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1,000 graduates: Celebrating MSU’s Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership alumni

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership is officially celebrating the graduation of more than 1,000 students from the program. The MSL program has seen a wide variety of students from experienced professional backgrounds go on to advance in various career fields.

MSL program director Glenn Hodges shared what this milestone means to — and for — the MSL program:

“I am so incredibly thrilled that we have [more than] 1,000 graduates from the MS-MSL program. This program has existed for only eight years,” he said. “We wanted to create a tremendous amount of value for our students, and I’m totally convinced that we have done that.

“It’s really been a huge thrill. What [this milestone] means to me is that there are now over a thousand Spartans who have come through this program, who have had the opportunity to learn a lot that’s going to really help them to be successful in their career and their lives.

“I can also say that is a huge thing for all of us here at the Eli Broad College of Business and in the Department of Management. All of the professors who are engaged in this program are extremely excited and happy about it, as well as all the administrators.”

While each student has brought their own unique perspective into the program, they have graduated with a deeper understanding of the necessary skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the fast-paced, demanding world of management. Moreover, the online program’s flexibility helped many of them balance their family life and studies, making it an adaptable companion to their career goals.

Below are some notable highlights of the program as shared by students themselves, along with reasons to consider Michigan State University for your own leadership and management journey.

The impact of an M.S. in MSL on graduates’ careers

For many graduates of the MSL program, an immediate impact was the application of relevant knowledge to their current careers. Each course of the program provides its own set of strategic and leadership skills to learn, such as negotiation and interpersonal skills. On top of that, graduates are more competitive in the workplace, as they ultimately hold a degree “from a prestigious institution like Michigan State and the Eli Broad College, [which gives them] the ability to have an entry into opportunities [they] wouldn’t otherwise have,” Hodges said.

This was true for Heather Serrano, an executive at a financial firm. “I applied something from each course to my job,” Serrano said. “Learning about role negotiation helped me create a specialized consulting position within the bank, which is now a formal offering.”

As for interpersonal leadership development, Mark Thompson gained a deeper appreciation for the faces within an organization. A strategic management change in his company allowed him to take on a leadership role from a more humanistic perspective. He concluded that “all of [the program’s] courses reaffirm that people make organizations run,” and a business that understands the motivations of employees is one whose “sky is the limit.”

The MSL program also changed the perspective of — and approach to — entire departments for some students. For instance, Lateefah Walker and Andrew Adeniyi mentioned how the program influenced their work in human resources. Walker, who oversees the human resources department at her company, believes her MSL studies strengthened her role and helped her run the department more “efficiently and effectively.”

Adeniyi, on the other hand, learned just how important HR strategies are to his company as a whole: “There was a lot of content that I was finding or circling back to on HR philosophy. As I climb up the ladder at various organizations, I anticipate making that a key part of my strategy.”

Why students chose to go back to school through MSU

Beyond advancing your career opportunities, there are plenty of reasons to go back to school — including family-oriented ones. This was the case for several MSL graduates, including Walker and Ellen Bower, who each had their sons in mind when considering applying.

Bower described how her goal was to become her son’s role model: “I want to be a role model to him … [show him] that you can do anything you put your mind to. The world is his for the taking if he is willing to work hard and put his mind to it.”

Walker shared similar thoughts, explaining how she hoped the hard work she put into the program would teach her sons that “with hard work, passion, motivation and God, they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.”

For others, an advanced degree was a pathway to adding a formal education to real-life experience. Jeff Day had already served in numerous roles across several tech companies before being accepted into the MSL program. He decided to pursue a master’s degree because he desired “the street cred of an advanced degree.” Thanks to the education gained in the program, he is now the owner of his own company.

The MSL online classroom difference

The student experience is a huge part of any educational program. Although the MSL program is 100% online, many students found that the interaction between classmates and instructors was just as prominent as in a brick-and-mortar program. As Kristopher Brown emphasized, “MSU professors do a good job of structuring the courses to ensure student interaction.”

Hodges made sure that this interaction was included in the program design from the start, emphasizing that “on an ongoing regular basis, you’re interacting with people and you’re learning, not just from the professors — you’re also learning from the students in the program.”

This interaction comes primarily in the form of message boards, chat rooms and group projects. One outstanding instance of student interaction can be found in the story of Pam Hove and Kevin Gonzales. The two classmates were assigned to be part of a team for one class, and their collaboration grew into a lasting friendship that taught them just as much about life as it did their studies. Hove described it this way: “Because Kevin is much younger than I am, I gained a better perspective of people in his age group. We grew up in different times, and our experiences have been very different, so I think we each learned a lot from each other.”

It also helps that MSL students have a diverse range of backgrounds, from military to health care, government, retail and more. This diversity adds an extra element to the program because students can hear the perspectives of professionals in a variety of career fields. Brown stressed that other students “challenged my ideas and widened the scope of my business worldview.”

Being exposed to the mindset and perspectives of those in other fields could help you shine a new light on how you conduct your own business. As Bower said, “The approach to any business topic is in the eye of the beholder.”

Popular MSL program takeaways

As for the most valuable takeaway from the program, graduates had a diverse range of answers. For Steve Deighton, it was what he learned about culture: “My most valuable takeaway from the program is the knowledge gained in understanding how intertwined strategy and culture are in every organization. Culture is vital in driving the buy-in from employees to achieve the strategy.”

Alternatively, for Matt McKenna, “the ability to think about and understand an organization on both a macro and micro level” was the most valuable conclusion he made. He likened this belief to an analogy of a fish and its scales: “This program teaches you to see the connection between the individual scales, determine if a scale is pointing the wrong direction and determine how to re-orientate those scales.”

And yet, for some others, the program taught them that learning is always valuable no matter their age. Ramar Scales — in business for over 20 years before deciding to go back to school — emphasized that the program instilled in him that “It’s never too late to learn.”

Elizabeth Blass echoed this same sentiment, expressing she now knows that “it is important to be a lifelong learner. I will always make time for things that matter and the things that will help me to grow.”

Why choose MSU?

Choosing the right graduate program is a big decision. Whether it’s conducting research on university prestige, program applicability or faculty expertise, prospective students must consider several factors before deciding on how to advance their education. Many students echoed the statement from Hodges that the MSL program is a winning mix of “cutting-edge research along with professors who really understand how to practice and how to apply that knowledge.”

According to Angela Pulcini: “I really appreciated the quality of the program and the quality of the professors … and with their background, they’re renowned in their field. You get that level of expertise from the professors.”

Not only did students respect the expertise of professors, they appreciated the willingness of professors to work with them. McKenna said, “I think the most challenging part of my MSU journey was finding a way to balance my assignment schedule with military training in the field. On a rare occasion, there was a hard conflict, [and] the professors were always willing to work with me.”

Another significant benefit is the program’s online format, which promotes flexibility for all students. Albertus Kariko shared that, thanks to this flexibility, he could “manage a full-time job, raise a 3-year-old boy and still make time for leisure.” In fact, as Jennifer Wolf stated, “If you’re disciplined enough and you can manage your time enough, anybody can do this program.”

Hodges said with a smile, “It’s just been a fantastic thing, and we’re looking forward to the next thousand.”


This article was originally published at michiganstateuniversityonline.com.

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