Fostering Connection: Inside Kellogg’s Pre-MBA “Culture Camp”
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management hosted an online pilot version of its Culture Camp program in July 2021, with the goal of fostering a meaningful connection between domestic and international students before they begin their MBA. It was a success, so much so that the Kellogg School administration decided to try a live version once it became logistically possible.
This year, with coronavirus travel restrictions easing, Kellogg’s Global Experience team ran Culture Camp as an in-person weekend boot camp. Forty-three students representing 15 nationalities participated in the three-day program in August.
“Students have understood how possible it is to create rich connections, as long as they are willing to step out of their comfort zone and do it intentionally,” says Gabrielle Viard, deputy director of the MBA exchange program. at Kellogg’s.
“YOU ARE A BETTER HUMAN WHEN YOU ARE AWARE OF OTHERS’ DIFFERENCES”
“It’s better to make mistakes here in an open educational environment rather than when there’s more at stake,” says Deborah Kraus, manager of Kellogg Culture Camp and senior director of global programs at the school.
Kraus realized that Kellogg needed a way to not only integrate international students into the Kellogg MBA, but also to prepare their domestic colleagues in intentional and thoughtful ways to engage with their international peers. International students make up a large portion of Kellogg’s population: Although statistics for this year’s class have yet to be released, 36% of the class of 2023 were from outside the United States.
Kraus believes the mix of international and domestic students in the culture camp provides a way to gain new perspectives – a key skill for becoming successful global leaders.
“You’re a better human when you’re aware of each other’s differences,” Kraus says. “Furthermore, it’s essential for business success; it is impossible that you do not engage with people from other cultures in your career. And we want to help students be really good at it.
This year’s cultural camp students came from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, India, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Russia , Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States, the latter representing a quarter of the participation.
Zachary Prinz is one such domestic student. He grew up in suburban Chicago and joined the camp to “broaden his horizons”.
“I’ve only ever lived in the United States,” he says. “At Kellogg, I don’t just want to stay with people who look like me. I want to make sure I have a diverse group of friends and a diverse background.
“It’s very human to enter into a big and new experience to find people who look like you, who speak like you or who come from the same background,” adds Viard. “It’s not a judgment; we all do. But it’s a rewarding experience to break out of that norm and build relationships in different contexts and across cultures.