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Real Humans of Indiana Kelley’s MBA Class of 2024

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Erik Rowell, Kelley MBA Class of 2024

Age: 30
Hometown: Little Rock, Arkansas
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Arkansas, Walton College of Business – Accounting & Finance
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): CPA with 5.5 years’ experience in financial services performing accounting, valuation, and analyst work for Private Equity-focused investment funds.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I’ve known since I was an undergraduate business student that I had an interest in pursuing my MBA down the road. I did not, however, know when or where that would take place. I went on to spend the first three years of my career post-undergraduate education learning, absorbing, and perfecting my craft. Around the 3.5-year mark, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was the middle of Chicago winter, and the world went on lockdown. I was a few months away from turning 28 and I had yet to make decision about the future that I wanted for myself. The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was a long, reflective process for me but through the process came the clarity I needed to look forward. I set two goals for myself: obtain my CPA license and apply to business school. I naturally felt that I was ready for a career pivot soon, so I set the timeline of achieving both of these goals by my 30th birthday. After passing the CPA exams, I was confident I could take on the challenge of an MBA program, that an MBA program would provide me the career exploration I was searching for, and that I wasn’t getting any younger!

Why did you choose Indiana Kelley? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Kelley truly is a one-of-a-kind institution. Everything from the brilliant faculty and amazing career coaches to the beautiful college campus and small-town magic that Bloomington evokes were all evident to me from Day 1. However, there were two primary components that sealed the deal for me – the people and the environment. The admissions faculty specifically, as well as the now second-year MBA students, and their warmth and candor were instrumental in making me feel welcome. However, though they may not recognize quite the impact they had on my decision, I’ll praise a few select individuals. Gale Nichols, the executive director of the Full-Time MBA program, and Janice Brown, the senior associate director of financial aid & admissions, were tremendously helpful in my decision. Before I even applied, Gale and Janice were taking my Zoom calls, responding to my questions and emails, and providing guidance in the most friendly, warm, and welcoming manner. They have been with me every step of the way, and I know they are always just a phone call away. As to the environment, Bloomington is a small but magical and friendly town. It provides a slower pace of life that induces reflection and clarity. Coming from Chicago with aspirations of a career in New York City, the opportunity to take two years to learn, breathe fresh air, ground myself, and contemplate was exactly what I was looking for. Combining this with an excellent Alumni network, college sports, and an easy transition from Chicago, it was a no-brainer for me. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
My most differentiating and valuable contribution would definitely be my contagious energy and spirit. I have an altruistic passion for developing my peers and helping them succeed alongside my own ambitions. Besides getting through Core, a large focus of my first year as an MBA student is to develop and nourish relationships with my classmates and be a resource to them in any way that I can. Coming from an undergraduate business program with several years working in financial services, I have a wealth of knowledge to provide. As I look forward to my second year, I hope to obtain leadership positions where I can continue to serve my peers, invest in our program, and improve the experience for future Kelleys!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I was named after two famous Viking warriors. My first name Erik came from the Viking Erik the Red, and my middle name Egil came from the Viking Egil Skallagrímsson.

Post-MBA career interests:
Investment Banking – I am thrilled to have already accepted an offer within investment banking. I will be joining Credit Suisse in New York next summer. 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Network with the admissions committees and faculty at your target schools relentlessly!

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
Be kind to yourself. Give the due time and attention to every step in the process but don’t forget to give yourself grace. Every component of the application provides value and means something but none of it is more important than your physical and mental health. It’s a long and daunting process but it’s only the beginning. So don’t forget to breathe and find ways to hit the reset button throughout the process.   

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Writing the application essays! It was a long, antagonizing process getting every single word right and every thought properly formulated.  

What is your initial impression of the Indiana Kelley students/culture/community?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well Kelley balances such a tight-knit community and warm environment with the rigor of a world-renowned academic institution. 

What is one thing you have learned about Indiana Kelley that has surprised you?
Everyone is extremely smart! I knew I was attending an excellent academic institution. I knew I would have amazing people as classmates. I had no idea HOW diverse, intelligent, and inspiring everyone would be. We’re a small but tight-knit community, and I am inspired every single day that I walk into Kelley.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Getting everything done, successfully. The program is designed to challenge you and push you beyond your limits so I’m a bit anxious about living up to the expectations I’ve set for myself. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m most excited about having 127 new best friends and IU basketball!

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.