2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Andy Whitaker, Michigan State (Broad)

Andy Whitaker

Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

“Introverted extrovert striving to be the best version of myself each day.”

Hometown: Jackson, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: Prior to coming to MBA school, I was a college football coach

Undergraduate School and Degree: Michigan State University – Kinesiology B.A.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Comtronics – Implementation Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Deloitte (Virtual)

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte – Finance Transformation Senior Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President – MBA Association

Graduate Assistant – Communications & Outreach for the Broad Full-Time MBA Program

Broad Warrior Award Recipient

College Advisory Council member

Broad MBA Team Leadership Coach

Broad MBA Business Presentations Coach

MBA Finance Association member

Broad Consulting Club member

MBA HR Association member

Co-creator of the first Northern Michigan Small Business Trek

2021 ACG Cup Finance Case Competition Participant

MBA Intramural Soccer Team Participant

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being able to lead my classmates as the president of the MBA Association. To me, it’s not so much the class and curriculum that sets an MBA experience apart from the rest. Rather, it’s the professional, social, and charitable events that comingle with what we are learning in the classroom that lead to a well-rounded business school experience. Being the President of an organization that helps coordinate these opportunities for my fellow classmates was a phenomenal way to sharpen my leadership skills while giving back to the program that has given so much to me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Coaching football at the University of St. Thomas is one of my proudest moments of my professional career. Being part of a staff that led our team to a national quarterfinal run and playing in front of a Division III record attendance of 37,355 was the culmination of a life-long dream for me. I think what I am most proud of in this respect, however, is that I challenged myself to hang in there when times got tough. I had no collegiate football playing experience. At the same time, I had multiple people tell me I would never be a college football coach and I was working 90 hour work weeks in exchange for a $2,500 yearly stipend. There were many reasons to quit along the way, but I’m exceptionally proud that I stuck with it and ultimately proved to myself that we are often times capable of so much more than we can imagine if we just persevere.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the Broad College of Business because it has world class faculty (number 1 supply chain school in the country), yet a small close-knit environment. There are only ~65 students in my class which means we all know each other well and often times share in each other’s successes and support each other in times of failure. Faculty know us by name and take the time to interact with you both inside and outside the classroom, which can lead to even more opportunities for experiential learning. I don’t know of many other schools that can afford one the opportunity for such a top tier educational experience in such an intimate one to one setting.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There are so many great faculty members in this program, it’s really tough to choose a favorite. I did particularly enjoy taking a couple of different courses lead by Jennifer Dunn. She was the professor for both my Negotiations and Ethics courses. I felt that she was great at providing an environment where it was easy to share your thoughts (often times on complex or controversial issues with no right answer). She was so good at facilitating stimulating class discussions while also being adaptable and accommodating to the needs of her students amidst a global pandemic. The energy and effort she placed into her classes made me feel like she wanted to be there teaching us (as opposed to just wanting to do research).

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event was having the opportunity to study abroad over spring break in Sicily, Italy. Having a curated experience to visit outstanding companies in various sectors from global energy to local citrus produce was an experience I will never forget and an opportunity I will probably never have again. It was a great reminder, as I close out my MBA career, that it’s a big world out there. Even though I’m a few weeks away from attaining my degree, there is still so much out there to discover and learn.

The fact that the Broad MBA administration was able to source this trip (which had never been done before) amidst a global pandemic reflects volumes about this business school. It reiterates to me how personal this program really is, because putting this trip together was no easy feat and was certainly not something the administrative staff had to do. Having the opportunity to go on this educational experience was truly a labor of love from the administration to the student body itself and I’m not sure how many other programs out there would have been willing to put in this amount of work.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about my school is that the quality of the program is somehow subpar to other universities around it. The Broad School of Business may not be the biggest most prestigious business college in the country, but what it lacks in notoriety it makes up for in actual quality.

Prior to coming to this program, I had never taken a business course. I had no way of entering into the corporate world with a degree in Kinesiology. There was so much I didn’t know by virtue of lack of experience. Yet, somehow, I’m about to graduate with a great job at Deloitte, a rich foundation of knowledge with which to build off from my new upcoming experiences, and above all, a new empowered sense of self that a former football coach / kinesiology student can successfully pivot into the corporate world.

In truth, it doesn’t matter how big, fancy, or prestigious the Broad College of Business ever becomes. I promise you that if you come into this program open to new experiences and ready to dive in and work hard, you will leave here with everything you need to be successful.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Ben Franklin said it best: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” I knew when I applied that I could not change things like my test scores, undergrad GPA, and work experience. So, I decided to focus on what I could control, and that was the upcoming MBA interview I would have with the admissions committee. I spent a significant amount of time understanding how to link my previous unorthodox work history to my upcoming post MBA work goals. I wanted to show the admissions committee what it was I wanted to do and make them aware of how getting my MBA from Michigan State University would allow me to achieve it. Having this foundational understanding allowed me to frame my interview answers in the best way possible, but it would not have worked had I not taken the time to really reflect on where I want to go and prepare for how to articulate that vision.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many amazing students in this program who inspire and amaze me with their depth and breadth of knowledge and experiences. One in particular whom I really admire is Satwik Beernelly. This man came all the way to the United States from India to participate in an MBA program that is not even delivered in his first language (something that never ceases to amaze me with any international student). What sets Satwik apart from anyone else, however, was his patience and kindness in teaching me finance during my first year. Remember, I had no prior business class experience so terms like “net present value” were a totally foreign concept to me. Satwik took hours every week out of his busy schedule to teach me finance in a way so simple that even a person with absolutely zero experience like myself could grasp. He is the only reason I was able to 4.0 my first collegiate finance course and I truly believe that without his guidance, I would not have had the confidence to pursue finance as my MBA concentration. What’s more, Satwik went on to become the president of the MBA Finance Association and to this day is still leading tutoring sessions (on his own time and at no cost to anyone) for his fellow classmates who need extra help. I personally can’t think of a much more selfless act than to give of your own time to help some one out while expecting nothing in return and that is exactly the type of person Satwik Beernelly is.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents have always been so influential in my life. I watched growing up as my dad started his own electronics repair business – a venture that has now been going strong for over 40 years and has allowed him to support and raise four kids along with the tireless efforts of my mom. I think growing up, we just assume that adults have all the answers, but somewhere between graduating undergrad and coming to business school I realized how foolish that assumption was. There was no magic moment in which my Dad suddenly knew exactly how to start, own, and operate a successful small business. He had to continuously work hard to learn how to navigate his business successfully through things like Y2K, the 2008 financial crisis, and even a global pandemic. Coming to the realization of how awesome of a feat this was is what inspired me to go after a career in business. There was no ceremonious pep talk from my dad to push me towards getting my MBA degree; just his relentless dedication toward operating the business he created out of thin air in order to provide for his family. I have him to thank for pushing me to be successful simply by how he goes about his work, day in and day out.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? One of my professional bucket list items is very practical – I would love to experience working in a foreign country for little while. I don’t have a specific company in mind, but I love to travel and I feel like we learn so much when we extend beyond the borders of our comfort zone.

The other bucket list item is much more abstract in that I just want to find that perfect work-life balance. This can be a difficult goal to attain when our sense of balance can change depending on where we are in our lives, but I want to make sure that work never becomes my entire life. There are too many other meaningful life experiences I want to have besides work. It’s a delicate balance – working enough to support the lifestyle I would like to live, but not so much that I don’t have the time to live it – however, it’s a bucket list item I think worthy of pursuing.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has changed my view of a career in that I see how important it is to be flexible and adaptable. The job you have now may not exist tomorrow. However, the skills and qualities you possess will always remain. Being pliable in how you utilize those skills can lead to multiple career shifts in one’s lifetime and to me that is an exciting prospect to explore.

What made Andy such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Andy’s first year, which was entirely remote, was an experience that greatly challenged him and his classmates.  Our program thrives on human connection and co-curricular experiences, and co-curricular learning disturbed that balance in ways that made it very difficult for the Class of 2022 to come together in the formative ways MBA cohorts normally do, both in the spirit of student government, as well as in transformative learning.  From day one, Andy wanted to be a part of re-establishing the culture and community bonds that allow our program to thrive.

He took these chances having limited knowledge and understanding of how to lead in our program, because isolation made that kind of personal education/experience impossible.  Instead, he took a leap of faith, to try to make a difference.  In my opinion, he succeeded beyond any expectations, because he helped bring our student community back in multiple ways.

As an MBA team advisor, he could always be counted on to provide advice and mentorship to first year MBA students needing understanding of how to work in high-performance teams.  As a graduate assistant, Andy created communications plans to outreach to our student community for co-curricular and student events that had never been done before.  As the MBA Association President, Andy resurrected our fall tailgate season, created an infrastructure that yielded the most student events for his group in 2+ years, created partnerships with the MBA program office that yielded critical new programming, and was a key figure in creating the first student professional trek since 2019.  Andy can be a leader and a great teammate, with key strengths in both roles. His ability to understand the challenges other students face, and work to create consensus, is rare amongst our student community.  Wherever he goes from here, Andy knows how to create a strong organizational culture, that is centered on people, framed in important tenets of corporate social responsibility.  We are very thankful for his leadership in the MBA program, and appreciative of the example he has provided for future student leaders.”

Wayne Hutchison, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Full-Time MBA


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