By Caroline Brooks
On Saturday, May 6, thousands of people felt the global impact of the Michigan State University community. During the Eli Broad College of Business undergraduate commencement ceremony, moving speeches and powerful traditions honored esteemed retiring faculty, commemorated Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, and celebrated the 1,070 newly minted alumni.
While the guest and student speakers brought perspectives literally from opposite ends of the world, both spoke to how Broad College experiences create a ripple effect in their professional lives. Guest speaker Todd Penegor, president and CEO of The Wendy’s Company, received both his undergraduate and MBA degrees from Broad. Penegor spoke to the audience about his approach to leadership, opportunity within the restaurant industry, the importance of building strong teams, and giving back in a meaningful way. “As my many connections to Michigan demonstrate, life has a way of coming full circle, and that happens in a lot of ways. What you put out in the world will eventually come back to you. So plant seeds early in your career that you will be happy to harvest for the rest of it,” Penegor said.
Student speaker Aiden Wang (BA Accounting) came to the United States as a high school exchange student from Beijing, China; as a student, he advocated for international student rights and fostering an inclusive environment for all students. His speech discussed his family’s impoverished roots and how he felt tremendous pressure to over-perform academically and lost sight of what truly mattered. “No matter how busy you are, call your families; remember what is important and who brought you to this moment,” he said. Wang’s family still resides in Beijing, and they traveled more than 13 hours and 6,500 miles to see him cross the stage.
“The class of 2017 has raised the bar for academic excellence at the Broad College. Their individual strengths, work ethic, and creativity are what position Broad as a top-of-mind business school, and are what we pride ourselves in being the hallmark characteristics of our college,” said Sanjay Gupta, dean of the Broad College of Business. “It is my hope that these students continue making an impact in their careers and beyond, and empower others with the spirit and tenacity that Spartans Will is built upon,” he said.
The college’s 2017 graduates included:
- Accounting: 179
- Finance: 243
- Hospitality Business: 160
- Human Resource Management: 18
- Management: 22
- Marketing: 121
- Supply Chain Management: 326
- Full-Time MBA: 82
- MS in Accounting: 126
- MS in Finance: 18
- MS in Hospitality Business: 5
- MS in Management, Strategy, and Leadership: 72
- MS in Marketing Research: 72
- PhD: 7
The advanced degree commencement ceremony took place on May 5 and featured Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, as the keynote speaker. The 135 Executive MBA graduates were honored on March 12 at the Wharton Center.
Beyond its students, the Broad College honored three retiring faculty, who collectively inspired students for nearly 120 years: Sue Haka of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, who joined the faculty in 1982; M. Bixby Cooper, who in his 41 years at Broad has seen the Department of Supply Chain Management soar in national rankings; and Rick Simonds, who after graduating from the Broad College himself, joined as Department of Finance faculty in 1974.
Three alumni received Distinguished Alumni Award recognition as well. Alex Clark, founder of Bon Bon Bon confectionery and Forbes-named “Best Pastry Chef in the World,” received the Young Alumni Achievement Award. Bob Driessnack, financial sector stakeholder and president of the Broad College Alumni Advisory Board, and commencement speaker Todd Penegor both earned Outstanding Alumni Achievement Awards.
From its speakers to the incredible commitment of its faculty and alumni, the Broad College 2017 commencement represented to the college’s global impact and collective power.