2017 Best EMBAs: Killjan “Kill” Anderson, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Killjan “Kill” Anderson

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“A passionate, life-long learner whose best days of service are still ahead of him.”

Age: 45

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Family Members: 

Angela (Wife, since 1995 (21+ years))

Avery (son, 20 (Junior at University of Nebraska on a football scholarship)

Asia (daughter, 15 (sophomore at Lincoln Park High School)

Fun fact about yourself:All of the members of my immediate family have spent at least a quarter of their lives living overseas.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S. Management, University of Maryland University College

Where are you currently working? Executive Director, Pat Tillman Foundation

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Service to School Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Representing enlisted military members at Mendoza and helping others win admission to top tier programs through volunteer work with Service to School

I spent over 21-years on active duty and love the military deeply, but the enlisted promotion system is errantly focused on academic milestones and doesn’t pay adequate attention to the caliber of the degree program. As a result, most active duty junior enlisted and non-commissioned officers seek and attain degrees from schools based on proximity or convenience that are priced within tuition assistance guidelines.

I loved my time in the Air Force and enjoyed a long and successful career, but was not positioned for success, in terms of education, for the next chapter upon retirement.

Enlisted military members need to think big and more importantly beyond their time in the service — they belong in our nation’s best colleges and universities.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Deploying in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM as a Police Transition Team Chief and being entrusted to lead young men and women into direct combat operations during the 2007 “Surge.”  Nothing will ever come close, period.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Chris Stevens was very inspirational. I found his Change Management course very refreshing and I appreciated his focus on taking care of people. Lots of ways to measure success beyond the bottom line!

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I wanted to target a top tier b-school and Notre Dame’s Executive MBA schedule worked well for me. I live less than three miles from campus and my organization allowed me to step away for class every other Friday.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My daughter is a sophomore in Lincoln Park High School’s busy International Baccalaureate program…. she became my homework buddy! Several nights a week, we would head up to our neighborhood Starbucks. Granted, we both had head phones in and didn’t talk much, but we both looked forward to the time together. Sometime my wife would join us too!

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program?  Before you begin the admission process, take time to reflect on what has gotten you here and more importantly, where you want to go. In my opinion, Notre Dame is entrusting you with a slot in its esteemed program, so you’ll need to go out of your way to help the admission team understand why you are a smart investment. It’s fair for the university to expect you to make an impact well beyond the classroom.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “I’m too busy.” What a cop out! We are all busy, but must make a decision on how we choose to spend our time.  There are ALWAYS efficiencies in our schedules. In my case, it basically amounted to less sleep…I went to bed a little later than usual and got up super early on the weekends to complete readings, assignments, etc. You cannot expect to get ahead personally or professionally by not being willing to “find the time” to challenge yourself and push limits.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I had a really tough stretch towards the end of the first progression because I allowed myself to coast a bit after midterms. Fortunately, I recovered, but it took a huge volume of effort to get ready for finals. In a way, I’m actually glad I built up that scar tissue early, it resulted in me being a much more disciplined student throughout the remainder of the program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ammar Bahrani, bar none. Ask around and my guess is that a dozen or more classmates will tell you the same.

We met on day #1 during the South Bend residency and really hit it off; we’ve found time to bring our families together outside of the classroom and I have zero doubt that we will be lifelong friends.

For starters, his family’s story is an incredible journey. Beyond that, he’s wicked smart and blessed with a dynamic personality and demeanor. I particularly admire his thoughtfulness.  He’s captured the earned trust that many pursue yet never attain by sharing his knowledge and expertise, setting up study sessions to help others. Despite the busy tempo, I’d get a periodic, unsolicited text from him, simply checking-in to see how I was doing — he’s helped me get up to speed on more than one occasion!

I’d argue that he should be the one the school targets for this nomination. He represents the very best of our cohort!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I retired from the Air Force and began working strategic partnerships for the Pat Tillman Foundation; I quickly noticed the great majority of senior executives I was meeting with possessed advanced degrees from top tier institutions.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in a classroom somewhere, pursuing a degree in something (maybe law school)—I was feeling the itch to get back in the classroom.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? Starbucks and the Schultz Family Foundation. Namely, I admire the company’s College Achievement Plan and “Onward Veteran” and “Onward Youth” initiatives. Further, I admire Howard Schultz for weighing-in during very tumultuous times, adopting a clear company position concerning healthcare, immigration, and other politically-charged issues. Regardless of your political affiliation, that’s leadership and more importantly, action!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’m in my dream job.  We’ll be “empty nesters” in about two years and my wife and I would love to eventually be “snow birds.”  It’d be great to spend the summers at our headquarters in Chicago and the winter months working out of our Tempe, AZ office.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife. We approached this MBA much like a military deployment. Understanding there would be a lot of demands on my time, she reverted to her military spouse days and basically made preparations to take care of everything.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a solid dude that will be there if you call, regardless of the hour.

Favorite book: Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Favorite movie or television show: Notre Dame’s Panopto viewer for archived class lectures… I’m afraid I’ not watching much TV these days.

Favorite Movie: Good Will Hunting

Favorite musical performer: Robert Glasper Experiment

Favorite vacation spot: Barcelona, Spain

What made Killjan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“I first met “Kill” while delivering the “Change Management” curriculum in Fall of 2016, he excelled during all phases of the course.  Further, his unique experience as a senior enlisted advisor in United States Air Force coupled with his perspective as a leader of a prominent national veteran service organization enriched classroom discussions and the learning experience for everyone.  At Notre Dame, we “ask more of business” and I’m certain Kill will “continue to serve” as a dedicated professional and committed ambassador for the program long beyond his time at Mendoza.”

Christopher Stevens
Adjunct Assistant Teaching Professor
University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business