Current Student Profile: Luke Radliff, Gies College of Business, Illinois

Current Student Profile: Luke Radliff, Gies College of Business, Illinois main image

Luke Radliff is currently studying for his MBA at Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Before starting his MBA studies, he held the role of Financial Analyst in Corporate Finance at Kemper in Chicago.

With four years’ work experience under his belt, he set off on his MBA journey.

He speaks with TopMBA.com about his reasons for choosing the program at Gies College of Business, and how it’s all going so far.

What were you doing before you started your MBA?

I was working for Kemper Corporation (a Chicago-based insurer company) in their Finance Leadership Program. The leadership development program offered recent college graduates the opportunity to do three, 9-12-month rotations through various company functions and offices.

My first role was in St. Louis doing Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) for Kemper’s Life Insurance business. Then I went to the Chicago headquarters for my final two rotations – Corporate Treasury and Tax.

After completing the program, I moved into a Financial Analyst II role, serving the company’s Property & Casualty business, located in Chicago. My responsibilities included maintaining the internal monthly, quarterly, year-end Profit and Loss statement, and helping business units forecast and model the annual financial plan/budget.

What factors led you to pursue a graduate degree?

Kemper went through a leadership change soon after I accepted the Financial Analyst II position, and the company replaced most C-level roles within the company. These changes made an impact on my department’s responsibilities.

The role moved away from financial modeling and became much more reporting focused. This impacted my day-to-day work and limited development opportunities, so it became clear I needed to look elsewhere for new challenges, and I wanted to expand my leadership abilities and shift away from the insurance business.

What tools did you use to research programs?

My first step was to leverage my network. I talked to my boss, friends and co-workers about my developmental goals, their b-school experiences, and asked for their advice. Based on those conversations, I knew b-school was right for me.

To prepare for the GMAT, I enrolled in a Veritas Prep course. However, I didn’t find it extremely helpful. It was geared for people that had been studying for months. I came in raw to the material and struggled to benefit from the expensive course.

I researched programs through Princeton Review, Veritas, U.S. News reports, etc. This helped identify programs that fit my wants/needs.

What do you most love about the school/program?

I attended a small liberal arts university where I greatly benefited from the small class sizes, personal relationships and instruction from professors. Our small class allowed us to get to know professors, staff and fellow students on an extremely personal level.

I was seeking an intimate setting and I found it here. Gies provides an intimate classroom experience within a Big Ten university providing all the benefits of a big university – major college sports and a global student body in a true college town. I love this aspect because it provides me with the classroom setting I need to succeed, and the true ‘college experience’ I missed attending Illinois Wesleyan.

What is your favorite thing about the city/campus?

There’s a true sense of community and pride. It’s evident when you walk around the student union, quad, campus and surrounding city. Professors, staff, students, alumni, and locals proudly wear their orange and blue as one.

What do you plan to do once you graduate?

This summer, I was a Procurement intern at Anheuser-Busch InBev – St. Louis. My projects revolved around the company’s sustainability goals. My projects directly correlated to company goals and exposed me to management interested in the work.

During my 10-week internship, I travelled to Oregon and Europe to research and meet people which was a great experience personally and professionally. I was offered a full-time offer in St. Louis and plan to accept it upon graduation.

Would you do anything differently if you could research and apply to business school again?

Yes. I had a month from college graduation until I started a full-time role. If I could do it over, I’d study/take my GMAT then. It’s good for five years, and I would have completed the most challenging aspect of the application process. I found it extremely difficult to study while working full-time and being away from school for that long.

What is the one piece of advice you have for incoming students?

You’re making a significant investment in yourself. Make sure you optimize your experience by doing what you want to do.

Most MBA-level offers will allow you to jump positions and pay, but be selective with your choice because you only get one chance to do it.

Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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