My objective in summer 2002 was to advance in my professional development by obtaining an MBA. Little did I know that I would find the love of my life in my cohort!

Andrew and Kendra Parlock

Andrew and Kendra Rice Parlock, graduates of the 2003 Executive MBA cohort

I remember being excited about starting the MSU Weekend MBA program, which is now called the Executive MBA. However, I was worried about how I would juggle work and the demands of a rigorous program after being out of academia and in the workplace for many years. Comfort was found in discussing balance with other people who shared the same concerns. On one Saturday, I made it my intention to introduce myself to all the teams in the cohort. That was the day when I first met my future husband.

My introducing myself to his team was later described as a welcome relief from the awkward and contentious conversation that they were having. We still laugh about how I helped break the ice, which ended the team’s disagreement.

Andrew was an engineer at an automotive supplier who loved Italian cooking and traveling. He was easy to talk to and the best storyteller I ever met. There was a great sense of camaraderie on the weekends, which led to many hangouts after class, with dancing and karaoke. Andrew and I got to know each other during group outings and during the Global Marketplace trip to Finland and Sweden.

During a busy time in my life, Andrew became the person I could always count on for support, whether it was a lighthearted chat or for serious conversations about leadership, strategy and navigating the career ladder. Despite growing up in different states and with different family backgrounds, we discovered our shared passion for travel and understood the nuances of working in the automotive industry. Each conversation highlighted our similar connection to family, our love of food and our dedication to the pursuit of education. Outside of class, he shared with me his hobby of boating on Lake St. Clair, and I shared with him my love of Detroit. Together, we were dreaming about the places we wanted to travel and the places we hoped our careers would take us.

Two years after graduation, Andrew asked me to marry him at a candlelit Mozart dinner concert in the Baroque Hall of the Stiftskeller St. Peter in Austria. He was working in Germany and invited me to visit, and he proposed that week, during a trip we took to Salzburg. We’ve spent all the years that followed in support of one another through many jobs, promotions, relocations and career changes, with me moving from a global corporate role to government and now to nonprofit leadership.

We both look back on our experience as a seminal time in the development of both our careers and our relationship. I will forever be thankful for my MBA experience and the life lessons I received. When you are intentional about improving yourself, unexpected good things will come.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to my husband, Andrew, and to all my friends from the 2003 MSU Weekend MBA cohort!