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A college love story in Dubai

By Al Makke, Executive MBA Class of 2022
Monday, February 13, 2023

In spring 2019, I was thinking about next steps for personal and career growth, so I decided to attend one of MSU’s Executive MBA Preview Days at the Management Education Center in Troy, Michigan. I didn’t expect that event to be the beginning of a college love story.

Al Makke and Jenny Abro pose together outside in a wintry, wooded area.

Al Makke and Jenny Abro met in the Broad College’s Executive MBA program.

Jenny, at the MEC for similar reasons, was sitting in the front row, and I was sitting right behind her and couldn’t help but notice her distinct red hair. At the end of the session, we caught each other in the hallways, where I asked a classic sheepish question: “Are you going to do this?”

True to form for each of us, Jenny became part of the Class of 2021, whereas I deferred to the following year.

In a normal world, Jenny and I would have had many opportunities to cross paths in 2020, she in her second year of the program and me in my first. As we shared class weekends, I would have seen her in the hallways of the MEC or during lunch in the dining room. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought so much uncertainty to the world where classes became virtual, lunch became boxed and Jenny’s global residency through EMBA got canceled.

It wasn’t until March 2022 that I spoke to Jenny again. The EMBA program had extended an invite to graduates from the Class of 2021 to join the Class of 2022 global residency in the UAE.

The global residency took us to Dubai, 7,050 miles from home, with 90 students and the first time a global residency was extended to alumni. History repeated itself. Jenny, with her distinct red hair, was sitting in the front of the bus and I was a few rows behind her.

“The EMBA program exceeded my expectations by reminding me that the best things in life happen right outside your comfort zone in every way.”

Throughout the residency week, we had a few chats in passing and recalled our first fateful encounter in the hallways of the MEC three years earlier. On the final night of our trip, I mustered up the courage to talk to her, beginning another sheepish conversation by asking, “How did you enjoy the week in Dubai?”

Jenny is a real estate broker and a small business owner in Rochester, Michigan, who is highly driven, entrepreneurial and very supportive. I am an engineering manager at an automotive supplier with interests in business and real estate investing. I was born and raised in Lebanon, and my family had long-term plans to move to the United States.

As our relationship blossomed, I learned that Jenny’s father had a similar trajectory, born in Iraq and emigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. We had so much to offer to each other in life, business, family and interests. Our time together spans trying new recipes, hiking on Saturdays, finding new travel destinations and spending time with family. Our shared EMBA background has helped us take on new business ventures and bring new perspectives to each other’s careers.

Exactly one year after our global residency, we will stand in front of our families and friends to say our not-so-sheepish “I do’s” as we get married. Going into the EMBA program, I had high expectations that this experience would further my business acumen, network and career goals; I was not expecting a relationship or to meet my future wife. The EMBA program exceeded my expectations by reminding me that the best things in life happen right outside your comfort zone in every way.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my soon-to-be wife, Jenny, and the MSU EMBA community. Go Green!

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International MBA student Rishabh Singhal recounts his application and admissions process at the Broad College.