When you think of a Spartan, words like tough, disciplined, and independent probably come to mind. They are men and women who aren’t afraid to stand on the front lines, constantly training and developing themselves – never backing down and never giving up.
Spartans relish the dirty work. And they win because they work closely as a unit, committed to a cause and confident in those around them. That Spartan mentality is the defining mindset of MBAs at Michigan State’s Broad College of Business. It is a place, says Justin Reid (’19), that lives up to its Midwest “blue-collar, hard-working reputation.” These virtues are also what brought Andrew Whitaker back to East Lansing to be a member of the MBA Class of 2022 at Broad.
LIVING THE SPARTAN WAY
“I chose Michigan State University because of the team-oriented nature the program provides,” he tells P&Q. “I am a big believer that a team is always greater than the sum of its individual parts. I think that it’s crucial to understand how to operate effectively in all types of teams because in the end, no one can do it alone. No matter what line of work you go into, you will need to be able to work with others to maximize the positive effect you can have within your company and even the world at large. The MBA program at Michigan State provides a solid foundation with which to build my teamwork skills that will prepare to be successful no matter what field I enter into after graduation.”
Character. Passion. Sacrifice. Rigor. That’s what you’ll find in a Spartan. As the first-year class learned, Spartans value two things above all others: taking action and savoring a job well done. “My classmates are hard-working and have a “let’s get it done” attitude,” observes Abraham Rusch. We’ve made the best of all the challenges associated with the coronavirus. Virtual project meetings sometimes turn into social time where we chat about internship recruiting, previous travel experiences, and college sports (Go Green!). However, we focus when it is time to focus and aren’t afraid to put in the extra hours to get work done.”
Spartans are tough – but also flexible…and very, very smart. Take Tricia O’Brien, who is also a medical student. Two years ago, O’Brien was wondering if she even belonged in medical school. She described her Anatomy class as “drinking from a fire hose.” Despite hours-upon-hours of studying, she struggled in her first exams. Her confidence shaken, she questioned whether she could hack medical school and debated whether she should even show up to her first biochemistry exam. Then, the Spartan in O’Brien kicked in – and she endured.
“Something inside me wouldn’t let me just stop. I knew I would be so disappointed in myself for years to come if I just gave up and didn’t even try. This is my defining moment because I was at such a low point, but I kept going and I did end up passing both classes!”
STEPPING FORWARD WHEN MOST WANT TO STEP BACK
O’Brien’s perseverance has set up her up to pursue an even larger mission in her field. “I saw that there are a lot of administrative and bureaucratic rules in healthcare. Sometimes, these rules do not serve the patients or healthcare staff in the best way. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to set myself up to be in a position where I can make positive changes in the healthcare field.”
Spartan tough is also Broad resourceful. Just ask Abraham Rusch, who headed up music and liturgy at St. Jude Catholic Church. Here, he faced a dilemma when COVID hit. Should he “throw in the towel” and cancel worship until the pandemic passed or find an alternative way to reach the congregation? He followed the Spartan Way – not back or around but straight through – teaching himself online streaming and video editing in a couple of days.
“This experience gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to adapt quickly to different circumstances. Even in the most challenging situations, a healthy sense of self coupled with flexibility will help you and your team thrive. Attending business school during this time hasn’t been easy. However, a good dose of self-assurance and adaptability has helped pull me and my team through.”
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
Big obstacles aren’t new to the Class of 2022. Derek Hill, for one, worked in architecture before becoming an MBA. A few years ago, he was charged with designing a tower that overlooked Boston’s Fenway Park. Just one condition: his presentation had to include ’nearly every conceivable design option for the site.’’ The result: Hill’s 8-person team delivered 30 different designed under a seemingly-impossible deadline. Oh, and the stakeholder presentation was a smashing success too.
“This moment taught me a lot about, managing your energy as well as your time and setting priorities and goals – all the while, asking the right questions from a place of ambiguity. All of these skills, I believe, have been very helpful in managing my time and growth within the Broad MBA program.”
Andrew Whitaker has certainly faced his share of Spartan trials. In 2014, he volunteered to teach and coach refugees in Uganda. His reward, of course, was being held for a $3,000 ransom by local officials. The event, he says, taught him to stay calm under pressure – a lesson he has shared with his players as a football coach. At 23, Whitaker ranked among the youngest position coach in Division III – despite only playing one year in high school.
“It took many 16+ hour days of work to get there and, even more importantly, it took the help and guidance of coaching mentors that taught me along the way.”
A LONG LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS
Indeed, the MBA Class of 2022 is filled with young achievers. As part of a joint international venture, Vishal Chaudhary managed the supply chain during the construction of one of Asia’s largest sewage treatment plants. As a consultant, Pankaj Sanodiya developed procurement solutions for a Top 5 consumer goods client with operations in 100 countries. The class is also fond of giving back in their careers too. Satwik Beernelly operated a foundation that provided 33,000 people with services like career counseling and medical camps. At the same time, Abraham Rusch joined forces with his wife to form a non-profit that provides counseling and business training to teenage mothers in Uganda.
“I use my finance training to do some of the behind-the-scenes work that makes the fundraising possible. I have to say the most rewarding moment of my career so far was helping break ground on a new dormitory in Masaka. This will be a place for the most vulnerable to find shelter, learn a trade, and acquire business skills. It is really an honor to be a part of something that is doing so much good.”
That momentum has carried on in school in ways big and small. Looking back on first semester, Whitaker takes pride in maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA – a testament to the extra effort he put in to compensate for never taking any business courses. In contrast, Vishal Chaudhary stepped out of his comfort zone to master networking and formulating his value proposition to employers. For Derek Hill, the best Spartan moments – so far – have been captaining a national case team that made it to a competition finals.
“What was the most rewarding part, for me, was getting a close, first-hand look at how much we were able to grow and skill build over the course of just a few days. As the team captain, it was great to take on a leadership role, jump into researching and presenting on an unfamiliar industry, form strategy recommendations, and pull a team together to achieve a common goal. One of the key things we always mention at Broad is, ‘’It is important to get the reps in.’’ I thought by tackling this challenge and accomplishing some of our goals, it was a great experience.”
* Page 2: Interview with Dr. Wayne Hutchison, Managing Director of the MBA Program
* Page 3: Class of 2022 Student Profiles