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How to Live a Good Life Takes Center Stage During Kellogg Orientation

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Before diving into the fray of finance, accounting, operations and marketing, every incoming first-year student at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management first spent an afternoon grappling with the question of how to live a good life.

“What do I value?” “How do I find my personal mission?” “How do I create an action plan to live a life consistent with this mission?” These considerations—not how to cut costs, gain market share or increase profits—were part of a new element introduced this year during Kellogg’s Complete Immersion in Management (CIM) Week, the stretch of days before classes start when incoming students meet each other and the school for the first time.

Coined the “Good Life Afternoon,” this newest element of Kellogg’s orientation grew out of a student-led initiative launched last spring called the “Good Life Sessions.” The brainchild of Kellogg students Rohan Rajiv (’16 Kellogg) and Lexie Smith (’15 Kellogg), last year’s series of workshops and this year’s orientation exercise were both designed to help students create a game plan for leading fulfilling, balanced lives in tandem with successful careers.


Good Life
Good Life Series co-organizer Rohan Rajiv ’16 Kellogg)

“This is stuff that I believe is incredibly important and if we don’t get right there is almost no point in getting all the other things right,” Rajiv explains. A self-professed “work/life balance geek,” Rajiv spent much of his 20s thinking about and researching happiness and balance, including maintaining a personal blog called “A Learning a Day,” where he shares his thoughts on the topic.

Smith, not so much. “Pretty much all throughout my 20s I was in some really fantastic jobs, but they were incredibly challenging and I was working really long hours—80 to 90 hours a week and traveling a lot,” she says. She spent a few years after college in a financial management program at GE that involved rotating departments every six months. She went into private equity after that, the first woman ever hired by her firm. “It was a really interesting experience for me, but it meant that I didn’t make time for anything else.”

The two met when Rajiv visited Kellogg for an admitted students’ weekend and immediately hit it off, so much so that Rajiv signed up for a KWEST trip Smith was leading in the Galapagos Islands before school started last fall. It was on that trip that the idea for the Good Life Sessions began to take hold.

“I loved his energy,” Smith recalls of meeting Rajiv. “I loved how balanced and settled he seemed when I talked to him.” Both came from low-income homes and were raised by single parents, albeit in different parts of the world. (Rajiv grew up in India and went to school in Singapore, whereas Smith’s childhood included stints in Florida, Texas, Illinois, Virginia and Ohio as her mom did everything from loading UPS trucks in the morning to waitressing at night to provide for her and her two brothers.)

“He spent most of his 20s studying how to have a better life,” says Smith, who Rajiv says has become like a big sister to him. “I was so attracted to that about him, and I was really craving to figure it out for myself but was still very much struggling to do so.”

“We came to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t the only crazy person at Kellogg, and maybe there were a few other people out there who would like to learn how to live a better life as well,” she says.

In consultation with Kellogg Clinical Associate Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Carter Cast (MBA ’92)—who led marketing at PepsiCo and Blue Nile before serving as CEO of—Rajiv and Smith put together an outline for what the Good Life Sessions would look like and recruited three additional faculty members to take part, Clinical Professor of Strategy Harry Kraemer ’79, Adjunct Lecturer of Leadership Coaching Kevin Murnane and Clinical Assistant Professor of Leadership and Director of MBA Leadership Development Paul Corona.