By Caroline Brooks
As one chapter ends, another begins. For the 135 newly minted Executive MBA alumni, the hard-earned next chapter follows two challenging academic years for the group as a whole, as well as each individual student.
On Sunday, March 12, at its commencement ceremony at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the EMBA cohort celebrated their achievements and bid farewell to their time together at the Broad College of Business as they turn the page to their next chapters. The Broad College welcomed Linda Blair, CEO and president of ITC Holdings and EMBA alumna, as the guest commencement speaker. “Don’t give up on learning, particularly in the business world,” she said in her address. “And when you translate your EMBA into the world – it’s not the end, it’s the beginning of a new journey,” Blair said.
Receiving diplomas were 65 students from East Lansing and 70 from Troy, representing 95 companies from an extensive spectrum of professions, ranging from technology and consumer products to the financial sector, energy, nonprofits, healthcare, and education. While each student brought different professional perspectives and experiences when they began their EMBA journey, they collectively left with newfound knowledge and opportunities to make an impact.
Speaking on behalf of the East Lansing cohort was Jordan Hankwitz, director of the Senate Business Office in the State of Michigan Senate. “Stepping out of our comfortable lives, jobs, and routines to take on this new challenge in higher education was for many of us a monumental leap and something I truly hope pays off for each and every one of you,” Hankwitz said. “Our cohort comes from very diverse personal and professional backgrounds, making it impossible to avoid hearing opinions that differ from my own. These diverse opinions were welcomed and made us better as a class. I have learned a lot from those in my team and in my class,” he said.
During their two years, students participated in social impact projects and case competitions, and had the opportunity to step outside of the classroom and go global, studying abroad in Argentina, India, and South Africa. Reflecting on his own journey and global experiences, Troy speaker Eric Hulsemann, director of project management at La-Z-Boy, discussed that in the last 20 months, he learned so much more than business curriculum. “Our EMBA was much more than an academic exercise: academics were really the means to an end. The end is to develop of a new, holistic way of thinking about the market, competition, businesses, and our own businesses in particular. Mastering leadership skills and entrepreneurial thinking capped our experience off,” he said.
In their next chapters, EMBA alumni are positioned to pursue new careers, and even accelerate in their current paths. Hankwitz, who began his career in public policy, plans to boost his current profession with the skills he honed at the Broad College. “This experience has given me more tools to better perform my current duties. Something I will put into practice that I have learned from my EMBA journey is to sit back and listen once in a while. Coming from the political arena it is easy to only focus on what you want to say, but this program has taught me a valuable lesson that it is important to listen to others, too,” he said.
Each student began his or her EMBA chapters from different paths, and will begin their next by heading separate ways. As Hulsemann noted: regardless of where alumni choose as their next chapter, they leave fundamentally changed and prepared to apply what they spent two years cultivating to make a profound impact.