Fostering Connection: Inside Kellogg’s Pre-MBA ‘Culture Camp’

Attendee of Northwestern Kellogg’s Pre-MBA Culture Camp, held in person for the first time this year. The three-day August camp was designed to integrate international students into the Kellogg MBA program by introducing them to their native counterparts and to help these US students understand the diversity of cultures they will experience at the Kellogg MBA. to understand better. Photos courtesy

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management hosted an online pilot of its Culture Camp program in July 2021 with the goal of fostering a meaningful connection between local and international students before they begin their MBA studies. It was so successful that the Kellogg School board decided to attempt a live version as soon as it became logistically possible.

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This year, the Global Experience team at Kellogg’s Global Experience ran Culture Camp as an in-person weekend boot camp as coronavirus travel restrictions eased. 43 students from 15 nations took part in the three-day program in August.

“Students have taken away an understanding of how doable it is to make rich connections, as long as they are willing and willing to step out of their comfort zone,” said Gabrielle Viard, associate director of Kellogg’s MBA exchange program.


Mehak Priya: “You have to keep an open mind and really get to know the person to understand where they are from and what they are trying to say.”

“It’s far better to make mistakes here in an open, educational environment than when the stakes are higher,” says Deborah Kraus, Kellogg Culture Camp leader and the school’s senior director of global programs.

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Kraus recognized that Kellogg needed a way to not only integrate international students into the Kellogg MBA, but also prepare their native peers in conscious and thoughtful ways to connect with their international peers. Foreign students make up a large portion of Kellogg’s population: While this year’s class statistics have not yet been released, 36% of the Class of 2023 came from outside the United States

Kraus believes that bringing international and local students together at Culture Camp offers an opportunity to gain fresh perspectives – a key skill in becoming successful, global leaders.

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“You’re a better person when you’re aware of the differences,” says Kraus. “It’s also critical to business success; There is no way not to engage with people from other cultures in your career. And we want to help the students to be really good at it.”

Students at this year’s cultural camp came from Egypt, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Greece, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Russia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States, with the latter accounting for a quarter of the turnout.


Zachary Prinz is one of those local students. Growing up in suburban Chicago, he joined the camp to “broaden his horizons.”

“I’ve only ever lived in the US,” he says. “At Kellogg, I don’t just want to stick with people who look like me. I want to make sure I have a diverse group of friends and a diverse experience.”

“It’s very human when you go into a big, new experience to find people who look like you, speak like you, or have a similar background,” adds Viard. “This is not a judgement; we all do it. But it is an enriching experience to step out of that norm and build relationships in different contexts and across cultures.”

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