I started to understand what it meant to be in the Kelley School of Business roughly around the time I made my decision to attend IU in the spring of my senior year of high school. I hadn’t really known of Kelley before, but in scrolling through various posts on Instagram, Facebook and other social media accounts made to connect incoming students, many posts started to echo each other:
“Hi, my name is Connor, and I’m a Direct Admit to Kelley planning to major in finance. I’m from the Chicago suburbs and love lifting, going out and listening to music.”
I began recognizing the prestige associated with Kelley — it almost seemed like it was the only school within IU that out-of-state students came for or at least that people thought was worth coming for. When I told people in my Maryland hometown I would be going to IU, I was met with many people asking if I was in Kelley — clearly the only redeeming thing about going to school in a midwestern state.
Around campus, there’s plenty of talk of the “Kelley Boner” — a term students jokingly use to describe a Kelley student who harbors extreme pride for their enrollment in the business school. Not until the beginning of my sophomore year did I realize a lot of students, especially those in Kelley, viewed O’Neill — the school of public and environmental affairs — as the destination of Kelley rejects.
I have had professors and peers alike joke that O’Neill is where those who couldn’t make it into Kelley end up begrudgingly pursuing a backup major.
This realization of course dealt a minor blow to my ego as a proud member of O’Neill who chose a college 10 hours away from my hometown in order to attend the school. I find it fascinating that our business school would be considered more prestigious and coveted to be a part of than a school focusing primarily on education and careers in public affairs and civil service — a school that is ranked No. 1 for its Masters in Public Affairs Program, by the way. Though public service and non-profit work are likely fields you would not choose for the sole purpose of earning a high salary in your career, that does not absolve them of value.
The attitude many students seem to carry regarding the relationship, or lack thereof, between Kelley and O’Neill makes sense given that one school promises an education preparing most of its students for presitigious, higher-earning careers in the private sector — top employers include EY, KPMG, PwC, and Deloitte, which are all considered the “Big 4” Accounting Firms. O’Neill has a primary focus on public service oriented careers, with employers like various state and federal government entities.
According to their own website, “At the Kelley School of Business, we are in the business of creating career momentum.” They further refer to “an education that only the elite Kelley School can deliver” as a driving factor of their students’ success.
On each school’s respective “About” page for their undergraduate degrees, one boasts the average starting salary earned by their graduates while the other does not. I could see how many students — eager to achieve “success” upon entering life after college — might view salary as the most important factor determining such success. Nevertheless, it is important that students can also recognize the value and difference in an education focusing primarily on the private sector versus one focused on the public without deeming the latter inferior because it is less likely generate a high salary.
Learning about the public sector or pursuing a career in government is not where one goes because they are not “smart” enough to succeed in Kelley. O’Neill is not a dumping ground for students that those in Kelley consider inferior, and being in the business school does not inherently demand higher intelligence than any other degree program.
I urge IU students to recognize the immense privilege and opportunity we have in the ability to learn about nearly anything we want here. There is incredible and immeasurable value in knowledge, especially that built across disciplines and fields.
One of my favorite classes so far has been in the gender studies department — a field that many people love to hate and call useless. This class contributed nothing to my main degree at face value, and yet added so much to my zest for learning and development into a better member of my community.
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As I fight the urge to lay prostrate at the feet of my superior peers in the Kelley School and beg them to teach me what they learn in accounting classes so I may one day be at least a fraction as incredible as them, I am so excited to continue learning for the joy of learning outside of a need for prestige or money and collaborating with IU students across fields to impact the world positively.
Leila Faraday (she/her) is a sophomore studying policy analysis with minors in geography and urban planning.