2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Jennifer Killian, Purdue University (Krannert)

Jennifer Killian

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management

“I strive to personify my values of resilience and honesty in my family, friendships, and career.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Stanwood, Michigan

Family Members: Husband, Doug; three children, Isaac (10), Quinn (8) and Gweneth (6)

Fun fact about yourself: I once memorized the number pi out to 100 decimal points for extra credit-my kids think this is so cool!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Undergraduate: University of Michigan, Bachelors in Anthropology – Zoology
  • Graduate: Michigan State University, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Where are you currently working?

  • Newaygo Veterinary Services, Newaygo, Michigan
  • Owner and Head Veterinarian

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • Continued to run regularly and completed the Bayshore Marathon in May of 2019.
  • Created framework and business plan for our family farm, Ten Hands Farm, planning to have our first open season the summer of 2020.
  • Dean’s List 4 semesters out of 6 during the EMBA program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Starting our lavender farm has been my greatest achievement.  Considering that my husband and I are both business owners, raising three children, amidst moving and building a home, the fact that we were able to start a farm that is a passion of ours amazes me! I was able to use the farm as our team project for the EMBA Entrepreneurship course, which helped build a foundation for our 5-year plan.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am so proud to call myself a business owner. When I graduated from veterinary school, I only dreamed of improving the lives of pets and their owners. I had negligible interest in leading a team, understanding of the financial aspects of a business, or taking responsibility of something larger than myself. I bought my first practice to exit what I considered an unhealthy work environment. This first practice was a single doctor small animal hospital, comprising of myself and 3 other employees. Five years after that purchase, I bought the neighboring veterinary practice and merged the two into one location. I now employ 4 Veterinarians and 18 support staff. This professional journey and evolution of self have been remarkable. It has made me a better mother, spouse, friend, and general citizen.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Amanda Thompson was my most treasured professor during the MBA program. She successfully taught the ominous topic of Finance in an approachable and digestible manner. Her teaching skills allowed us to learn the fundamentals of the subject, but she took it one step further to give us real-world applicable knowledge as well. I was able to use my own business as part of our final project, and it taught me concepts that I now use on a regular basis.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Purdue’s EMBA was a perfect fit for my goals and lifestyle. Prior to applying, I completed the Veterinary Practice Management Program at Purdue, and I was drawn to the learning environment they offered. It was attractive because it was a synergistic combination of exemplary teaching staff and supportive learning culture. The teaching staff brings significant knowledge and experience to the table, but at the same time they are accessible and devoted to each individual student. The structure of the residencies and semesters was compatible with balancing work, family, and school.  Each semester included work involving a team, allowing each student to learn from those around them. I also liked that the teams change each semester, so students had the opportunity to broaden their relationships and knowledge base with those around them.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Being a business owner, I was able to engage with each course and apply relevant information almost immediately. This created value and excitement for me throughout the program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I gained confidence in myself as a leader and mentor within my veterinary practice. This confidence allowed me to effectively transition both my existing Practice Manager and Inventory Manager within three months of each other.  These individuals were no longer effective in their positions, requiring a change.  Without the knowledge I gained and the networks I developed, the necessary position transitions likely would not have occurred. The financial status of the practice along with the staff morale have benefited from these changes.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? The summer prior to starting the program in September of 2018, we purchased our 40-acre dream property. This property would be the perfect setting for our new home and family lavender farm. Over the next 45 days, we sold our home, packed all our belongings and moved to a rental house while our new house was being built. As typical construction projects go, the timeline stretched longer than the original projection. By Memorial Day of 2019, we had no choice but to move out of the rental home, place all our belongings in storage, and live in our 29-foot camper at a local campground. This entailed having to co-exist in this camper with my husband and 3 kids – our beloved dog had to go live with a family member two hours away because he wasn’t allowed at the campground. Showers were cold and dark, and laundry had to be taken to my husband’s office to complete. This went on for six weeks! Finally, we were able to move in by the 4th of July. In summary, I lived in 4 different places and had to move all our belongings 3 times during this program. This would not have been possible without amazing support at work, home, and at school. I was fortunate to work three days a week, complete schoolwork 1.5 days a week, and enjoy time with my friends and family on the weekends.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Start by applying! I recall thinking that I would never get accepted. It has been an invaluable experience.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I was so nervous that I was not going to be able an effective learner after being out of the classroom for over 14 years. You hear that it is significantly harder when you are older. In my experience over the last 18 months, I have never been a more effective learner that I was during the program. Maturity and life experience elevates the opportunity to absorb new knowledge and skills.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I was so saddened that our international and final residency was overshadowed and impacted by COVID 19. We were not able to complete all our intended travels and activities that had been so arduously planned by the faculty. I will never forget the trip, experience, and times spent with everyone.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Vinutha Ram. I enjoyed getting to know Vinutha over the last 18 months. We knew each other only casually at the beginning of the program but developed a strong bond when we were on a team together in our second semester. Not only do I admire the woman she is, but also how she evolved throughout the program. She is driven, detail-oriented, and an invaluable team member. She personally confirmed that each project was completed to the utmost extent. She executed this with the team and held everyone respectfully accountable for their contribution. She taught me how to organize projects, use new planning tools, and speak candidly with those around me. Throughout the program, she also held herself accountable and progressed from an unfulfilling career to her dream job. She accomplished all of this through perseverance and self-awareness. I am so proud to call her my friend!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized running a business via trial and error wasn’t working well.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?

  • Continue to elevate the value of my business(es) – my veterinary practice and our family lavender farm.
  • To build a successful business:
    • Allows my employees to have a fulfilling work environment
    • Creates a warm and engaging customer experience for my clients
    • Builds a financial foundation for my family

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?

I would love to be remembered as a passionate, hard-working and collaborative classmate.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Complete a 50-mile ultramarathon

Take my family on a 2-week Alaskan Adventure

What made Jennie such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“Jennie is no stranger to hard work. In building her veterinary practice, she has played every role from accountant to marketing director; veterinarian to human resource manager. This broad experience in entrepreneurship has made her a valuable resource among her peers in the EMBA cohort.

Jennie notes that leadership is an area where she desires to focus her educational energy. As her veterinary practice and business ventures grow, Jennie aims to lead and inspire her team through education and empowerment, giving her staff the knowledge and confidence to make sound decisions as a team. She credits the strength of her business to this principle.

Her strong belief in empowering others led her to become an important leader and supporter of fellow students. Jennie is eager to connect to others on a personal level and garner their feedback. Her respect for others’ opinions on fresh ideas and entertaining differing perspectives has made her a well-respected teammate.

She has a deep care for others and always has a positive word and friendly smile to share. Upon returning to campus for a residency, students found that Jennie had hand-sewn scented eye pillows from the lavender on her farm for every student and staff member! That’s our thoughtful Jennie.

Jennie’s positive, good-natured attitude makes her someone others can turn to for open and honest input and problem-solving guidance. Jennie wants to carry on this practice by contributing to her local veterinary community on business topics and mentoring young women who want to pursue careers in business.

We congratulate Jennie on this well-deserved honor.”

Donna Steele
Senior Program Manager
Krannert School of Management, Purdue University

DON’T MISS: THE FULL LIST OF THE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2020

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