Category Archives: Alumni News

An MBA Graduate’s Passion for Learning and Harboring Education in Michigan: May’s aMaizeing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On May 28, 2020 12:00 PM

Alumnus, Chris Matheson, completed his undergraduate studies in History and English, at UM-Flint, receiving his BA, and then returned to UM-Flint to receive his MBA with a concentration in Finance. The Net+ program, a hybrid mix-mode program of online and two in-person weekend residencies, gave him the flexibility to have a balanced family and work life. His academic journey didn’t stop there as he is currently pursuing his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. Chris is the President of the ninth-largest education service and management provider in the nation that serves 13,000 students in Michigan. He is an avid learner and as our featured alumni of the month, Chris comments on his favorite moments from being in the MBA program, the future of mixed-mode approach to education post COVID-19, advice for working in the education field, and more!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: I earned an MBA in 2012 with a concentration in Finance from UM-Flint.

Q: Pursuing another degree or pursued one after your BBA?
A: I am currently working on my dissertation for an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. Previously I earned a BA from the University of Michigan-Flint in English and History; an MA in History from the University of Alabama; and an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Oakland University. I love school!

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization?
A: I am currently the President of CS Partners, an education service provider located here in Michigan. I began at CS Partners in May 2017 as the Director of School Performance and was promoted to Vice President in January 2018 and President in July 2018. We are fortunate to serve over 2,000 employees and approximately 13,000 students in Michigan. 

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your MBA?
A: I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan-Flint and had a great experience; that, combined with the flexibility offered via the NetPlus mode, made the University of Michigan-Flint my preferred choice. Due to job and family obligations, it would have been a tremendous struggle for me to commit to attending class in-person on a regular, weekly basis. The NetPlus format afforded me the flexibility I needed to work toward the degree I desired. 

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A: In all honesty, I have so many that choosing one is difficult. I absolutely loved the time I spent working toward earning an MBA at the University of Michigan-Flint. Pinned down I would point to the class in Entrepreneurship and the associated “shark tank” style assignment and competition. Dale Tuttle did an excellent job leading that class and really shaped our thinking regarding entrepreneurship. I really had a great experience during my time as a student in the program. 

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: I was always fortunate to be surrounded by outstanding educators, whether in primary school, secondary school, or in university. I valued the relationships I created with my teachers and professors and wanted to provide the same value to others that I took from those teaching and advising me. 

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Fathering three great kids with my wife has been the highlight of my life. I see all my experiences prior to this as preparing me to be a father. I learned so much from my teachers, my professors, my students, and life, and these lessons learned serve to make me a better father. 

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in your field?
A: To do it! It is an exciting time to be in the field of education. I am very fortunate that I get to do what I do, and I love being at the nexus of education and business–which was my career goal when I entered the MBA program at the University of Michigan-Flint. In my position I have the opportunity to work directly with schools on improving their academic programs and building organizational culture, which is working “in the business” and I also get to work “on the business” for CS Partners in developing leaders, building capacity within our organization, and growing our company. I attribute so much of the ability to do this to the knowledge I gained and the skills I developed in the MBA program. 

Q: What would you like to see happen to UM-Flint/Flint within the next five years?  
A: I look forward to the continued renaissance of Flint and would like to see the University of Michigan-Flint expand its footprint as it relates to the further development and improvement of the city. The students and staff of the University of Michigan-Flint have so much to offer Flint and so much to gain from a deeper, more intensive engagement with the city. The University of Michigan-Flint is uniquely positioned to add tremendous value to Flint and lead sustainable and systemic change.   

Q: Fun Facts!
A: Along with one of my best friends–and fellow University of Michigan-Flint alumni–Tim Tenneriello, I host The Fishbowl: Eyes on Education podcast. We have a great time discussing all things related to education and we really learn a great deal from the guests we have on the podcast. Just the other day my oldest daughter said to me “Daddy, you have smart friends!”

Q: Anything else you would like to mention that wasn’t covered in the previous questions?
Ironically, I was very suspicious of the mixed-mode approach to education when I began the program at the University of Michigan-Flint. My fears were quickly laid to rest as I soon found that I was surrounded by brilliant classmates, albeit often in a virtual format, and guided by amazing professors. I believe in this type of format the learner assumes a greater responsibility for her/his education and I embraced the challenge. Fast forward a number of years and two of the schools in our network that I am most proud to utilize this type of delivery of their academic program. NexTech-Grand Rapids and NexTech-Lansing are two high schools making a difference in the lives of the students they serve while delivering their respective academic programs in a mixed-mode format. I see the mixed-mode format as preparation for what one can increasingly expect in today’s work environment, so it is great preparation for the future. And, it is especially helpful currently given the challenges we are all facing due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

Bridging the Gap as an Attorney: April’s aMaizeing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On April 30, 2020 3:45 PM

Alumna, Rashal Baz Zureikat, received her first degree in 2014 with high honors from UM-Flint. Rashal has since moved to Chicago and earned her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and received admission to the Illinois Supreme Court Bar in 2017.

She went to Law school as a way to bridge the gap after she lost her father to cancer. She explains, the “inherent disparity in knowledge between the person sitting behind the desk delivering the news and the receiving party,” sparked her interest to enhance her education background. Over the years, many of her achievements were academia focus but her latest accomplishment is actively raising over $1,000,000 for the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Her success couldn’t have been achieved without the foundational support from pivotal family members, friends, and mentors.

As our featured Alumni of the month, Rashal gives insight into why she chose to go to Law school after her BBA and what she hopes Flint can become in the future. She also offered words of advice to students and alumni on what has helped carry her in the field to where she is today.

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: BBA in Marketing, UM-Flint – 2014, high honors
Juris Doctor, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 2017
Illinois Supreme Court Bar Acceptance, November 2017

Q: Pursuing another degree or pursued one after your BBA?
A: Yes, I earned my J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in May 2017.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization?
A: I recently began as a Labor and Employment Attorney at O’Hagan Meyer LLC in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, I have the pleasure of serving as an Adjunct Professor within the Business Law Clinic at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?
A: The ability to attain a BBA at a globally recognized university, with a small town feel, is something unorthodox and a true rarity. Flint harbors an exceptional community and has a cultural center that is the envy of many major cities; more importantly, it is my home.

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A: My favorite experience at UM-Flint was the access to the start up community. Trendsetters and passionate Flint natives are a dime a dozen. UM-Flint plays a big role in the redevelopment of Flint – a passion that is contagious and fuels innovation.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: A turning point in my choice to go to law school mounted following the loss of my father to cancer. He was a savvy business owner in the restaurant industry, but his health decline came suddenly and swiftly. I was immediately faced with hospital administrators and complicated property issues. At that point in time, I considered myself an educated individual but I couldn’t help but feel unequipped to handle the information coming my way. There is an inherent disparity in knowledge between the person sitting behind the desk delivering the news and the receiving party. Law school was my way of bridging the gap.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: Life is about perspective. Six years ago, my proudest accomplishment was my BBA from UM-Flint. Three years ago, it was about becoming an attorney. To date, one of my greatest accomplishments is actively raising over $1,000,000 for the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. None of these achievements were realized without pivotal family members, friends and mentors.

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in your field?
A: I would direct anyone interested in corporate or labor and employment law to my favorite quote by Seneca; “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” The environment I work in is incredibly competitive, and you need to be composed and prepared. Build a relationship with your professors. We take them for granted, but they have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and social capital. The UM-Flint management professors helped me focus my goals and provided me with options I couldn’t recognize on my own. There are no self-made individuals.  We are a byproduct of all those that we come in contact with, so seek guidance and find one or two good mentors that can help steer you in the right direction.

More importantly, take your steps with an open mind without borders – do not confine yourself to one major because your passion may lie elsewhere. As the saying goes “if you love what you do, you never a work a day in your life.”

Q: What would you like to see happen to UM-Flint/Flint within the next five years?  
A: Flint was built on the automotive industry, but the universities that inhabit it will carry Flint’s future stability and success. I would like to see the continued growth of higher education within Flint. When you pair a wealth of culture with education, it fosters creativity that can be felt worldwide. I want to see a surge of investment capital and professional mentorship directly in the hands of budding entrepreneurs in Genesee County. A heavily addressed topic is the retention issue of educated youth in Michigan. The state is home to some of the best universities in the country, but it does not hold onto the talent it creates. This topic is not a novel one and is slowly getting better in the Metro Detroit area. A financial push directed at investing in young talent will widen the start-up culture in Flint and better the economy as a whole.

Q: Fun Facts!
A: Although my fun fact is very common, I love traveling and new adventures. I urge you to travel when possible or find those little cultural escapes brought to life by a good book. My husband and I have visited 39 countries and counting. We were extremely fortunate to plan our travels prior to the global pandemic.

Q: Any helpful advice you would give to a student or other alumni?

  • Stay grounded, and do not be afraid to roll up your sleeves.
  • Find one or two good mentors that can help steer you in the right direction.
  • Buying someone a coffee every now and again can go a long way.
  • Incorporate community service and volunteer outreach into your daily routine.  The best mentorships and friendships are those developed for the greater good.
  • Never forget the people who helped you achieve success and continue to pay it forward. You could be the missing piece to someone’s future accomplishments.

Grad calls NYC home while working for Michigan Marketing Agency: March’s aMaizeing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On March 25, 2020 3:45 PM

Alumna, Ariees Spangler, graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. During her time at UM-Flint, she worked for the EDA University Center, 100K Ideas and participated in a wide variety of extracurricular activities such as the Cheerleading Club, Women’s Lacrosse Club, and Beta Gamma Sigma. She currently operates her own photography business and lives in New York City while working remotely for a Michigan based digital marketing agency. As our featured Alumni of the month, Ariees will give insight to her experiences at UM-Flint, how she fell into the social media world, and advice on pursuing a career in social media and marketing!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: I received my BBA in Marketing from UM-Flint’s School of Management in December 2017.

Q: Pursuing another degree?
A: I’m not pursuing another degree at the moment, but I have plans to in the future. Education is valuable and I enjoy learning and challenging myself to grow.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? What is your normal day to day?
A: I work as a social media manager for a small digital marketing agency in Howell, Michigan. I’ve worked with the agency for two years and I love what I do. My day-to-day responsibilities range from strategy development and implementation to content creation. I’m also responsible for managing online relationships and analyzing campaign data for each of our clients.

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?
A: Initially, I chose UM-Flint because it was close to home. I had plans to transfer after my sophomore year but became so attached that I decided to stay. The city, my professors, and my classmates all played a role in my decision to continue my education there.

As time went on, I grew to love the grit and determination of the Flint community. Between my time at UM-Flint and my internship experience downtown, I spent a lot of time in the city. It has so much to offer and I’m happy I stayed to experience it.

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A: During my senior year, I had the opportunity to work for the EDA University Center. We had lots of laughs and I was happy to work in a position that kept me involved on campus. I always looked forward to my time there and built relationships that I’m still grateful for today.

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: Honestly, I sort of fell into it. During my senior year, I worked at 100K Ideas in downtown Flint. The organization was launching at the time, so we had no online presence. Since I studied marketing, our social media accounts became my responsibility. I enjoyed the work I did and decided to follow that career path after graduation.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: It’s small, but one of my proudest accomplishments was building a photography business while pursuing an education and beginning my career. It wasn’t always easy, and there were times I felt like I couldn’t do it, but hard work and tenacity made it happen. I learned a lot throughout the processes, and the skills I developed were valuable to the position I hold today.

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in marketing/social media?
A: Marketing is a dynamic, diverse field with a spot for everyone. If you haven’t already, analyze your strengths and determine what you’re passionate about. Someone who excels in content marketing may not have the skills required for a market research position. Build relationships with your professors and peers, ask questions, explore different internship opportunities, and take advantage of everything the School of Management has to offer.

To those pursuing a career in social media marketing—work on building a portfolio now. Chances are, employers want to see what you can do before they hire you. Finally, social media is an ever-changing field. Take time to stay up-to-date with trends, algorithms, and features. This knowledge will help you stay ahead!

Q: Fun Facts!
A: Last summer, I moved to New York City and had the opportunity to continue working in my position from afar. I’m passionate about photography and spend much of my free time capturing portraits for clients and experimenting with film.

Getting Her Feet Wet in the Financial Services Industry: January’s aMAIZEing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On January 27, 2020 4:22 PM

Alumna, Katie Osentoski (McAuliffe), received her Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing in 2014. Katie pursued professional designations in the Finance industry like Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ (FPQP™) and Life, Health &
Accident Insurance License with the state of Michigan. As a full-time Associate Wealth Coach and Mom, she is pursuing the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification. As our featured Alumni of the month, Kaite will give insight to her experiences at UM-Flint, finding what she loves in a career, crucial advice when trying to find an internship/career, and more!

Q: Degree(s) and graduation year:
A: I graduated in 2014. I graduated from the School of Management with a B.B.A. with a marketing concentration.

Q: Pursuing another degree?
A: I am not pursuing another degree. However, since graduating, I have pursued professional designations in my industry. Through the College for Financial Planning® — a Kaplan Company, I earned the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ (FPQP™) designation in 2018. In 2019, I obtained my Life, Health & Accident Insurance License with the state of Michigan. I am currently pursuing the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification.

Q: Where are you currently working and your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization?
A: I work for a privately held wealth management firm in Troy, Michigan. I have been with the firm for over 3 ½ years. When I started with the firm, I was serving as an investment operations specialist. In 2019, I transitioned into a new role – associate wealth coach.

Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?
A: I chose UM-Flint for three primary reasons. First, I had heard first-hand from students and employers that the school gives students the skills to excel in their careers. My education, connections and employability were the most important things when it came to deciding on a university. That wasn’t always the case for me, though. I had attended Central Michigan University and transferred to UM-Flint my junior year. I initially chose Central Michigan based on the following priorities: I felt I needed the experience of living away from home, I wanted the social experience and LASTLY because of my education. By the time I reached the end of my sophomore year, I had my priorities in line and was ready to get back on track and focus on my education. Transferring to UM-Flint helped me to do that.

Second, I knew I wanted to set myself up for financial success. While attending UM-Flint, I was able to live at home, work part-time, set aside an emergency fund and cash flow a large portion of my tuition. I was also able to obtain scholarships based on my academic merits which was instrumental.

Third, my family is from the surrounding Flint area. My grandparents owned businesses in Flint and were active members in the community. I take great pride in being from the Flint-area and attending a school in Flint seemed to be a natural fit.

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
A: I enjoyed my time in the classroom. Every time I entered the classroom, I dug in. I participated. I asked the questions. I was the student that others probably rolled their eyes at when I popped my hand up because I had a question. But I was at a point in my education where I knew not to hold back questions or thoughts. Any question/idea was better than no question/idea. Each of my professors reciprocated and I found the more I engaged, the more they engaged, and I had amazing experiences and relationships with the professors.

One of my favorite projects was in Dr. Dan Lair’s Business Communications class. Our class created a program called Hiring U which was designed to help other students move from a college student to career professionals. We established an online presence and marketed the program, created meaningful content to help students and finished the class with a university event with a panel of hiring experts. I learned so much in the classroom in terms of hiring, marketing and working on a team. A bonus to this class…I met some great friends that are still in my life to this day!

Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
A: During my senior year at UM-Flint, I did a marketing and development internship at the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA). Within a few short months, I was offered a job as an assistant events coordinator. I worked at the museum coordinating events, working on committees with community leaders and marketing programs and exhibitions.

My time at the FIA made me realize I love developing meaningful relationships with people and marketing. Soon after graduation, I accepted a marketing and client service role at a financial firm in Flint. This position allowed me to explore my marketing interests while exposing me to insurance and financial services. From that moment, I knew I wanted to work in the financial services industry. It had everything I needed in a career. It allowed me to develop relationships, make a meaningful impact in businesses and families financial lives and channel both my analytical and creative skills.

Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
A: I am proud to be a working mom. It is one of the most challenging yet rewarding things I have ever done. I often think back to Business Law with Dr. Witt. He had mentioned he would hire someone from UM-Flint any day because we have grit. Students from UM-Flint work hard. We multitask. We do what it takes to get the job done. We. Get. Stuff. Done. And that’s what it takes in the real world!

As a side note, Business Law with Dr. Witt was probably one of the most impactful classes I had taken. I’m glad I paid such close attention in the class because little did I know it would be applicable on a daily basis in my career!

Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in marketing/financial planning?
A: I have three main pieces of advice. First, take the job. Even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for, or maybe you’re not sure it’s a fit…take the job and get your feet wet. You never know where it’s going to lead.

Second, always remember the expert in anything was once a beginner. Take the first step, give yourself grace and know your worth.

Third, never underestimate the value of networking and connections. Never burn a bridge and always treat others with respect.

Q: Fun Facts!
A: In 2014 I married my best friend, Chad Osentoski. We met at Mott Community College and took many classes together at UM-Flint. Chad graduated from UM-Flint as well and is now an assistant project manager at an industrial contracting firm. We are both grateful for our time at UM-Flint and owe the school many thanks. We had our first child in 2018 and are expecting our second child in July of this year.

Life is busy between being a wife/mom, working and studying. I do always try to make time for myself (it is important for mental health). In my free time, I enjoy horseback riding and spending time kayaking and pontooning on our lake.

A random fact: A recent hobby of mine has been studying the enneagram and Myers-Briggs personality assessments. My employer uses the tests with employees and clients. It has been fascinating to learn. The tests can truly help you to understand yourself and others. As a reference, I identify as an Enneagram Type 1 Wing 2 (known as the perfectionist) and a Myers-Briggs ESFJ (known as the consul). The assessments are worth looking into and can be applicable in your career and daily life!

From Finance to Accounting, How One Graduate Sought Change: December’s aMAIZEing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On December 9, 2019 1:00 pm

Maxwell Montney, BBA ’18 in Finance

Alumnus, Maxwell Montney, received his BBA in Finance and a minor in Economics in April 2018. Maxwell has been working for at the University of Michigan-Flint in the Financial Services & Budget department for over a year as an Accountant. This fall, he decided to start his MBA in Organizational Leadership at the School of Management. As our featured Alumnus, Maxwell will provide insight into why he transitioned to the accounting field, his favorite experiences from UM-Flint, and advice about pursuing a career in business.

Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?

I chose UM-Flint due to three reasons. It was close to home, which helped me save money. I liked the fact that there are smaller class sizes, which allowed for more interaction with faculty members. And lastly, the opportunities and resources students have access to. Multiple companies are looking to hire UM-Flint students and graduates. Antonio Riggs, Student Services Coordinator, is a great resource and connection to have after graduation. Antonio is great at his job and loves helping students.

What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?

I would have to say taking a trip with the School of Management to the Federal Reserve in Detroit was my favorite experience. Seeing how that place operates was fascinating. If anyone ever gets the chance to go, I would highly recommend it.

Secondly, the School of Management hosts Alumni Evenings or networking dinners. I have had a great time reconnecting with faculty and a variety of SOM alumni at these events. They are typically Friday evenings so it’s easy to go to their events right after work.

Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?

I always knew I wanted to work with numbers, and I have a passion for helping individuals and organizations meet their financial goals. My undergraduate concentration was Finance, but I currently work as an Accountant for the University of Michigan – Flint. The nice thing about an Accounting or Finance degree is that it can allow for movement between each field. This is sometimes true, but it’s not always the case. I had an internship in college where I learned a lot about the importance of analyzing and organizing data. With these skills and the information I learned in the classroom, I was able to apply it to my current position at UM-Flint.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?

My proudest accomplishment would have to be the day I graduated. Walking across the stage and receiving my degree was a feeling unlike any other. I recently began pursuing my MBA, so I hope to capture that feeling again someday.

What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in Business? 

Business is a broad field, so I can confidently say that you need to get out of your comfort zone. Most of you won’t find what you truly enjoy doing without some trial and error along the way. Don’t be afraid to fail, and if you do, turn it into a learning experience that will hone your skills and abilities. 

What would you like to see happen to UM-Flint/Flint within the next five years?

I would ultimately like to see Flint and UM-Flint grow simultaneously. Many people have been trying to create positive change throughout the city over the last few years, and the university is a great ally in this effort.

Fun Facts!

I love visiting the U.P. and traveling to new places. My most recent vacation this year was to Maine over the summer and it had plenty of great views, including Acadia National Park. I’m also a huge supporter of all things UofM when it comes to sports. Go blue!

Maize and Blue recipient, cheerleader, and sorority sister lands incredible opportunity at PWC: September’s aMAIZEing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On September 26, 2019 11:20 am

Olivia Norfolk, BBA April ’18 in Accounting

Alumna, Olivia Norfolk, graduated from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a BBA in Accounting in April 2018. During her time at UM-Flint, Olivia received the distinguished Maize and Blue Award and the Plante Moran Outstanding Accounting Award in her graduating class. She also was involved with Greek life and a proud member of Sigma Sigma Sigma and Order of Omega. Olivia currently works for one of the Big Four auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, as a Risk Assurance Associate. Only one year after graduating from UM-Flint, she received her MBA and CPA certifications. As our featured Alumna, Olivia answers questions on why she chose UM-Flint, her path as a young businesswoman, and advice on how to pursue a career.

Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?

UM-Flint gave me the smoothest transition from an out-of-state school as an incoming junior into the SOM. They worked with me to be able to stay on track to graduate in four years, and of course the Michigan name!

What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?

Going through sorority recruitment and meeting some of my best friends

Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?

I kind of fell into it. I had a high school teacher that thought accounting would be a good field for me because I’m very structured and disciplined. I declared it as my major as a freshman and somehow never went back!

What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?

Definitely passing all four parts of the CPA Exam while simultaneously completing my MBA.

What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in Management?

It’s okay to not know what exactly you want to do or where you want to work, but it’s not okay to sit back and hope that an opportunity magically lands in your lap. If you don’t know how to get to where you want to be, ask someone. You (or your financial aid) pays a lot of money to have a pool of resources at your feet that can make you successful. Use them! If you think your resume sounds dumb because you’ve never worked a “real job,” ask a professor or someone in the career services office to help you. Ask your newly graduated friends what different fields or jobs are available at their workplace. Utilize your resources and take advantage of the connections you might not even realize you have. 

Fun Facts!

I just moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I was a cheerleader for three years of my college career 

I was a bartender for five years before starting my professional career  

An Entrepreneur within a Corporate Setting: July’s aMAIZEing Alumni

By Alexis Menard On July 19, 2019 11:15 am

Madison McCrum, BBA ’18 in Business Management with a focus in EIM.

Alumna, Madison McCrum, graduated from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a BBA in Business Management with a focus in EIM in 2018. Madison was involved with the Entrepreneurs Society and the Hagerman Center during her undergraduate studies. At the age of 22, Madison now works for a Fortune 500 company and has moved out of the state to work in North Carolina and Florida. She credits her decision to concentrate in entrepreneurship to her strong-willed personality. Having the go-getter attitude has impressed employers she has met. As our featured Alumna, Madison answers questions on why she chose UM-Flint, life after college, and advice for students interested in management. 

Why did you major in BBA Management with a focus on Entrepreneurship?

I chose a BBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship because as a strong willed individual I knew I would need the knowledge to one day pursue my own company. As a recent graduate however, employers have commented on how they love grads with an Entrepreneurship focus because they are impressed with our confidence and willingness to be a self starter! 

Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA? 

Initially, I would have to say I chose UM-Flint because my mother is a nursing professor there. However, what made me stay was how much I was challenged, particularly in the Entrepreneurship Society, Business Law class, and the multitude of business competitions I participated in, which later on impressed employers. 

What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint? 

One of my favorite experiences I would have to say is just the day to day banter I could have with professors on an academic and personal level. They helped me achieve awards (Hagerman’s Zillion Solutions: University Improvement) and question why I was choosing the path I chose. Was I going to be challenged or become bored? Where did I see myself in 5-10 years? How do I better others by bettering myself?

Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?

 I chose to work supply chain in corporate retail because I worked full time in retail all throughout college. I am given pretty much free reign of how I want to own my departments and manage my staff. I have to make the calls on inventory management, product shipment windows, and seasonality time frames. My boss calls it, “an entrepreneur within a corporate setting.”

What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?

So far, my proudest accomplishment is not the fact that I have landed an amazing corporate job at 22 years old at a Fortune 500 company, nor moving to NC and FL for improving my career. My proudest accomplishment is that I can still call my favorite professor on campus, Dr. Witt, throw a scenario at him, and get his opinion. It’s the ties I have back home that make me most proud, that and Urban Meyer retiring. 

What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in Management? 

My biggest words of advice would be to stay humble and hungry. No matter what goes on in your career, don’t burn bridges -including in college. Also, pursuing a management degree is phenomenal if you are willing to work very hard for it -stay hungry! You will only get what you put in for it. UM-Flint has more than enough opportunities for you to succeed. 

Fun Facts 

Since graduating, I have moved to North Carolina and Florida. I have adopted two black labs and love to go hiking! I am currently living in Florida and snorkel, go kayaking with manatees, or play beach volleyball with friends any chance I get! The coolest professor on campus is still my mom, Toni L. LaRocco (2nd place goes to Dr. Witt)! I am truly grateful for the memories I made UM-Flint -Go Blue! 

Alumni Visit – Jan. 26, 2019

Ziad Lajnef visited the School of Management to talk about his experiences working in the internal audits industry. He graduated from UM-Flint in 2002 with a BBA in Accounting with a Finance concentration. Shortly after, Lajnef went on to complete his MBA in 2003. During his undergrad at UM-Flint, he participated in a study abroad trip to Russia and visited the GM plant in Togliatti and the GM headquarters in Moscow. He is currently the Internal Audit Director for General Motors and oversees annual risk assessment and execution of the audit plan for North and South America. Lajef opened his presentation by giving advice to current students by encouraging them to reach out to their professor for their guidance. Lajnef said “Students at UM-Flint have a unique advantage. At a bigger school, you don’t have as much contact with your professors. Here you have direct access to ask professor about whatever you want. Use them to guide you for what you want to do in the future. Use their experience to your advantage to get the most out of your education.”

In his presentation, The Foundational Pillars for Establishing Trust with Internal Audit Customers, Lajnef elaborated on three principles of internal audits. First was to deeply consider strategies to use. Second principle is to think about the talent and diversity of the team. Lastly focused on the outlook on short-term and long-term for tactical planning and processing. Later in his presentation, Lajnef spoke about the importance of analyzing data and knowing the market you are in. His advice was to, “Become date savvy. The more you’re involved and knowledgeable in the market, the better off you’ll be.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Lajnef’s past experiences as a chef or his journey into the business world, he was featured in the fall 2018 SOM Business Magazine as the alumni spotlight! Click the link and go to page 9 to read more:

If you’re interested in being an alumni speaker or volunteering for our upcoming events, please email Anna Swartz at to find how you can give back to the UM-Flint community!

UM-Flint School of Management Launches Alumni and Mentor Group


Teresa Lindhurst speaking at the ESA Dinner

On April 4, UM-Flint School of Management alumna Teresa Lindhurst launched the alumni group – Entrepreneurs Society Affinity. Held in the Northbank Center Grand Ballroom, guests of 150 included current School of Management students, alumni, and members of the Flint business community joined to celebrate the unveiling of the Entrepreneurs Society Affinity (ESA). Click here to read full article.

Lunch with an Entrepreneur featuring Steve Whitener

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Steve Whitener, University of Michigan-Flint Alumni and entrepreneur, spoke to students on Dec. 1 about the importance of entrepreneurship.


More about Steve Whitener 

Started Real Estate Company as a UM-Flint Student
In 1973, while attending UM-Flint, Mr. Whitener purchased an apartment building. Upon graduating in 1977, he went on to acquire several additional rental properties. While managing several real estate holdings, he led a highly successful career in sales. This led to Mr. Whitener founding National Systems Installers.

Became a Technology Entrepreneur
In 1993, he founded National Systems Installers (NSI), a company that provides infrastructure cabling services to corporations. Six years later, he formed Nuspire Networks, which designs and offers monitoring and security systems. His business works with Fortune 500 companies and has 300-plus retail operations. He is Chairman of the Board for NSI and is a former Chairman of Nuspire, a multimillion dollar company he recently sold.