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Kent Hawryluk has given $3 million to his alma mater the Kellogg School of Management to create new scholarship that
Kent Hawryluk believes that Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management has the potential to become the best business school to specialize in healthcare. He’s helping it get there.
Hawryluk, a 2007 Kellogg graduate and co-founder, president, and CEO of MBX Biosciences, gifted the school $3M in February 2021 to start a new scholarship: The Hawryluk Biopharmaceutical Scholars Endowed Fund. The goal? Equip future leaders with the tools to make an impact within healthcare.
“Kellogg has a unique opportunity to be the number one business school in all facets of healthcare,” Hawryluk said. “With Kellogg’s ideal location in the Chicago area, there is potential to nurture a pipeline of talent in biopharmaceuticals and support related entrepreneurship. We’re really breaking ground in this space.”
MEET BHAVANA BALAKRISHNAN
This September, Kellogg welcomed its inaugural cohort of 11 Hawryluk scholars — including five first-year and six second-year MBA students in the healthcare pathway. The new fund builds upon the existing healthcare MBA curriculum — 6% of Kellogg MBAs went into healthcare in the Class of 2021, up from 5% in 2020 — and brings together those with a strong interest in working in the biopharmaceutical sector. Through immersive experiences like industry hubs, presentations from leaders in the field, and mentorship, the scholars get to learn from alumni and experts in healthcare management.
Kent Hawryluk believes that this fund provides an opportunity to nurture a pipeline of talent in biopharmaceuticals and entrepreneurship. By creating a community of scholars, the goal is to attract the best candidates interested in innovation in the healthcare space.So far, each scholar’s had the opportunity to have conversations with prominent members of the healthcare and pharmaceutical communities, including those with business backgrounds as well as scientists and researchers who’ve brought life-saving therapies to the market.
“We as MBA students want to be effective partners for scientists who are doing incredible work and drug discovery,” says Bhavana Balakrishnan, second-year healthcare MBA student and Hawryluk scholar. “We want to understand what they’re doing and help to bring these medications to the market.”
“The goal of this fund is to create a network within Kellogg of those interested in staying in the biopharmaceutical space,” adds Lauren Cziesla, first-year healthcare MBA student and Hawryluk scholar. “It will help us to create lasting connections for the duration of our careers.”
LONG ROAD TO KELLOGG
Balakrishnan’s interest in healthcare came from her engineering background and working first-hand in the manufacturing of life-saving therapies.
Originally from India, Balakrishnan spent time growing up in Qatar and then Singapore, where she studied chemical engineering at the National University of Singapore. During her undergraduate studies, she gained firsthand experience working in pharmaceutical engineering with GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. Upon graduation, she accepted a job as a process engineer with Novartis, where she worked for five years. There, she manufactured pills for cardiovascular and diabetes medications. “It was my job to investigate why some things went wrong and propose solutions to troubleshoot and get production going again,” she says.
After a few years as a process engineer, she was promoted to manufacturing supervisor where she oversaw shop load operations and did resource planning. In this role, she was the first point of contact for manufacturing-related questions. “The thing I loved most about this role was that it was so tangible. I was working first hand with medication and I knew that it was going directly to patients. It felt like I was making an impact,” she explains.
Eventually, Balakrishnan became interested in being less involved in the day-to-day aspects of manufacturing. Rather, she wanted to study the trends that were affecting pharmaceutical companies as a whole. “I wanted to look at the industry more holistically,” she says. “I was interested in getting my MBA so that I could better understand the business side of things.”
Upon entering the program — and becoming a Hawryluk scholar — Balakrishnan became interested in the intersection of healthcare and finance. Over the summer between her first and second year, she interned at J.P. Morgan in their healthcare investment banking team, where she worked with corporate clients across different verticals in healthcare. “I feel really strongly about being involved in the healthcare space and seeing a lot of the trends that affect it, specifically because of innovation regulation intersection with government and policy,” she says.
MEET LAUREN CZIESLA
Like Balakrishnan, Lauren Cziesla is fascinated by the leading science innovations happening in healthcare, and the potential to make an impact on people’s lives. “I love that the work you do in health care impacts the lives of patients in such a positive way, especially in the biopharmaceutical sector,” she says.
Cziesla grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, and studied chemistry at Notre Dame following high school. After her undergrad, she accepted a job with Eli Lilly, where she worked for the last five years. There, she worked in the manufacturing space as a front line support scientist. “I really got to know the day-to-day, hands-on nuances of operations in the pharmaceutical space,” she says. “Knowing that the products we were making in my previous role were literally saving people’s lives gave me a lot of meaning in my work.”
Aspiring to be a leader in a pharmaceutical or biotech company, she realized the need to sharpen her business knowledge. “I figured that Kellogg would be the perfect place to do it,” she says.
Lauren Cziesla, Hawryluk scholar: “This helps us stay current with what’s happening in the healthcare, biotech, and pharmaceutical space.”
‘THE CURRICULUM WAS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR’
When researching business schools, both Balakrishnan and Cziesla were impressed by Kellogg’s healthcare MBA pathway — a program that combines Kellogg’s signature management training with healthcare courses. Students in this program are able to develop a deeper understanding of healthcare as it relates to intersecting industries like finance, public policy, and economics. “I was amazed at not only the school’s diversity of offerings, but also the different verticals and depth of healthcare,” says Balakrishnan. “I was sure that I wanted to spend a lot of time specifically learning about pharmaceutical and medical devices, and Kellogg had classes that went into detail about these topics.”
As an international student, Balakrishnan was also interested in building an understanding of the U.S. healthcare landscape. “I wanted resources in my niche area of interest, which is what made Kellogg stand out to me,” she explains. “I knew I wanted to work in healthcare and the curriculum was exactly what I was looking for.”
For Cziesla, the ability to deepen her understanding of business while still being heavily involved in the healthcare space made Kellogg’s healthcare MBA attractive. “I think to be an effective leader, you need to have a business background,” she says. “Coming from a science background, I haven’t had exposure to the basics of finance, accounting, or marketing. There’s a ton of classes here where I’m learning from worldwide experts. I’m looking forward to learning more about how a business runs, and I think it’s an opportunity to develop my leadership skills.”
Plus, Cziesla says the experience of being surrounded by 600 people from all over the world — each with different backgrounds — was a huge draw to the school. “Learning from people who aren’t like me is an invaluable experience,” she explains.
THE HAWRYLUK EXPERIENCE
Balakrishnan says in being part of the first inaugural cohort, she’s been impressed by the faculty’s openness to the scholars’ input in designing the program. “They want it to be as beneficial as possible for us. They ask for feedback and incorporate our needs into the curriculum design. I really appreciate how involved we’ve been in having this program designed for us,” she says.
She also appreciates that this program allows the scholars to be able to have access to the Chemistry for Life Processes department, which is full of PhD students who are doing biochemistry research. “Networking with these students helps us to learn about what they’re working on and build a deeper understanding with them,” she says.
Once to twice a month, the program also brings in scientists and faculty from the broader Northwestern community to talk about their work. “This helps us stay current with what’s happening in the healthcare, biotech, and pharmaceutical space,” says Cziesla.
THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
Both Balakrishnan and Cziesla say their favorite part about being a Hawryluk scholar so far is the way the experience has helped them to build community.
“It’s nice to have this group within the broader Kellogg network who share similar interests,” explains Cziesla.
Balakrishnan says that the experience is helping to connect her to those with similar backgrounds; due to her time spent as an engineer, she worried that she’d feel out of place in business school. However, a few of her peers also have engineering backgrounds and have worked in drug development and manufacturing.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people have a similar background as me,” she says. “This experience is teaching me to leverage my background by being part of this amazing community of peers.”
THE HAWRYLUK IMPACT
Balakrishnan says that being a Hawryluk scholar has made her feel more confident in her business skills. Plus, she feels that the program showed her that healthcare — while unique in its interface with regulatory government policy — is also affected by strategy, marketing, and business analytics, just like every other industry. “Being a Hawryluk scholar has built my competency in core business skills that I didn’t have before Kellogg, but specifically with a healthcare and pharmaceutical focus. I’ve found it really useful because I’ve been able to leverage my science background a lot more and draw from other people’s backgrounds,” she says.
Cziesla loves that they get the opportunity to speak with CEOs and executives at big companies and small, biotech focused startups. She also loves that there’s a mentorship program; each scholar is matched with a mentor who’s either gone through it or is in a similar position to where the scholar wants to be. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to pay that forward to prospective students who are accepted into the program,” she says.
THE DESIRE TO CHANGE HEALTHCARE FOR THE GOOD
The Hawryluk scholars are confident that their healthcare MBA and involvement in the fund will help them to make changes in the healthcare industry. “I’m cognizant that healthcare is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and no one alone can ‘disrupt’ healthcare,” says Balakrishnan. “I would like to see, and hopefully bring, change in the perception of pharmaceutical companies. A significant portion of society distrusts pharmaceutical companies, and this can have consequences ranging from policy to acceptance of new therapies. Pharmaceutical companies should continue to build goodwill, develop competency, and prioritize transparency to gain trust.”
Cziesla believes that the combination of business and biopharmaceutical knowledge will help her to find new therapies. “I want to continue to provide treatments that haven’t been discovered yet, especially for diseases in which there may be no other options,” she says.
ADVICE FOR THOSE WANTING TO STUDY HEALTHCARE AT KELLOGG
Balakrishnan emphasizes that no matter which vertical of healthcare a prospective student is interested in, there are plenty of opportunities at Kellogg to dive deeper. “Whether you’re interested in biopharmaceuticals, private equity, or venture capital and healthcare, you’ll find people who have similar interests as you, as well as both academic and experiential learning opportunities at Kellogg,” she says.
Other resources, such as the Kellogg Business of Healthcare conference and the Healthcare Club, allow students and scholars to build a professional network and take advantage of recruiting opportunities.“If anyone is interested in healthcare — specifically at Kellogg – they’ll want to find academic and extracurricular opportunities across different verticals of healthcare that they’re focused on,” says Balakrishnan.
“My biggest piece of advice would be to network,” adds Cziesla. “Don’t be afraid to reach out. Everyone here is super willing to help each other out. We can answer any questions a prospective student might have. Personally, I’m more than willing to talk to anyone who’s interested in pursuing an MBA.”
Cziesla also recommends that prospective students know their purpose and what they want to get out of their MBA program. “Having a solid idea of why you’re here and what you want to do really helps to set your path. There are so many opportunities available — an overwhelming amount. If you know why you’re here and what your goals are, it helps you stay true to what you want to get out of it,” she says.
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