Knowledge and acumen in business can foster success in any industry. Whether their passion lay in the law, nursing, chemistry, information technology, marketing or management, these professionals invested in advanced degrees that took their careers to the next level. The added-value MBA programs at institutions in The 330 supported their initiative and helped them move forward toward their dreams.
Dan Malek Ashland University
“To know me is to know my family,” says Dan Malek, Ashland University alumnus and Service Quality Leader for I.T. in G.E.’s Healthcare division. Malek’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon when he was a teenager. Knowing very little English at first, he managed to build a family and a successful small business in Akron, instilling in his five children a deep reverence for education and a drive to “always look for the next thing.” That ambition largely drove Malek to doggedly pursue multiple degrees, even after a long hiatus. Upon finishing high school in 1996, Malek enrolled at The University of Akron. He and his wife, Kelly, married in ’98, and their first child was born in ’99. Malek then worked three jobs simultaneously so Kelly could finish her degree before another child came along. He started working for G.E. in 2003 and finally completed a Bachelor of Science at Franklin University in Columbus in 2007.
Looking toward a MBA, Malek chose Ashland University partly because their Medina campus was convenient, but also because they appreciated his relevant work experience. “[Ashland] worked with us and gave me 21 credit hours for my documented work experience.”
Just as Malek’s employment helped propel his studies forward, the classes at Ashland informed his work along the path to his degree. “I [took] from the classroom different pieces that [were] beneficial to what I [was] working on in the company,” he says. “You’re constantly evolving your tool set and polishing your tools.”
With his own daughter getting ready to start college soon, Malek is cautious in his advice to those considering an advanced degree. A degree never automatically translates into a job, be it entry-level or CEO, so Malek counsels planning—both during and after graduation—to make sure you get the experience you want. “I realize education is important, but how important is anything if you don’t have a plan for it?” Malek donned a cap and gown to accept his MBA concentrating in Management and Information Systems in December 2015, with his daughters, wife, mother and father watching. “It was a great day.”
Ray Casey The University of Akron
A law degree is a big accomplishment. The same can be said for a MBA degree. Obtaining both in less than four years sounds impossible. But that’s exactly what Ray Casey, Associate Attorney with Aler Stallings, LLC, did.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance at Walsh University, the Akron native knew he wanted to go to law school, and The University of Akron was an easy choice for him. “Having grown up in Akron, I was familiar with the school,” he says. “My dad [and] a couple of great uncles went to Akron’s law school, too.”
Business school was always in the back of Casey’s mind, even as he embarked on his law degree. Before long, he decided to combine these two interests, resulting in some unforeseen benefits. “Getting my dual degree made sense,” he says. “I was able to get a law degree and MBA in three years plus some summer credits, whereas had I pursued my degree at another school, it would have taken more like five years.”
Casey was lucky enough to land an assistantship with the College of Business, so instead of working at an off-campus job, he helped other students navigate graduate school. While mentoring others, Casey also received mentoring from some of the people he worked with who became role models for him. “I could see how much they cared about every student in the program,” he says.
Besides saving him time and money, the dual degree program gave Casey an advantage in the job market. “I have the job I do now because of my joint degree,” he says. “A lot of attorneys wouldn’t know how to balance the office books if they needed or build relationships with other professionals in the community.”
The skills Casey developed in the dual degree program have been so valuable, he would counsel others to do the same. “I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to pursue a joint degree,” he says. “[And] if I woke up and was graduating college again, I would tell myself to do the same thing.”
Eric Camulli Baldwin Wallace University
Twenty years after finishing college and entering the workforce, Eric Camulli, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management with 7 Signal Solutions, was searching for a way to enhance his leadership skills. “I was looking to take my career to the next level after accruing a great deal of experience,” he says. “I wanted to ascend to the next level of thinking.”
The Long Island native and University of Cincinnati alum considered traditional MBA programs, but his drive for something more led him to the Executive MBA program at Baldwin Wallace University. This unique program is designed for executives with significant experience in the workplace, who share their expertise and perspectives from a wide range of industries with their classmates in a cohort structure. “I liked the idea of getting to know other business professionals, tapping into their experience and learning from them,” he says.
One aspect that sets the EMBA apart from more traditional programs is its emphasis on systems thinking. “The concept is that of viewing all aspects of a business holistically, understanding intimately how all the pieces fit together,” Camulli says. “I really wanted to elevate my business acumen by exploring a realm of thinking and business I hadn’t been exposed to before.”
In working with his cohort team on their capstone project, consulting for an actual Northeast Ohio company, Camulli says he challenged and stretched himself in ways he hadn’t expected. “You immerse yourself in that organization,” he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure; you have to be in it all the way.”
Ultimately, the experience at BW was as much about self-discovery as professional improvement for Camulli. “It had a powerful impact on me,” he says. “It wasn’t just going to school; you’re learning how to think differently. By the end, there’s a little self-transformation.”
Like most things in life, he says, what you get out of the program depends on what you put into it. “It’s about attitude. If you really want to grow and learn, it’s so much more than just a MBA. It was an investment in myself.”
Renee Clausen Kent State University
Renee Clausen has been a nurse with Cleveland Clinic for 20 years. In that time, she has seen a huge disconnection between two important aspects in many healthcare organizations: patient care and business. “I thought, this doesn’t have to be,” she says. “My passion lay in connecting that business aspect to the care aspect because, essentially, you can’t have one without the other in healthcare.”
This passion led Clausen to pursue a dual Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)/MBA program at Kent State University. She began the program in 2010 while she was working full-time and caring for her two teenaged children as a recently divorced single mother. She soon became overwhelmed and thought about dropping the MBA track.
“ About halfway through my program, I was starting to struggle,” Clausen says. “My advisor, Susan Taft, pulled me aside, asked me questions and made me think.” Taft challenged Clausen to consider why she had embarked on the program and where she saw herself in five, 10, 15 years. “I’m glad she did, because I stayed on the same track and backed off to one class at a time. The program offers you that freedom.”
With a more manageable schedule, Clausen finished both degrees in August of 2015 and saw professional benefits from her new credentials almost immediately. “I applied for multiple different positions [within Cleveland Clinic], and had I not had these degrees, I would’ve never gotten the interviews I did, and I wouldn’t have got the position I have now.”
Clausen is now the Quality Management Coordinator for the Heart and Vascular Institute Research and Data Registries, where she works with cardio-thoracic surgeons and their patients to facilitate transplants and other surgeries.
Her experience at Kent gave her wisdom that others might find useful. “You need to understand and retain information, [and] you can’t do that if you’re stressed out,” she says. “Nobody says you have to be through this program in two or three years. If it’s too stressful, meet with your advisors. They’re wonderful.”
Bryan Kokish Walsh University
Stand-up comedy isn’t always associated with business and marketing. But for Bryan Kokish, Marketing Director, Customer Engagement with University Hospitals, doing stand-up in college was a pivotal moment in his life. He met his wife of many years at an open mic night. Beyond introducing him to his spouse, comedy gave Kokish some insights for his future career.“Comedy is being able to put myself in the eyes of the person I’m marketing to,” he says. “It’s an empathy to articulate a message so it resonates.”
A mentor planted the idea of a MBA in Kokish’s mind when his children were just entering the world and he had no time to be serious about it. That seed stuck with him. At UH, a colleague confided that he would need a MBA to advance his career, and Kokish realized that he had always thought of a higher degree as a personal challenge. Once it was the right time to select a school, Walsh was at the top of Kokish’s list.
“ Mike Petrochuck, [Director of the MBA Program at Walsh,] had come to a number of working sessions at UH, [and] I really liked him a lot,” Kokish says. “Then I started research and found the classes were online or in person, very cost effective, the quality of it—the fact that it is a Catholic university. It was almost a no-brainer.”
Though the program was challenging, Kokish says it was ultimately very rewarding. “The hardest class I’ve ever taken in my life was the statistics in my MBA. I never worked so hard to get a B+ in my life.” The real-world aspect of his classwork informed Kokish’s work at UH, as well as the development of his own marketing firm, Vocitare, in Brunswick. “[Stats] and a couple of accounting classes helped how I look at my company and how I set things up.”
From the support of enthusiastic professors, the camaraderie in study groups, and the applied knowledge he gained, Kokish recommends the MBA program for anyone looking to advance their career or simply round out their business knowledge. “I encourage anyone who asks about it that Walsh is the ideal place.”
Sara Kelley Malone University
When Sara Kelley, chemist with SILMIX-OH, a division of Whacker Chemical Corporation in Canton, was deciding between pursuing a master’s degree in engineering or a MBA, she had little difficulty settling on Malone University’s MBA program. “I liked how Malone has the program set up, the cohort structure,” she says. “You’re with the same people the entire time, you meet one night a week for four hours, [and] you don’t have Saturday classes like other universities.”
The cohort structure allowed Kelley to build strong relationships with the other people in her classes, who supported and guided each other through the classwork like a team. She still keeps in touch with a number of them. Kelley also appreciated the different viewpoints her classmates brought with them from diverse disciplines, like marketing, sales and engineering. But networking wasn’t the only reason Kelley sought an advanced degree.
“ The main reason was to get that business information I didn’t get studying [mechanical and polymer] engineering,” she says, “to be able to understand what types of things a business is looking at from the non-technical side.”
One benefit Malone had that Kelley didn’t find at other institutions was the option to skip a qualifying exam, like the GRE or GMAT, and take pre-requisite courses instead. Basic accounting and marketing classes, for example, filled in some gaps from Kelley’s undergraduate work and helped her transition into the program.
“ The fact that I have the technical background and also the MBA has helped with the assignment I’m on right now,” Kelley says. Whacker Chemical Corporation is the North American subsidiary of Whacker Chemie AG, a German-based company with locations around the globe. Kelley recently traveled to Berghausen, Germany on a Talent Development assignment, a new program designed to help employees build relationships and exchange best practices with international coworkers.
“ I think the fact that I’ve gone above and beyond my bachelor’s degree shows that I want to continue to learn, grow and be well-rounded,” Kelley says. “I want to understand both the technical and business aspects of the job and be able to ultimately make an impact within my organization.”