co-venture, Chicago-based Vistria Group, a $1.7 billion private equity firm that invests at the intersection of public and private sectors in healthcare, education, and financial services. Before that, he was CEO and cofounder of the Parking Spot, the first nationally branded airport parking company, which has grown into a business worth more than $1 billion. The public good is always on his plate: he was recently named to the transition team for newly elected Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker; he’s chairman of the Obama Foundation; and he served on the board of the Chicago Housing Authority. Dubbed “the first friend,” Nesbitt raised funds and weathered the campaign trail from the very beginning of former president Barack Obama’s political career. Said Nesbitt: “Going to the White House never got old: it was awe-inspiring every time.” According to Nesbitt: "The one thing I bring to business and civics: 'It’s not about me.' It’s about the capacity to put the interests of others (the institution, the company, and the people) ahead of my own. People empower you with leadership opportunities when they trust that you have their best interest in mind. That’s what leads to success, and it’s one of the fundamentals of Vistria, the firm I started with my partner, Kip Kirkpatrick. We thought to ourselves, 'What if we started a firm that’s not about us? What if it’s about Us—our partners, our investors, our portfolio of companies, and their employees?' We thought there was a value proposition at the intersection of private and public interest, in doing the right thing for the broader community. For example, we bought an online high-school completion program for adults. There’s a skills gap in this country—we have people who are undereducated and undertrained. Our investment serves the students, the corporate community, and our broader society. That company fits squarely into Vistria’s mission."