LDS MBAs gather in Chicago

By Westin Hatch

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 25 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Conference attendees line up for a picture at the closing banquet with the downtown Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Westin Hatch, Kellogg School of Management

CHICAGO — Faith can be a taboo topic in professional settings, but it was front and center at the 2014 LDS MBA Conference.

In its fourth annual incarnation, the LDS MBA Conference was hosted at the Kellogg School of Management’s downtown Chicago campus April 11-12. Twenty MBA programs were represented, including the IE Business School in Spain and HEC in France.

To kick off the conference on Friday night, Gary Crittenden, former CFO of American Express and now managing parter at HGGC, shared five points in a keynote address.

One of those points concerned exercise. Crittenden told a story of how he gained 50 pounds in his first year after MBA school and was bluntly told by his boss that he had become “fat.” From that day forward, he made a commitment to go running every day of the week except Sunday.

Conference attendee Josh Porter then stood and explained that while he was in undergraduate school, he had heard Crittenden share this same story. Porter had made the same commitment to exercise daily and lost 100 pounds.

“I'm healthier than I've ever been through maintaining a regular exercise routine and eating right.” Porter said.

Porter, an MBA graduate from Arizona State University, has attended each of the four LDS MBA conferences — and for good reason. In the second year of the conference, Porter met his future wife, Carly, an MBA graduate from BYU.

“I guess you could say attending the conference is a family tradition," he said. "We like to say the conference provided the ultimate networking contact for us."

The Saturday sessions began with a keynote address by Whitney Johnson, co-founder with Clayton Christensen of Rose Park Advisors. Johnson showed an S-curve graph that represented the innovation life cycle and suggested seven principles that enable disruption in a career.

Panels on entrepreneurship, balancing a career and family and navigating career transitions were held throughout Saturday. The Saturday sessions closed with a keynote address by David Ulrich, a professor from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Ulrich asked each attendee to write down what he or she wants in life. He then asked a few attendees to read what they wrote and challenged them to be more realistic and well-rounded in their goals.

During some free time before the Saturday night banquet, attendees walked down the Magnificent Mile, along the Chicago River and around Millennium Park to see the famous Chicago Bean.

The opening keynote address was held in Lincoln Hall at the Northwestern Law School. This hall is modeled after the British House of Commons and was used as the classroom set for the film "Legally Blonde." The conference’s closing banquet was held in the ballroom of the Wyndham Grand, the same location where Bruce Wayne held a fundraiser for Harvey Dent in "The Dark Knight."

At the close of the conference, the torch was passed from the Kellogg School to the the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to host the 2015 conference in Philadelphia.

“We are excited to host next year's conference at Wharton and hope to continue this great tradition," said Anthony Hardy, the 2015 conference lead. "Our goal for next year's conference is to strengthen the faith, business acumen and network of all those who attend.”

Westin Hatch attends Northwestern University and is working toward an MBA degree from the Kellogg School of Management and an MEM degree from the McCormick School of Engineering.

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