Skip to main content

Q&A with Barbara Pereira Rübel ’93 MBA

Against all odds, the branding consultant revived the NU Club of Switzerland.

Headshot of Barbara Rubel
Barbara Rübel joined the NU Club of Switzerland in 1993 — one year after its founding — and became a board member in 2016. Image: Hadrien Jeanrichard

Winter 2024

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it appeared the NU Club of Switzerland might disintegrate. 

But Barbara Pereira Rübel refused to allow it. “I’ve been a member of the club for 30 years, and I wasn’t willing to let things slide,” says Rübel, who lives in Switzerland and joined the club in 1993 along with her husband, Felix Rübel ’93 MBA.  

Rübel formerly led branding efforts for Chevrolet Europe and Zurich Insurance Co. before founding her own branding consultancy. With her marketing savvy and an enduring affinity for Northwestern and its role in her life, Rübel assumed the club’s presidency in 2022 and orchestrated its spirited revival alongside a dedicated board.  

Over the past year, Rübel and her team have doubled the number of annual club events, bolstered membership and generated new educational and networking opportunities through strategic partnerships with other alumni organizations and local groups. For her guiding role in these efforts, Rübel received the Northwestern Alumni Association’s 2023 Club Leader of the Year award in September.  

What was particularly meaningful about your Northwestern student experience?  

The Kellogg School of Management was known for its emphasis on teamwork, which was relatively revolutionary at the time. And as soon as you arrived on campus, you felt a part of something. I learned about working as a team, how to get people to cooperate and the value of bringing together the skills of different people.  

During the pandemic, the club was inactive. How did you revive it?  

First, I had to get a board together — and an active board because so much needed to be done. We have nine board members now, and every individual is dedicated to doing their part. Then, we began planning events in Zurich, Geneva and elsewhere across Switzerland. Pre-COVID, we averaged five to seven events a year. We reactivated the club with our annual general meeting in May 2022 in Zurich and had five events that year. In 2023 we’ll finish the year with 13 events.  

We also established partnerships with professional organizations, such as the Swiss Association of MBAs, which pulls together alumni from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and other business schools. We want to do more joint activities so that our members can expand their networks. 

With the club building such strong momentum, what’s next?  

The main goal is to increase membership, but we are looking at the right strategy to accomplish that. What events will attract people and get their interest? What can we do to reach out more actively, to get people engaged and interested in staying or coming back to the club? Then, I want to get younger people into leadership as well. We need to get some fresh ideas to keep it going.  

What has kept you so involved with the club over three decades?  

When I was deciding to take on the presidency, I looked back and thought, “Well, what does the club mean to me?” There have been friendships, of course, as well as ties to the University that I don’t want to lose, but it’s also the community. You have others with common values, and that’s worth building up and preserving. 

Get involved with the NAA. 

Share this Northwestern story with your friends via...

Reader Responses

No one has commented on this page yet.

Submit a Response