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Award-winning speaker Alison Gleeson to address Broad Spartans at 2024 commencement

By Layna Anderson
Monday, April 8, 2024

Graduation season is a special time — a time for students to revel in their achievements and transition into the esteemed status of Spartan graduate. Alongside the graduating class, distinguished alumni join the occasion, returning to their alma mater to address the graduating students and share valuable insights for the road ahead. Graduating Broad Spartans will have the honor of listening to Broad alumna Alison Gleeson (B.A. Marketing ’87), who will address undergraduates at the Breslin Center as the Broad College commencement speaker on April 27.

Headshot of Alison Gleeson

Alison Gleeson, B.A. Marketing ’87

Since first landing an internship at IBM when she was 19, Gleeson has had an unwavering passion for technology. Today, she serves as a board member at three public tech companies — Elastic, 8×8 Inc. and ZoomInfo — and as a special advisor to Brighton Park Capital, specializing in technology companies. She retired as senior vice president of the Americas, the largest of Cisco’s four geographic regions, responsible for more than $25 billion in annual sales for the company and leading over 10,000 employees across 35 countries.

Throughout her career, Gleeson has maintained a commitment to professional development and inclusion and diversity in the workplace, often blazing a trail for fellow women in her field. She has received multiple awards, including Connected World’s Woman of IoT award for her role in advancing the field, as well as Diversity Best Practices’ Above and Beyond Legacy Award and Michigan Council for Women in Technology’s Woman of the Year Award for her work in advancing women in IT roles. She was the global executive sponsor and board president for Cisco’s Connected Women’s Network, an organization with 7,000 members worldwide.

Looking back on my journey, the moments when I had butterflies were the ones that defined my career. Those were the moments I took risks. Sometimes I succeeded and other times I failed, but I kept a growth mindset by seeing every challenge as an opportunity.

As a proud first-generation alumna who is part of a long line of Spartans in her family, Gleeson has been a member of the Broad College’s Alumni Advisory Board since 2017 — currently serving as its president — and attributes much of her success to her time at MSU. She continues to mentor future business leaders and is often asked to return to campus to share her wisdom with students as a guest speaker.

“Michigan State and being a Spartan holds a very special place in my heart, and I count it among one of the greatest influences in my life,” Gleeson said.

This spring’s commencement is particularly special for Gleeson. She is participating not only as a speaker but also as a proud parent. One of her two Spartan children, her son Marcus, is graduating in communications with a minor in sales leadership — a program that’s co-offered by the Broad College and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

One of the many messages Gleeson hopes to relay through her speech is to embrace the butterflies.

“Looking back on my journey, the moments when I had butterflies were the ones that defined my career. Those were the moments I took risks. Sometimes I succeeded and other times I failed, but I kept a growth mindset by seeing every challenge as an opportunity,” Gleeson said.

Gleeson is a highly regarded international speaker about the drivers of technology disruption across industries, most recently the use of AI, the role of technology in enabling digital transformation and empowering women in technology.

Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business spring 2024 commencement will be held at the Breslin Student Events Center and livestreamed. For more information on the commencement ceremonies, visit commencement.msu.edu.

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