Dr. Kelly Ottman
From a young age, Dr. Carolyn “Kelly” Lawrence Ottman had a spark for teaching. At 13, she volunteered in nursing homes teaching a class called Krafts with Kelly. “I would adapt the crafts to accommodate the residents.”
After building a successful career in the health care industry, Ottman left her vice president role in the corporate world to teach full time, holding faculty positions at both Marquette and UW-Milwaukee. She came to MSOE in 2007, where she was able to teach smaller classes and consult with businesses worldwide. “I enjoy consulting because it is a great way to link academics and industry while staying current and aware of emerging trends.”
Ottman’s passion for international business inspired her to develop the Doing Business With China graduate program in 2009. Through the annual program, students undergo 11 weeks of classroom preparation where they meet with more than 20 business leaders to learn about issues related to business in China as well as gaining cultural understanding.
The course culminates in a 12-day tour of China, where they meet with both Chinese and American business people at a variety of companies, and even participate in a rural servant-leadership project. “I push the students to take risks, to go outside of their comfort zone,” said Ottman. “We take public transportation, and students take turns navigating. Even the food is outside of their comfort zone. Those experiences, while challenging, transfer to students feeling empowered and more willing to try new leadership roles in other parts of their life.”
Ottman leveraged existing relationships with American companies like GE Healthcare, Douglas Dynamics, Brady Corp., Kimberly-Clark and Miller Electric, which have operations in China. She was careful to nurture working relationships, what the Chinese refer to as guanxi, which is a crucial business component there. “We worked with MSOE’s Board of Regents and others to make sure we met the needs of employers and students. Because we’ve been doing this for several years, we’ve become a trusted friend. The program would not be what it is without those partnerships, which ultimately benefit the students.”
“Because of the relationships Dr. Ottman has established in China, we were able to have very open and direct dialog with the companies we visited,” said Ross Buckley ’11, global account manager with ITW Welding. “I go to China for my job, and the experience prepared me for how to act when forming relationships with new customers.”
When she’s not teaching or traveling, Ottman enjoys spending time with her daughter Brienz and son Zac, who is an MSOE alumnus. She also enjoys camping, kayaking, gardening and servant-leadership activities.