Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Andrew Whitaker, Michigan State (Broad)

Andrew Whitaker

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

Ambitious young professional who enjoys telling stories and helping others achieve success.”

Hometown: Jackson, MI

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a member of the 2014 Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State Football team as a student manager.

Undergraduate School and Major: Michigan State University – Kinesiology; Graduate: Michigan State University – MBA – Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Comtronics Security – Implementation Analyst

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I chose Michigan State University because of the team-oriented nature the program provides. 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.

What has surprised you the most about the Broad MBA program? The most surprising thing about the Broad MBA program is the intimate nature with which I have gotten to connect with the faculty and staff. I am not just another faceless number in the crowd here. Despite being virtual, every single professor I have had in my MBA career thus far knows me by face/name. Most of them know what my goals are and have already offered various ways with which they can help me achieve them. These professors are some of the most well-connected people in their respective industries and to be able to foster a strong connection with them as a student is such a powerful resource for Broad to provide to me.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? There are so many qualities to describe my classmates, but the one that initially comes to mind in this day and age is “empathetic.” My classmates have done a really good job at understanding the different situations that their peers may be coming from and accommodating them accordingly. Whether it’s making time to schedule meetings appropriately for the international student who is living 11 time zones away, or covering for each other on team project when some one has a big interview they need to prepare for the following day, I watch my classmates continuously put others before themselves. In the competitive world that we live in today, it is so nice to be a part of a program where you know everyone has each other’s backs.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment in my career thus far is becoming one of the youngest full time football coaches at the NCAA level. After graduating from Michigan State in 2014, I worked very hard chasing my dream to coach football at the highest level possible. That dream became a reality at the age of 23 when I took a job coaching the running backs at a small Division 3 college in western New York (later moving on to coach at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota). Having had only one year of high school playing experience, being able to coach at a high level in the college ranks was incredibly difficult. 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 (Shout out to Coach Tony Spencer for taking me under his wing and helping me grow every day as coach).

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Having only been an MBA student for a semester, my biggest accomplishment may not appear to be all that “unique,” but I am really proud of getting a cumulative 4.0 in my first module of courses. I have never been exposed to any business classes prior to my MBA experience. I knew that these classes would be very difficult going in. However, I also knew that if I put in the extra level of effort that was needed, I would be able to go from a guy who knows absolutely nothing about the business world whatsoever to someone who earns the highest grade possible in each class.

Though I know many people all over the world get 4.0s in their MBA studies, I am not competing with them. I am competing with myself, and I feel accomplished at how much I was able to push myself, and how much I was able to learn in general from these courses. Of course, with that said, none of that would have been possible without the quality instruction I received from the faculty here at Broad.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Unfortunately, coaching football at the level I was coaching can lead to incredibly long hours with very little to no pay. I reached a point, 3.5 years in, where I had no money left and needed to find a “real job” to pay back my student loans.

I was lucky enough to take a position at a security firm owned by a very close family friend where I would be implementing a brand new software the company had just purchased. This implementation project exposed me to so many different areas of business from customer service to procurement to finance and accounting. It also gave me the opportunity to draw so many parallels from my coaching days to the business world. Furthermore, the mentorship I received from the owners of the company showed me what doors hard work and a solid educational background could open for me in the future. After nearly two years with that company, I decided I needed to pursue an MBA to gain the fundamental knowledge of business needed in an effort to propel my corporate career to the highest level possible.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? After graduating from Michigan State in 2014, I had the opportunity to volunteer as an English teacher and soccer coach for refugee children in Uganda, Africa. Unfortunately, nearly three months into the year long program, I was forcefully taken by corrupt Ugandan police and government officials. They took my passport and visa holding it for ransom telling me that I had 6 days to get them $3,000 in cash and leave the country or they would put me in prison for one year.

While I do not encourage anyone to have that type of experience, I look to the positives of what that experience taught me. A defining moment such as that prepares you to stay calm under pressure, be flexible in your decision making, and agile in your actions. It also gives me a memory bank of lessons from which to draw from that no one can take away from me. When things get tough in business school, I often think back to that experience and draw off the strengths that it gave me to help guide me through whatever situation I am currently in.


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