“It’s nothing personal. It’s strictly business.”
That was Michael Corleone’s famous line from The Godfather. It was a cold and transactional ethos imported from the old country, where who you are was separate from what you do. In the end, it left Corleone estranged from loved ones, surrounded by fickle allies waiting to pull the trigger.
Business school cases are full of characters like Corleone. They viewed their businesses in the short-term, focused on numbers and detached from customers. Armed with slice-and-dice technologies and backed by reams of analysis, and strategy, they’d hammer home their message in every medium imaginable. Still, air power rarely builds empires. It takes the infantry – the front-line employees – to secure trust and implement solutions. On the ground, they invest the time to learn the names and understand the needs. They listen, question, and act. Most importantly, they make customers feel special. They are partners – an extension of their clients’ business – always there to pick up the phone.
For them, business is a personal mission.
WHERE BUSINESS IS PERSONAL
Arizona State’s W. P. Carey School of Business applies this same touch to its MBA program. The program has adopted a “Business is personal” tagline – one that reflects a student-centered culture and a commitment to business as a force for good. It was a combination that resonated with Shawn Liu, who already holds a masters in accounting from W. P. Carey.
“Contrary to popular belief – that business practices focus exclusively on revenue and competition – I’m a firm believer that “business is personal,” he explains. “While working at my current company as a Director of Operations, I lost count of how many times a client would choose us over our competitors, even though we offered the same quality product but added a more personal touch. This same mindset guided my decision to choose W. P. Carey’s MBA program. I value the emphasis on tailoring learning to students’ need, creating a personalized leadership development plan, and offering one-on-one executive mentorship.”
Pitu Sim joins the Class of 2022 from Rhode Island, where he worked in human resources. He was also impressed with W. P. Carey’s Executive Mentor program, where students are paired up with area business leaders. Such mentors include Carole West, who once led Walmart’s human resources strategy team, and Terry Tierney Clark, a former managing director at Merrill Lynch and an Amazon best-selling author. At the same time, Sim was impressed by the programming’s emphasis on building up soft skills to complement technical abilities.
AN INNOVATOR ACROSS THE BOARD
By the same token, Agnese De Grossi Mazzorin was drawn by the program’s inclusive mentality and diverse community. “ASU fosters a learning environment characterized by a supportive, collaborative and welcoming mindset. For me it was important to find a university with a primary focus on individuals and on diversity, where every person with his/her unique characteristics counts and plays a vital role in the learning process of others.”
For five consecutive years, Arizona State has ranked as the most innovative university in the country according to U.S. News & World Report. Over the years, the university has been celebrated for its First-Year Success Center and credited with reducing undergrad attrition through intensive coaching and support. It has also rolled out accelerated degrees and built partnerships to increase scholarship support and resources to students. W. P. Carey itself even attempted to provide free tuition to MBAs – a program scaled back to all MBAs receiving some form of support. Now the Class of 2022 is plugging into one of the largest alumni networks in the world – over 500,000 Sun Devils strong. Here, the creative instinct achieves scale, all with a personal touch. And those aren’t the only benefits to W. P. Carey MBA adds Siva Kandasamy, a 2020 grad.
“ASU consistently ranks No.1 in innovation and prepares its students to take on the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. ROI and the close proximity to the West Coast are some of the other factors that influenced my decision to attend W. P. Carey School of Business.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE…IN BUSINESS AND BEYOND
This year’s class features students like Caitlin Byrnes, whose move to Tempe represents the first time she has left New York City. Before business school, she served as the group director for brand marketing at CHANEL, overseeing the watches and fine jewelry segments. Before that, she spent six years at Tiffany & Company, where her marketing campaigns drove millions of dollars in incremental sales. She is joined in the Class of 2022 by Andrew Logan and Brooke Bettis. These students share a unique bond: They both spent time in the Peace Corps.
“Successfully finishing my 27-month service in the Peace Corps was a defining moment for me,” Bettis explains. “Serving in the Peace Corps is mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. Completing my service showed me I have the grit and the backbone to persevere through challenging times. I am ready for whatever business school may bring!”
Indeed, the class’ experiences leave them plenty ready for the rigors of business school. Mahalakshmi Ganesan – the only woman in her undergraduate class – earned a promotion to run a new territory after winning a major CSR contract with Ford India. Looking for impressive numbers? Shawn Liu led the financial operation for a team that drove 500,000 Japanese tourists to visit California, generating over a billion dollars in travel-related revenue. In China, Casey Spink partnered with investors to open FasTrack English, a chain of English training centers that has grown to 13 schools since its founding in 2016.
“As we continued to expand, I remained the only foreigner on our board of directors,” he reminisces. “My unique position made my responsibilities increasingly diverse. I organized marketing and outreach events, designed curriculum, and recruited, hired, and managed our entire team of foreign teachers. My proudest accomplishment with FasTrack is the team I helped build in our international teaching department, a group of 32 wildly over-qualified groups of individuals that essentially grew and spread from word of mouth alone. Our teaching staff’s strength was without question the most significant contributor to our company’s success and the envy of the industry.”
A LOVE OF BEES AND MANTA RAYS
Spink wasn’t alone in breaking new ground overseas. At African Airlines, Joann Praise Emmanson developed a system of partnerships with other airlines – one that opened up a market of 40 million customers! That wasn’t the only time that Praise Emmanson expanded the marketplace.
“Early in my career,” she writes, “I suggested that we expand into three African countries. I initially felt unqualified to drive the conversation [as the only woman on the business team], but I was sure that following through with this idea was right for the business at the time. Though met with initial resistance due to unfavorable historical information, upon running the analysis and viability, it was approved! With the support of senior management, we were able to explore this novel idea and soon enough, it became a profitable venture.”
It takes courage to launch new businesses and stand up for ideas. The bravery shown by David G. Rice in Afghanistan, however, goes above-and-beyond. “My biggest accomplishment so far has been commanding my team during a severe thunderstorm to assist in executing a rescue mission that saved the lives of over 70 Afghan men, women, and children,” he writes.
In their personal time, you’ll find Andrew Logan indulging in beekeeping. Spencer Lowden collected multiple team national championships in collegiate cycling at Brevard College. Along with traveling to 62 countries across five countries, Casey Spink loves scuba diving – despite not knowing how to swim. Perhaps he could take lessons from Brooke Bettis, who has swum with manta rays in Indonesia.
Go to Page 2 for an exclusive Q&A with Rebecca Mallen-Churchill, Director of Graduate Student Recruitment
Go to Page 3 for in-depth profiles of class members.
Our Meet the Class of 2022 Series
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.