In 2007, Priya Balasubramaniam (MBA ’01) stood across from an Apple Store and watched as customers lined up outside to purchase the first iteration of the iPhone. This launch was a culmination of work and a proud moment for Balasubramaniam, who worked on this revolutionary product. However, that moment might not have happened for her, had it not been for Helen Dashney’s support.
Throughout Balasubramaniam’s time studying in the Broad College’s Full-Time MBA program, Dashney, fixed-term faculty in the Department of Finance, provided her with advice and mentorship. Dashney was working in career services advising for the program. Her guidance made an indelible impression on Balasubramaniam.
“I found immense support in having someone who cared, could talk through the challenges I was facing and give meaningful guidance,” Balasubramaniam said of Dashney.
Today, Balasubramaniam has pledged a game-changing gift to her alma mater in honor of Dashney’s steadfast support — one that she anticipates will help guide future generations of women. This gift establishes the Dashney Women’s Leadership Accelerator to equip students with the abilities and confidence to pursue professional leadership positions and propel women graduates into the C-suite. With long-term mentoring, coaching, workshops and experiential learning opportunities, the DWLA will provide a powerful immersive experience for select undergraduate students.
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Since 1996, Dashney has been a champion for student success at the Broad College. She began focusing more specifically on women students starting in 2019, when she first offered a Women Leadership in Business course, and in 2022, she became the advisor to the Women in Business Students’ Association. As for the DWLA, she’s eager to work individually with students who are making the exhilarating yet daunting transition into their careers.
“To have someone as accomplished and humble as Priya recognize my work at Broad with this gift is perhaps the pinnacle of my 50+ year career. I will strive to honor her by contributing to the confidence with which DWLA Scholars and their connected peers launch their professional careers,” Dashney said.
Balasubramaniam is currently vice president of operations at Apple, where she’s continued to work on iPhone as well as other Apple products. She remains a dedicated Spartan alumna, supporting MSU in many ways over the years, including serving as a commencement speaker in 2017, supporting graduate students with paid work experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic through donor-enabled scholarships, and through her service on the Broad College Advisory Board — just to name a few.
Having had the privilege of experiencing a helpful mentorship with Dashney when she was a student at Broad, Balasubramaniam is happy to be able to give back, and she hopes the DWLA will guide other women students. She said this endeavor is all about “making sure young women are geared up to be intentional and have purpose in what they do, and then taking what they learn and achieve and give it back to society. They can be a force multiplier.”
Selections for the inaugural cohort were announced on Dec. 8, welcoming 14 DWLA Scholars with programming beginning in January 2024. Alexis Cuellar, a junior majoring in accounting, is one of the selected scholars. As the first in her family of eight siblings to attend college, she said that being chosen helped validate her decisions and expand her leadership skills.
“I am grateful and beyond excited to be part of a community of women with diverse experiences that can add to my learning and personal growth, and I hope to contribute to their journeys as well,” she said.
Dashney and Balasubramaniam feel confident that the DWLA will increase the number of Broad College alumnae in senior leadership and C-suite positions while also continuing a community of support. Their vision for the accelerator is to create a multiplier effect of women supporting women, where alumni connect with DWLA cohorts and, together, create a network to support and champion one another every step of the way.
The DWLA focus areas will include business communication skills so students can begin their professional lives with the ability and confidence to make an immediate impact. The students will work with Dashney individually to develop a leadership skillset.
For additional information about the DWLA, visit broad.msu.edu/womens-leadership.