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Real Humans of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class of 2024

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Abbey Schmitt, Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class of 2024

Age: 29
Hometown: Winnetka, IL
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Dartmouth College, Economics and Anthropology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years as a financial advisor to UHNW families at JP Morgan Private Bank, 2 years as an ESG and Climate Investing Consultant at MSCI

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I’ve always loved school, and even before attending college, I had the idea of business school in my head for some point in my future.  When I was working at both JP Morgan Private Bank and MSCI, many of my successful senior colleagues who I admired had MBAs, which further drove me to look into business school.  

When I was at JP Morgan Private Bank, I became really passionate about sustainable investing.  I proactively educated myself and partnered with the bank’s sustainability team to educate both financial advisors and clients on what sustainable investing means and how they could incorporate it into investment portfolios.  I originally wanted to get an MBA after 5 years at JP Morgan to pivot more fully into the sustainable investing world.  However, I thought it would be a good idea to first try it prior to business school to see if I liked it and further ponder if I wanted to invest in an MBA. So, before coming to Kellogg, I left JP Morgan and joined MSCI, where I could focus on ESG, climate, and impact investing full-time. In my role at MSCI, I consulted with asset and wealth managers on how to integrate MSCI’s ESG Ratings, carbon footprinting and climate scenario analysis, Sustainable Development Goal and impact alignment, SFDR and EU Taxonomy data into their investment strategy creation and investment portfolio reporting.  

I loved being immersed in the sustainable investing world at MSCI, but I wanted to explore various roles and functions in the space, so I decided to come to Kellogg for that exploration.  Specifically, I wanted to try venture capital, where I could be more directly involved with investing in innovative companies and entrepreneurs.  I also wanted to get experience in business strategy and operations since my work experience to date had primarily been in finance.  I thought Kellogg would be a perfect place to do this exploration while adding to my business skills toolkit to give me longer-term career options.  

Alongside investing, I have always had a passion for food, and particularly where food, sustainability, and health intersect. In New York, I got involved with Rethink Food, a non-profit fighting food insecurity by turning food waste into healthy meals for those in need, and I was inspired to try to add food to my career as well.  I thought business school would be a good forum in which to do that. 

Lastly, after a few years of being relatively isolated during Covid, I wanted the chance to meet a lot of new, interesting people in an in-person setting and enjoy building new relationships, which Kellogg was perfect for.

Why did you choose Kellogg? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
First, I loved the well-rounded students I spoke with who were both committed to academics and their careers but also had interesting extracurricular passions and hobbies and enjoyed being social.  I felt that Kellogg attracted well-rounded students who formed a tight-knit student community.  The Kellogg environment and students felt similar to my undergraduate experience at Dartmouth, and I wanted to recreate that for myself in business school. Also, I loved that Kellogg starts off the school year with KWEST trips (trips led by 2nd years to a domestic or international location with 20 or so of your incoming first-year classmates). These trips help you bond and exemplify the type of social environment at Kellogg. 

Second, I was attracted to the experiential classes Kellogg offered. I knew I wanted to explore several different roles and functions in business school, and Kellogg’s 2-year MBA program offers the summer internship as well as in-quarter opportunities to intern at a company for class credit.  For example, this winter, I am participating in the Venture Lab class where I have the chance to intern at Bluestein Ventures, a Chicago venture capital firm investing in the future of food.  I’ll go into their office twice a week to work with the team, which I am looking forward to! Separate from Venture Lab, I was also selected to Kellogg’s MBA Impact Investing Network and Training Program (MIINT) team, where I am working with a team of five incredible Kellogg students to source an early-stage startup creating a meaningful environmental or social impact, diligence that startup, and pitch it to a panel of top venture capitalists this spring for a chance to win funding for the startup.  In addition to experiential venture capital courses, I am also looking forward to taking Growth Strategy Practicum (where I can get experience working on a real project with a growth-stage company), Asset Management Lab (where I can work on real projects with a partner asset management firm), and Venture Lab Startup Version (where I can intern with a startup for class credit).  The ability to try out these real-life experiences across new job functions in a risk-free way is a big reason I chose Kellogg.

Third, I knew Kellogg had great offerings where I could explore my interests in sustainability, health, and food. Chicago itself is a food hub, with a lot of consumer-packaged goods companies, agriculture companies, and innovative food startups in the city.  I was attracted to Kellogg’s Energy and Sustainability Pathway, which offered classes to boost my sustainability acumen, along with the opportunity to take classes at The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN)- for example, classes on the future of food, carbon removal, and electric vehicles.  I had debated getting an environmental master’s or dual environment-MBA degree, but ultimately I thought that getting an MBA would take me farther in the business world and develop my leadership skills to promote me to a leadership position where I could drive meaningful change.  

Lastly, being close to Chicago was attractive.  I am originally from the Chicago suburbs but have been on the East Coast for the past 11 years (4 in New Hampshire at Dartmouth, and 7 in New York City), so I wanted to come back and live closer to family.  I loved my years in New York City, but I wanted a change of scenery, and the city of Chicago is attractive to me as a place where I might want to live next.  

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
It’s still early in my time at Kellogg, but I plan to meaningfully contribute to Kellogg’s Energy and Sustainability and Food and Agribusiness clubs I am currently a first-year director for!  I’m particularly passionate about the intersection of food, health, and sustainability, so I plan to help with cross-club partnerships in this area.  I also want to help solidify Kellogg as a school that is focused on sustainability and impact alongside the business agenda.  

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I’m an athlete and an artist.  I played basketball in college and paint large-scale, colorful acrylic paintings in my free time.  Check out my painting Instagram @abbeyschmittdesigns! 

Post-MBA career interests:
Venture capital, impact/sustainable investing at an asset manager or family office, sustainability strategy.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Talk to current business school students who are pursuing careers and are in clubs that interest you.  See which students and schools you vibe with most and which schools have the resources best suited to your goals.  These conversations are also very helpful in learning how to shape and tailor your essays and applications to each school.  Also, pursue any scholarships you can and shoot for the stars when writing any scholarship essays! 

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
If Covid had not happened, I think I would have preferred to go to business school a few years earlier.  However, I value having 7 years of work experience as I’m more sure of what I do and don’t want to do career-wise and am more sure of who I am as a person.  

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Studying for the GMAT. Target Test Prep was an amazing resource for the GMAT and also had great essay guidance.

What is your initial impression of the Kellogg students/culture/community?
Well-rounded, fun, driven, community-focused, always willing to help out, puts people first.

What is one thing you have learned about Kellogg that has surprised you?
Kellogg is a great place for significant others (or what they call Joint Ventures). JVs can join clubs, audit classes, participate in Kellogg trips and really get involved with the Kellogg community if they choose to do so.  

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Time management has been tough- I didn’t realize quite how busy I would be in the first quarter of my first year between classes, club leadership and events, extracurricular case competitions, social events, and hosting small group dinners!  (Small group dinners are a big Kellogg tradition to get to know a small group of students better, and I love to cook and host people, so I’m heavily involved in the small group dinner scene!)

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Getting to know all of my amazing classmates better. Sometimes it can feel like Kellogg is very big, especially with the larger social events that happen every week. I’m excited for continued large events (like the Kellogg ski trip in December!) but even more so to get to know my classmates on a deeper level in smaller gatherings.

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.