Like many MBA students, John Vanausdall applied to the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis looking to distinguish himself.
Despite 18 years in the museum industry, Vanausdall said the field began to change in the early 1990s as a solid business education became necessary to advance. Just months after graduating in May 1996 from the Evening MBA program, Vanausdall took over his current position as president and CEO of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
“The fact that this program was local was critical for me,” he said. “I felt it could provide me a nationally significant MBA education, and I was able to do it on my own terms. I was able to keep a busy job and maintain a family life.”
In total, Vanausdall has spent the last 31 years working for not-for-profits, including 18 years at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. He said he has enjoyed being part of the growing community and culture in Indianapolis, and his MBA education allowed him to stay in his home state.
“I think this was a much more stringent program than some of the others, and you come out of it knowing more and others respect it more than some of the other programs out there,” he said.
“(Not-for-profits) are not businesses, and we don’t have the same objectives, but we have to be run in the business-like manner,” Vanausdall added, saying his accounting and finance courses at Kelley have proven critical in his role at the Eiteljorg.
Looking back on his three years in the Evening MBA program, Vanausdall said it was the bond formed with his cohorts that provided the discipline he needed and helped him succeed. He praised the Kelley Indianapolis structure as a key element that separates it from other MBA programs.
“There was just something about being in the classroom and the dialogue that goes on between the 60 students and the instructors that I really liked. I really enjoyed that,” he said. “Every aspect of this program has helped me in some way.”
Vanausdall was a founding member of the Kelley Board of Visitors, a group of influential local business leaders founded in 1999 to help guide the future of Kelley Indianapolis and incorporate real-life experience into the curriculum. He served one term on the board but continues to keep in contact with some of his MBA professors, including Roger Schmenner and Marjorie Lyles.
The Eiteljorg also hosts some Kelley events, which allows Vanausdall a way to give back to the school he credits with securing his career.