The Class of 2021 has faced this year’s challenges with the tenacity, resiliency and grit that defines all Spartans. To celebrate their achievements, Michigan State University is holding a blend of in-person and virtual commencement ceremonies, and for the Broad College this means multiple small events for our six departments, featuring a student voice from each one.
Graduating seniors Abhishek Tekumulla, finance; Meredith Sims, accounting; Dylan Mrla, management; Lydia Whipple, supply chain management; Yasmine Yehia, marketing; and Brendan Connolly, hospitality business, will send off their fellow undergraduate classmates April 30–May 1.
Like many Spartans, Tekumulla has taken full advantage of his time at MSU, getting involved in many roles. From serving as president of student-run Spectrum Consulting Group to serving in the Broad Mentorship Program, he has enjoyed connecting with others every step of the way.
“There is a special magic when you walk through the halls of the Broad College,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoy the sense of community and family. Broad has always served as a second home and morale system throughout my four years.”
Tekumulla says being a student speaker for the finance department is not only a personal accomplishment but one that he can share with his family and supporters.
“Being the first sibling in my family to go to college in the United States was a very challenging journey, as I was the guinea pig for everything. Although I was the guinea pig, I learned more than I ever could have imagined. Having this honor makes me proud to represent my family, friends and mentors who have been my No. 1 support system over the past four years. I want to share this honor with them.”
After graduating, Tekumulla will take on a full-time role with PwC as a management consulting associate in Chicago.
Sims has been heavily involved in the National Association of Black Accountants, working her way from a general member to the association’s president this past academic year. In addition, she has been hands-on with helping peers as a tutor through Multicultural Business Programs’ tutoring services; she led biweekly group sessions for 18 students to brush up on accounting basics. Through these experiences and more, Sims grew personally and professionally.
“Being a part of this college has contributed greatly to my professional development and given me access to a global network,” she said. “What made my time in the Broad College the most special is the people I’ve met here.”
As she takes on the honor of addressing her fellow Class of 2021 accounting graduates, Sims is eager to share some of her journey to inspire others.
“This is one of the highest honors a graduating senior can achieve and carries tremendous responsibility,” she said. “I am so humbled and excited to share some of my great experience at Michigan State with the faculty, family and graduates.”
As a new alumna, Sims will have a busy road ahead, with plans to intern with J.P. Morgan this summer and begin a master’s in accounting next fall at Wake Forest University. Beyond that, she has her sights set on completing her CPA and stepping into a full-time position with Ernst and Young.
Mrla’s time at MSU outside the classroom was spent with the Air Force ROTC as a cadet and the Arnold Air Society, where he served as vice president for the MSU chapter for a year. Through this role, he accumulated over 60 hours of community service. He shared that his favorite memory as a Broad Spartan was attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Minskoff Pavilion in 2019.
“It was incredible to see so many distinguished alumni in one place and have the opportunity to network and learn about their stories,” he said.
When he steps up to the podium, Mrla will be sharing a few life lessons he’s learned in his time on the banks of the Red Cedar that will resonate with his peers in management.
“There are two main points I will be sharing with my fellow Spartans. The first is that there are two things that can be controlled in life at all times: attitude and effort. The second is that confidence is incredibly important with regards to decision making,” he said. “If you think you are right 100% of the time until someone tells you otherwise, you will get much further than you think.”
Upon graduation, Mrla will commission as a second lieutenant into the active-duty United States Air Force as an acquisitions officer.
Whipple also participated in MSU’s Air Force ROTC program, in addition to the Broad College’s Residential Business Community, the Broad Scholars Program as a research fellow and the Supply Chain Management Association, transitioning from member to president over her four years of involvement. She said each of these experiences set her up for success.
“The unbelievable connections I have made with students, faculty and staff alike, as well as the amazing opportunities provided by the college to work and network with companies, have meant a lot,” she said. “I do not know of any other business college that provides networking on the scale that the Broad College does.”
This year, Whipple was recognized on Poets&Quants’ “Best and Brightest Business Majors” list as one of 100 outstanding graduating seniors across the nation. As her time at MSU comes to a close, she is looking forward to continue growing her network, connecting with other Spartans wherever she goes.
“The sheer size of the Broad Spartan alumni network is beyond my imagination. It spans the globe, innumerous industries, positions and life stories,” she said. “I look forward to this group in which I can learn and grow from people all around me who also have a passion for SCM.”
Next, Whipple will join Cisco in San Jose as a full-time project specialist on the Global Manufacturing and Logistics team.
Yehia has been an active Spartan: she was a sprinter with the Running Club and group coordinator with the CHAARG fitness organization. She has also made moves in the world of marketing research, in her roles as a marketing administrator and teaching assistant with the Michigan Association of Customer Experience Professionals and a research assistant with the Broad College’s International Business Center. She’s thrilled to share a positive message with her peers at commencement.
“It is a great honor to be given the opportunity to leave a positive mark on the Spartan community before I finish this chapter of my life,” she said. “The Spartan community has taught me so many valuable lessons and I’d love to give back to the graduating class by sharing an inspirational message to take with them as they commence the next chapter of their life.”
Her message will focus on change and how the Class of 2021 has been molded by challenging experiences to become one of the most resilient and adaptable graduating classes the world has seen.
“I’m going to share a reminder that the only constant in life is change,” she said. “Whether I look back at my childhood, my time at MSU or my experience through this pandemic, I’ve noticed that one of the key secrets to success and happiness is to get comfortable with change and focus on what I can control.”
Yehia’s next step is to begin working as a product information intern in Leo Burnett’s brand strategy department.
Connolly gained a wealth of experience as a Spartan, including being president of the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management, chief executive officer of the Hospitality Association and director of the Heart of House at Les Gourmets, the School’s premier annual fine dining event. Like many of the other commencement speakers, Connolly says the people at MSU really made an impact.
“My time at the Broad College was made special by the incredible students surrounding me,” he said. “We were all there to support, motivate and challenge one another. We all grew together personally and professionally while in the program.”
Looking back over his time at MSU, Connolly hopes his classmates can take their strength and perseverance with them to face anything that may arise.
“Whether we liked it or not, we were all thrown into uncharted territory as the global pandemic affected both our educational experience and industry,” he said. “We found new ways to learn about the industry as internship offers were suddenly rescinded and reconsidered what it meant to provide hospitality in a socially distanced world. Having taken this lesson to heart, I know that the Class of 2021 will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them in the future and be strong leaders because of it.”
Looking ahead, Connolly hopes to make an impact in the industry and one day own a fine-dining restaurant group of his own.
While commencement is often a bittersweet moment, marking the end of students’ journeys at MSU, it also signifies a new beginning. For the Class of 2021, the memories and connections they have made here will stay with them forever as they make business happen.