Life has been busy since Marisa Kwiatkowski, MBA’18, earned her degree in the Evening MBA Program at the Kelley School of Business.
As an investigative reporter, Marisa and her colleagues back in 2016 were looking into abuse allegations that were going unreported by USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body. The journalists’ continued reporting at The Indianapolis Star led to a widespread nationwide scandal that culminated in the arrest and sentencing of a former program physician, the ousting of top gymnastics officials, and Congress passing the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act to better protect young athletes.
Marisa and her colleagues were recognized for their work that exposed these crimes, including numerous awards. What began as an investigation into unreported abuse at high schools in Indiana became a spark that ignited an explosive revelation. At the time, Marisa didn’t know how big these stories would become.
“When you’re doing the work, you’re so focused on the next task at hand that you’re not thinking about impact,” Marisa said. “Years later, I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I did, and I’m glad to see that hopefully, both our work and the advocacy by the survivors has led to real change both in the sport of gymnastics and in other capacities.”
Since we last spoke with Marisa, she has accepted a new role as an investigative journalist at USA TODAY, where she continues her work. In 2020, Marisa and her colleagues published an investigation into cheerleading that revealed systemic failures to protect young athletes. In her new role, Marisa gets to work on these longer-term national projects that may span a year or more of research.
“I’m very fortunate,” Marisa said. “I have great bosses and I get to do work that I love, which is elevating the voices of people who aren’t necessarily heard. Whether that’s survivors, children, or people who’ve experienced abuse or neglect, it’s putting a spotlight on those stories.
Marisa says her training in the part-time MBA has been helpful in her investigations because it gave her a wider understanding of the businesses she is researching. She’s able to pore over internal documents and financials with a better understanding of their business implications.
“During the pandemic, my colleagues and I investigated what was happening in nursing homes, examining new charges and organizations’ financials,” Marisa said. “From a journalist’s perspective, having that background in business has been beneficial as I looked into businesses’ income statements and practices.”
Having largely focused on social services and children’s issues, Marisa typically didn’t cover the business beat. But she says earning the Kelley Evening MBA helped her grow into a new skill set.
“For me, it was incredibly beneficial to have that knowledge base to draw from in whatever endeavor I was pursuing,” Marisa said.
She says the skills from the Evening MBA Program have also been useful in her philanthropic work. Marisa has served as a senior fellow as part of the Center for Health Journalism, mentoring journalists as they work on health-related projects. Before going on sabbatical last year, Marisa co-led an employee resource group called Women Forward that had more than 550 members. She also served on the board of nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors and currently serves as chair of its Board Reform Task Force.
“Some of the lessons I learned at Kelley were beneficial to that aspect of my work,” Marisa said. “In the MBA program, you learn not only how to work as a team, but also how to be a good manager, and I think that that has come in handy as well. You gain a toolbox in the Evening MBA Program, and you can pick from the tools you need at the time.”
Marisa completed the part-time MBA in downtown Indianapolis, where she worked. Earning a rigorous degree while investigating an explosive story and managing work and life was challenging. But Marisa says she and her fellow MBA students in the cohort valued earning a business education, making it worth the time and effort.
“We were all busy before we started this program, but we decided this was a priority,” Marisa said. “You find the time for the things that are important, just like you find the time for family, friends, and loved ones. When you’re pursuing your MBA, you find the time for what’s important to you.”