More Than a Piece of Paper
Eli Kumekpor MBA’04
Senior Manager, Strategic Development, Invitrogen
When Eli Kumekpor glances at his MBA diploma hanging in his Maryland office, he recalls the great opportunities and relationships that earning that piece of paper have offered him. But he also knows that one of the most important pieces of paper he worked on at the IU Kelley School of Business is one he left behind.
His source of pride is a small piece of paper with powerful words posted in just about all Kelley classrooms. The Code of Student Ethics outlines the expected ethical standards for the students that will fill the Kelley classrooms for years to come. It was just one of the important projects Eli headed as Student Body President of the Kelley MBA Program. But when he talks about leaving this legacy behind, he uses words like “we” and “together.”
“We wanted to leave some type of lasting legacy to better the program for future generations,” says Eli of the Code. “But it was in no way a singular effort. It was a total team effort.”
Eli's team-oriented approach as president mirrored the experiences he enjoyed in the classroom. “The classroom experience is absolutely amazing! Throughout my time at Kelley, I was learning and developing not only from the Faculty, but also from the experiences and perspectives of my peers as well. The Kelley culture focuses on fostering an environment rich in diversity of thought and backgrounds and it was one I found very collaborative and welcoming.”
While Eli thrived in the collaborative environment offered at Kelley, he also capitalized on a great opportunity to test his CEO skills as president of MBA student body.
“Let's face it. We're in business school to learn to become leaders,” explains Eli. “This was a place I could learn to hone my leadership skills. There is nothing more challenging than leading your peers. It's like being a CEO.”
Becoming a CEO is certainly not out of the question for Eli. In fact, he is well on his way thanks in part to his Kelley training. Serving as Senior Manager at Invitrogen, a global biotechnology corporation, he uses what he calls his “Kelley MBA tool kit" every day.
“Recently I was pitching recommendations to the CEO and corporate execs and they were firing questions at me on all different disciplines,” says Eli. “I had to be ready and knowledgeable to answer on all fronts, and I attribute my comfort and ability to do so in large part to my training at Kelley.”
In a position that has no “average day,” Eli says these situations are perfect opportunities to leverage all aspects of his MBA from marketing, operations, to the evaluation of financial strategies. He gives his professors, one in particular, credit for preparing him for the challenges and excitement of his career.
“Walt Blacconiere truly embodied the spirit of the Kelley faculty,” says Eli of Blacconiere who passed away in 2007. “His enthusiasm, passion, and innovative approach to teaching made the Financial Statement Analysis class (A506) one I looked forward to, in spite of the complexity of the subject matter. He really had a passion and ensured that we really understood the subject.”
The personal relationships Eli formed with the faculty and fellow classmates remain a large part of his life today even years after graduation. In fact, the close-knit community that worked as a team on campus also works together in the business world— thanks to one of the nation's most successful Alumni Associations.
“I have had the good fortune to have made some good career moves in the years since I left Kelley, and the Alumni network, which seems to be present in some form almost everywhere, has been critical to my ability to do that,” says Eli.
More than 86,000 Kelley School of Business alumni, including close to 20,000 MBA graduates, make up a network of contacts that reach far beyond the classroom. It's a network that Eli has used to navigate his career and develop great friendships.
“In addition to the stellar academic and professional benefits I derived from Kelley, I have maintained several very close friendships and bonds with some classmates from my graduating class as well as the classes before and after mine,” says Eli. “Some of these relationships have evolved into close personal friendships, while others have grown into strong professional peer mentors and my professional sounding boards to exchange perspectives on career moves and navigating the corporate ladder.”
While Eli's classmates have relocated to all parts of the globe, he fondly remembers the times shared in Bloomington. In fact, some of his favorite times were just a few steps from the classroom.
“There is always something going on at the Music School, or somewhere on campus. I was able to really pursue my interest in the arts here,” says Eli. “You can have a very balanced life while at Kelley.”
When Eli graduated and left the Bloomington campus, he carried with him photos from his weekend getaways, playbills from the local arts and friends and contacts that will be with him for years to come. He left behind a lasting legacy and a changed program with his triumphs as student body president. Years after graduation, Eli continues to be an active member of the Kelley network and is proud of the successes earned with his Kelley education. The diploma hanging in his corporate office is a testament to that. But he is perhaps just as proud of another piece of paper, the Code of Student Ethics, which hangs hundreds of miles away.