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Kim Koeller

BA 1978, French
MS, International Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management

President and CEO, Horizon Group International, Chicago, IL

For the first part of her career, Kim Koeller was the female version of George Clooney in Up in the Air: a high-flying consultant circling the globe, earning millions of miles, and enjoying her travels. During 17 years as a partner at Accenture, one of her favorite projects was working with New York City’s 311 non-emergency customer service center. The new service consolidated 40-plus separate city call centers and 11 pages of government listings in the phone book into one easy to remember number: 311. The service has been honored with a United Nations Public Service Excellence Award and serves as a model for non-emergency operations for cities around the world.

During her time as a consultant, however, she experienced seemingly endless health problems, including food allergies, sports injuries, and celiac disease. As she educated herself about how to eat while on the road, her attention shifted to helping others continue to travel and enjoy exploring the world while eating gluten- and allergy-free.

Now, as founder of GlutenFree Passport, some of her most rewarding moments are “when people approach me at conferences or send emails and thank me for saving their lives,” she says. “They are so grateful that they can safely eat and travel with friends and family again due to our Let’s Eat Out Around the World Gluten Free and Allergy Free series of books and apps. This warms my heart every time knowing that I have helped make a difference!” In addition to driving global social change for gluten and allergy free diets, as President of Horizon Group International, Kim continues to consult with cross-industry clients worldwide on innovative customer experience, business optimization and vendor management solutions.

Purdue Influences
I loved my French and Spanish language classes as well as the yearlong study abroad program in Strasbourg, France, that I did with Professor Max Aprile. I also loved my jobs on campus, including: lifeguard, swim instructor, statistics tutor, and assistant at the Purdue Career Placement Center.

Eloise Warren, my freshman and sophomore year academic advisor, was a major influence on my courses, decisions, and ultimately, my career. She encouraged my global path and truly understood what it took to pursue international business, which was a rare thing to find back then. She ensured that I was on track with all of my courses to go to Strasbourg during my junior year while still graduating a semester early.

In addition, Eloise was the first person to mention the Thunderbird School of Global Management to me. So 11 years later, I had her to thank for the idea of earning my master’s degree in international management at the number one ranked graduate school for global relations. All of these experiences helped kick-start my international business career at Accenture and GlutenFree Passport. Thanks to Purdue and Thunderbird, I consult with Fortune 500 multinational clients across the globe, leading business and technology teams, which has enabled me to travel over 2.5 million miles across six continents and live in nine countries.

Purdue Memories
My top three reasons for choosing Purdue were Purdue’s reputation, the study abroad program to Strasbourg, France, and Big Ten sports. Therefore, my favorite memories include my multicultural experiences and European adventures while studying in Strasbourg and cheering on our Boiler football team at Ross-Ade Stadium with friends.

Purdue Now
I was honored to speak with Purdue students at the Liberal Arts Influentials class in the fall of 2013. It’s a unique lecture and discussion course featuring alumni representing a diverse range of careers. They return to the classroom to share their expertise and advice with current liberal arts students.

I was also thrilled to join Professor Becky Brown and Purdue students from the French Food Culture class during their 2014 spring break trip to the Écoles des Trois Ponts in Roanne, France. The class provided an incredible immersion experience to learn French in a fun food-culture environment, with cooking classes, cheese and wine classes, and food-related excursions.

Throughout these recent interactions with Purdue faculty and students, I have been extremely impressed with Purdue’s top-quality professors, expanded global focus, expanded study abroad options, innovative courses, student perspectives, and overall educational excellence.

Greatest Achievement
I am very proud of writing and creating the Let’s Eat Out series, which is trusted by people in over 60 countries, expanding gluten free foods at Walt Disney World, and delivering numerous innovative client solutions with my teams worldwide. That said, I believe my greatest achievements are yet to come! 

Person I Admire
I admire the innovation, insights, and philanthropic accomplishments of many individuals who help to increase quality of life for people around the world.

Idea of Perfect Happiness
Health; enjoying whatever I am doing— whether work, play or travel; learning; friends; family; the ocean; a sunny day; and great wine!

What I’m Reading
Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams. I loved Machu Picchu but wasn’t able to trek the Inca trail due to six knee surgeries. The author’s fun and fascinating journey of retracing the steps of Hiram Bingham III (who was guided to Machu Picchu and introduced it to the wider world) transports me back to this magical, incredible, and historic place in the Andes.

Profession I’d Like to Try
Venture capitalist partnering with entrepreneurs to bring to market innovative products and services that transform lives across the globe.