01 July 2022 11:35:38 IST

More Indian students join the Kellogg club

Kellogg Dean Francessa Cornelli | Photo Credit: Jason Brown

Francesca Cornelli took over as the Dean of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in September 2019. Previously, she was a professor of finance and deputy dean at London Business School. From 56 students in 2019 to 103 students in 2022, Kellogg is seeing a major uptick in the number of Indian students joining the B-school.

There are close to 444 Kellogg alumni in India such as Roshni Nadar, Chairperson, HCL Technologies; Vinita Gupta, CEO, Lupin; Anant Goenka, MD, CEAT; and Vijay Sankar, Chairman, Chemplast Sanmar. In an interview with BL on Campus, Cornelli discussed Kellogg’s long-standing partnership with India, why Indian students are flocking to Kellogg, and the post-Covid revamp of management education. Excerpts:

What is Kellogg’s India interest?
We have a long tradition with India. Kellogg’s visionary Dean Donald Jacobs came to India a lot. We have a partnership with the Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad, where our faculty come and teach.
I am an Italian and I worked in London before, so I definitely have a global and international background. To me, the global aspect is very important. Kellogg needs to be a top global B-school. Engaging with alumni, prospective students, and global visibility is extremely important. I was planning to come to India in April 2020 but Covid happened. The minute it became possible to come, I am here.
What sort of programmes are Indian students gravitating towards?
We have a traditional two-year MBA programme. We are also one of the top B-schools in the US that has a one-year programme which is very attractive to a lot of international and Indian students. We have the MMM programme, where graduates receive an MBA from Kellogg and an MS in Design Innovation from the Segal Design Institute at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Then, this year we launched our MBAi programme, which is an MBA with a focus on artificial intelligence. It is a joint degree between Kellogg and the McCormick School of Engineering. That is new, and that has attracted a lot of attention from Indian students, not surprisingly, given they have a strong tech background.
We have always had a large number of Indian students. They are incredibly bright, super-qualified, they do very well. This year we have more students simply because they were the best of the lot.
Are you looking at building linkages with B-schools in India?  
So, we do have a long relationship with ISB. The present Dean Madan Pillutla was my former colleague in LBS. We were both deputy deans at the same time. We will maybe do something together. Executive education, exchange programmes, and others are in the talks. Not planning to do a separate standalone institution, but never say never.
How did Kellogg manage the two years of the pandemic?
The spring quarter of 2020 was entirely online. Starting from mid-July, we have always had an in-person component. Of course, because of social distancing, in-person was limited. So, we had to adopt a hybrid model. As a new Dean, it was incredibly gratifying to see the community come together to overcome this challenge.
Students expressed a strong desire to have the faculty in person. So, I sent an email in the summer of 2020 to faculty to find out if they would be willing to come in person. And 70 per cent volunteered to teach in person. Our values really shone during the pandemic.
Do you think management education also needs a substantial re-think to meet the industry demands of a post-Covid world?  
Every single company out there in the world is trying to reinvent itself and make technological innovations. This is where B-schools play a big role. For example, the new programme MBA with a focus on AI does exactly that. The focus is not on teaching students to become machine learning experts, it is more about helping companies transition into digital seamlessly.
A lot of big data analytics and machine learning projects, very often fail, not because of the science behind it, but simply because it wasn’t properly integrated into the business.
There is a view that business managers of the future will need to be a bit AI specialists and a bit data specialists. Do you think MBA will get technical going forward?
We do need people with analytical skills but we should never underestimate the human component. We can make new innovations, but how do you bring the entire workforce to embrace that? While on one end, there are more requirements for technical skills, on the other, there is also a need for soft skills to influence people and take them along. In a way, the more technical you become, the more human skills you need.