Tech Offerings Get Big Boost

Foundation Grant Powers New Programs in Cybersecurity and Data Analytics

As the demands of the business world constantly evolve, Northwood nimbly evolves to meet them, most recently by developing advanced Cybersecurity and Data Analytics programs that will give students highdemand skills.

“Continuous improvement is part of our DNA as a university,” said Kristin Stehouwer, Ph.D., Northwood’s executive vice president, chief operating officer, and chief academic officer. “Through our Advisory Councils and our network of high-level contacts, CEOs and employers are telling us that the things keeping them up at night are cybersecurity concerns and how to leverage big data. We are creating stand-alone majors as well as infusing these skills across our curriculum.”

Technology is an important component of the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), which has become a key focus of educators nationwide. The Midland-based Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation is a major supporter of STEM initiatives, and also serves as a leader in strengthening the local community, which helps explain the Foundation’s multimillion- dollar grant for Northwood’s latest technology advancements.

“We are proud to support the growth of important and timely science, technology, and math programs at Northwood University,” said Macauley Whiting Jr., president of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. “Every industry today has a need for leaders with analytical skills; these initiatives are critical to innovation and job creation in our region.” The grant will fund physical technology improvements, mainly in Jordan Hall, as well as the hiring of new faculty with the high-value expertise required to give Northwood students world-class preparation for professional success.

“The grant is invaluable in allowing Northwood to be a leader in combining business with STEM education – creating an even more vibrant university,” said Justin Marshall, vice president of University Advancement and Alumni.

Beginning in the 2020-21 academic year, Northwood will offer undergraduate majors in Cybersecurity and Data Analytics. In addition, the University is adding a master’s degree and developing a doctoral degree with an emphasis on data analytics that, once the accreditation process is completed, will be Northwood’s first doctoral offering.

All Northwood students will benefit from the enhanced educational capabilities made possible by the Foundation’s grant.

“This is a game-changer for us,” Stehouwer said. “This truly will be transformative for our curriculum. And it will ensure that our students have everything they need to become the leaders of a global, freeenterprise society, today and for many years to come.”

Timeline for Technology Advances

2019-20

  • Install cybersecurity and data analytics labs within Jordan Hall to serve as the nucleus of technology instruction and related activities

  • Expand faculty to support development of technology focus across the curriculum

  • Build public awareness of changes, helping to build and broaden pipelines for student enrollment

  • Hire doctoral program director who will champion implementation of blueprint to develop leaders in the booming field of data analytics

  • Apply for accreditation of doctoral program by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

2020-21

  • Begin comprehensive Jordan Hall renovations, including public space enhancements and electrical infrastructure upgrades to accommodate current and future demands of modern computer labs and classroom space

  • Transform the role of STEM in business education by integrating data analytics into all academic programs

  • Launch Northwood’s first-ever doctoral program, upon HLC approval, providing analytics expertise powered by newly hired doctoral faculty with world-class credentials

2021-22

  • Complete Jordan Hall enhancements, creating a dedicated space for Cybersecurity and Data Analytics programs that meets the needs of today’s students

Game On! Northwood Launching Esports Program

Cody Elsen coached his Fable E-sports team in the Gears Pro Circuit Las Vegas Open. In the fall, Elsen will be leading Northwood’s competitive gamers in the University’s first Esports competition.

Cody Elsen coached his Fable E-sports team in the Gears Pro Circuit Las Vegas Open. In the fall, Elsen will be leading Northwood’s competitive gamers in the University’s first Esports competition.

Northwood students participate in 17 varsity sports, a few dozen clubs and many student organizations. And beginning in fall 2019 they’ll add a competitive arena that falls somewhere in the middle: esports.

With uber popular online video games “Fortnite” and “League of Legends” as the playing field, a team of Northwood students will compete against other colleges and universities as part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the governing body of college-level competitive gaming.

NACE is to gaming what the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is to football and basketball. And if you can avoid getting bogged down in defining the term “sports,” you can see the similarities.

“NACE establishes standardized rules, organizes competitions, and tracks results,” explained Andy Cripe, Northwood’s dean of Student Affairs.

In a typical NACE event, a team of five Northwood players sits together in a room inside Jordan Hall, each at his or her own computer, each controlling a character in an online “League of Legends” arena.

Meanwhile, five competitors from the opposing school do the same in a similar room on their campus. Each team has a coach, helping players coordinate their actions as they work together to achieve victory. A few spectators can watch the competition from inside the competitors’ rooms, but many more watch from their own homes via the internet.

To prepare for the fall launch of its competitive gaming program, Northwood is upgrading Jordan Hall’s computing infrastructure, has hired a coach to oversee the program, and is recruiting high school seniors who have high-level gaming skills.

“This is the highest level of collegiate esports competition,” Cripe said. “We look at it like a varsity sport. It’s going to be more like a varsity sport than a club or a student organization.”

Cody Elsen was hired in February to be Northwood’s first gaming coach. He’s a graduate of Dow High School in Midland, and has worked for several years in the marketing field, with connections to the business of competitive gaming.

“Online gaming is following the same model as professional sports,” Elsen said. “It’s going to be a $2-billion-a-year business in the next few years. There are people who become professional players as young as 13.”

Northwood is the fourth college in Michigan to join NACE, and sees great potential in being a forerunner in a field that has high visibility with future generations of students.

“This is a good fit with ‘The Northwood Idea.’ We believe in taking risks and being entrepreneurs,” Cripe said. “There is a bit of unknown in this. I have to admit that when the idea was presented to me, my first thought was the stereotype of a ‘gamer’ playing alone, isolated from the world. But esports is actually quite interactive. It requires many of the same skills as a sport, but without the physical dimension. And there are a lot of similarities between esports and business.”

As Northwood’s coach, Elsen will guide development of the program, with plans to add summer camps and non-collegiate competitions that will attract gamers from across Michigan and beyond.

“It’s going to be a great thing for the entire area,” Elsen said.

Bonus Online Exclusive - In the Lab and Beyond

Jeff Bennett’s students learn dealership management concepts in the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab using ERA-IGNITE software found in dealerships around the country.

Jeff Bennett’s students learn dealership management concepts in the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab using ERA-IGNITE software found in dealerships around the country.

Reynolds and Reynolds Supports Northwood Students

Reynolds and Reynolds took a bold step several decades ago when it invested in Northwood’s automotive dealership education. Now the foundation of a positive and enduring blend of education and industry, Reynold’s early faith in “The Northwood Idea” has nurtured our students’ passion for careers in automotive dealerships for more than 40 years.

In 1975, Reynolds, a developer of dealership management system (DMS) software and hardware, generously installed its proprietary products in Northwood’s automotive lab. This confident first step created the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab, which continues to engage students in digital learning and promote dealership management best practices.

“Reynolds and Reynolds’ support of Northwood has been extensive. The company’s long-term commitment and many consecutive years of the friendship reflects their enthusiasm for our students, curriculum, and mission to develop leaders of a free-enterprise society,” said President Keith Pretty. “We are extremely thankful that the company places such a high value on encouraging students to become the future drivers and innovators of the automotive industry.”

A recognized leader in DMS technology, Reynolds is a respected and appreciated member of Northwood’s extended community. Students and faculty are achieving great things thanks to the resources and expertise that Reynolds shares beyond the Lab. The company generously sponsors a university faculty position and supports numerous campus activities and events, including the Northwood University International Auto Show.  Students also gain experience and success through internships and careers with Reynolds.

“As a Northwood graduate and now a Reynolds employee, I’m proud to be part of the strong connection between these two impressive organizations,” said Timothy Kaiser (’18), Reynolds and Reynolds system sales trainee. “I am all about loyalty and giving back. And the relationship between Northwood and Reynolds is an example of all that can be achieved by working together with integrity.”

Learning Why and How

Reynolds supports education and young people every year through its unique commitment to Northwood. Since 1994, the company has sponsored a faculty position, which is currently held by Jeff Bennett, Northwood’s director of Automotive Technology Management. Reynolds’ recent extensive donation of its newest products provides students with professional-level insight into dealership management.

“Reynolds gives our students an incredible learning experience using the same advanced software and hardware that dealerships use. And their comprehensive support helps me teach classes that are relevant and practical,” said Bennett. “Thanks to their excellent built-in training, students not only learn the thinking behind DMS but also how to use it. I think it’s a great way to connect the classroom to the showroom.”

In the Gary A. Stauffer Academic Building, the digital lab runs Reynolds’ user-friendly ERA-IGNITE DMS software and hardware, which gives students an in-depth introduction to the programs that dealerships in North America use every day. In conjunction with Northwood classes like Dealership Variable Operations, Dealership Fixed Operations, and Dealership Accounting, students learn the benefits of digitally managing dealer operations and how Reynolds’ systems improve financial performance.

Dedicated to excellence in education, Reynolds continually updates the lab’s software and hardware. For example, students are now using Reynold’s high-tech development, the docuPAD® system, an interactive tabletop tool designed to engage customers and improve the finance and insurance process. Students are also learning with AddOnAuto, the company’s leading digital platform for vehicle accessory sales in dealerships.

“In the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab, students get hands-on learning that is current and authentic. Reynolds’ significant and generous investment gives our students a wealth of knowledge about the many ways DMS applications help improve dealership performance,” said Bennett.

Lessons Not Found in the Curriculum

In his 42nd year at Northwood, Jeff Phillips gave a last lecture to an overflowing auditorium of students, faculty, staff, and friends wearing white pants and waving Jeff Phillips bobble heads. His last lecture was just what you’d expect – one filled with jokes, laughter, and the reminder that life is a wild, colorful thing that exists because of our relationships with others.

In his 42nd year at Northwood, Jeff Phillips gave a last lecture to an overflowing auditorium of students, faculty, staff, and friends wearing white pants and waving Jeff Phillips bobble heads. His last lecture was just what you’d expect – one filled with jokes, laughter, and the reminder that life is a wild, colorful thing that exists because of our relationships with others.

Professor Jeff Phillips Retired After 42 Years of Teaching Students that Knowledge Alone Won’t Change the World

There are many things that retired Literature professor Jeff Phillips is known for: Wearing white pants every day. Complex cover drawings on his syllabi. Radio shows. Wit and humor. His love of cult classics.

Phillips taught hundreds of lessons in his 42-year career at Northwood in disciplines ranging from English to philosophy to art, but there was one lesson that stayed the same year after year no matter which class he taught: To make a difference in the world, you must first start with finding value and love from within yourself.

“Part of ‘The Northwood Idea’ is that ‘Human beings can make a difference in the world in which they live,’ and I know that the only way for us to help others is to start with ourselves,” Phillips said. “As Robert Pirsig said, if you want to improve the world, the place you start is your own heart, head, and hands. Then move out from there.”

Phillips taught this life lesson by engaging students in unique and memorable exercises such as analyzing the meaning of Pink Floyd’s song “Wish You Were Here,” or reading an excerpt from the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

When Phillips retired from teaching in May 2018, he had an impressive list of accomplishments: English Department chair for 18 years, leader to 840 students in the Honors Program, and keynote speaker for Leadership Midland 30 years in a row. He was a highly sought-after professor, even though teaching wasn’t how he planned to start his career.

“The plan was to get a cartoon strip and syndicate it through the United States and Canada, become independently wealthy by the time I was 40, then retire,” Phillips joked.

His passion for reading, writing, and drawing led him to get a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Michigan University (CMU) in Art and Art History, but when graduation came, Phillips realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do. “Cartooning tends to be a solitary thing and I like working with people,” he said.

He went back to CMU and got a Master of Arts degree in Literature. Here, he discovered an untapped passion – teaching.

“Through an assistantship and some inspiring professors, I learned that teaching was an energetic, fun, and lively enterprise, and that led me to the gates of Northwood,” Phillips said. What kept him at Northwood for 42 years wasn’t the subject matter he taught, but the people.

“Gary Stauffer, one of the founders of Northwood, always said it’s the people who make the difference,” Phillips said. “I thought initially it was a nice public relations homily, but through the years, I realized the truth in that. My best friends are at Northwood and the faculty at Northwood are the most open, honest, wonderful, and funny people I’ve ever met.”

Not to mention the students, many of whom are still good friends.

In his retirement, Phillips is mastering the art of relaxation, spending time with his wife, reading, drawing, and working on a sequel to a book he published. If you’d like to purchase a copy of Phillips’ first book, email alumni@northwood.edu and let us know that you’re interested in buying “Tickety Boo.”

Student Recruitment in Style

Members of the fall 2018 Project 100 winner, the Aftermarket Club, gathered around the 1989 BMW E30 they bought.

Members of the fall 2018 Project 100 winner, the Aftermarket Club, gathered around the 1989 BMW E30 they bought.

November 7, 2018, was a big day for the Northwood University Aftermarket Club.

Nerves were high as they pitched – for the second time – a Project 100 proposal for a project car. This was soon followed by great excitement when a live and online audience of alumni donors voted the club as the winner.

Aftermarket Club Using Project 100 Grant to Get Some Wheels

The Alumni Leadership Council started Alumni Project 100 to connect alumni to current students with big ideas. The 100 alumni members of Project 100 donate $100 each semester, totaling $10,000. At the end of the semester the $10,000 is awarded to a student group.

The Aftermarket Club will use the $10,000 grant to enrich the Automotive Aftermarket Management program and provide the University with a fitting recruitment tool – a car. In December 2018 they purchased a 1989 BMW E30 that they will modify to look like a race car and use as a rolling advertisement for Northwood.

“We realized that while the Aftermarket program at Northwood is great and provides students with knowledge of the business side of the industry, there is currently no hands-on element to the program,” said Collin Mikottis, Automotive Aftermarket Management major and marketing chair of the Aftermarket Club. “We thought a project car would be a perfect tool to not only enrich and complement classroom learning but also promote Northwood and the Aftermarket program.”

The group will work with local automotive companies and alumni to restore the car, replace the wheels and tires, change the interior, install aftermarket performance parts, paint it “Northwood blue,” and finally, add the number 59 to represent the year Northwood was founded.

Advisor of the Northwood University Alumni Leadership Council, Julie Adamczyk, said these are exactly the kinds of proposals that the Project 100 members want to see.

“I encourage students to dream big and think big. Think about the impact you can make on student life on campus. Project 100 is a great experience, and you can leave your mark by winning.”

Become a Founding Member

“We started Project 100 because there are a lot of young alumni that want to give back, but don’t have a lot to give and don’t want to give it blindly. With Project 100, they give $100 per semester and they can see their money in action.” – Julie Adamczyk, Advisor, Alumni Leadership Council

Visit bit.ly/NU-Project100 to become a member of Project 100.

Bonus Online Exclusive - Powering Up

Cox Automotive Executive Vice President and vAuto Founder Dale Pollak (fourth from left) and EVP & Chief People Officer Janet Barnard (fifth from left) were on campus to welcome students to the new Cox Automotive Solutions Lab.

Cox Automotive Executive Vice President and vAuto Founder Dale Pollak (fourth from left) and EVP & Chief People Officer Janet Barnard (fifth from left) were on campus to welcome students to the new Cox Automotive Solutions Lab.

New Cox Automotive Solutions Lab

Peeking into Northwood’s new Cox Automotive Solutions Lab can be deceiving. What looks like a typical computer lab is something extraordinary: students learning how to manage successful automotive businesses using the exact digital tools that dealerships use every day. This real-world learning opportunity donated by Cox Automotive was opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony during Northwood’s Welcome Weekend in September 2018.

The Cox Automotive Solutions Lab is another way that Northwood gives students hands-on, experiential learning targeted to meet the automotive industry’s current and evolving needs. Located in the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, the lab introduces Automotive Marketing and Management students to technology and tools that help maximize profitability in automotive dealerships.

“We are excited to add this cutting-edge computer lab to Northwood’s automotive marketing and management curriculum. With this tremendous gift, Cox Automotive is making a strong commitment to both our students and the future of the automotive industry,” said Elgie Bright, associate professor and chair of Northwood’s Automotive Marketing and Management Department. “Northwood students are learning how to use digital solutions that will give them an advantage in the workplace.”

In the Lab, students practice with the company’s portfolio of programs and theories, like vAuto’s Velocity Method of Management™ principles and Xtime’s concepts for improving efficiency on the fixed operations side of the business. Along with the lab, sophomores and juniors are taking two new classes, Fixed Operations and Variable Operations, developed by Bright.

“The Cox Automotive Solutions Lab continues our constructive partnership with Cox Automotive. As one of the leaders in automotive marketing, Cox Automotive offers our students a unique perspective into a quickly evolving market,” said Bright. “Our students are the industry’s future workforce. The lab – plus our new classes – puts their ‘learning curve’ in the classroom rather than waiting until they are on the job.”

Cox Automotive Supports Northwood Students

  • Since 2000, Cox Automotive and its businesses have been a dedicated friend of the University through:

  • Annual Cox Automotive full-ride scholarship for the general chair of the Northwood University International Auto Show

  • Annual Barbara Cox Memorial Scholarship for a female student enrolled in the Automotive Marketing and Management program

  • National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) Scholarship

  • Sponsor of the annual Auto Show Gala, helping raise funds for two Northwood scholarships

  • Learning events such as the Interactive Dealer Summit in 2016 that focused on information sharing, best practices, and networking for NU students, Michigan dealerships, and Cox Automotive executives

  • Hiring Northwood graduates to work in the many companies under the Cox Automotive umbrella

Friendship Pays Dividends

Business partners, from left, Michael Witham (’89), Art White (’90), and Alan Jay Wildstein (’89) posed for a photo together at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Business partners, from left, Michael Witham (’89), Art White (’90), and Alan Jay Wildstein (’89) posed for a photo together at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Classmates Are Now Partners in Successful Company

Alan Jay Wildstein (’89) was born and raised in sunny South Florida.

In 1986, as he headed up to Midland, Michigan, to attend Northwood, there were many things he couldn’t have anticipated.

There was no way to know that a historic flood would sweep across the community a few weeks after he arrived. There was no way to know how bone-chillingly cold the winter to follow would be (though he was warned!). And there was no way to know that, even before the weather could turn bad, he would meet good people who would form his longest, strongest friendships, including two – Michael Witham (’89) and Art White (’90) – who eventually became his business partners.

“We actually met before classes started, at freshman orientation,” Wildstein said recently. “We ended up pledging the same fraternity. For the 32 years since we met, the three of us have been together.”

The bonds remained strong after Wildstein graduated – in only three years – and retreated back to the warmth of the Miami area to start operating automobile dealerships.

“In 1992, Alan became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the country, and that same year he invited me to come down and be a part of it,” Witham said.

Their company, the Alan Jay Automotive Network, now owns and operates 11 Florida dealerships.

White joined them in Florida for a while, before returning to the Midwest for non-business reasons. Even then, White was part of a group of about half a dozen Northwood friends who remained close with Wildstein and Witham, making regular trips to Florida.

So, when the Alan Jay Network had an opportunity to acquire dealerships in the Detroit area, they knew just the person to spearhead the effort. Now, White has partnered with Alan Jay and operates the organization’s four Detroit-area dealerships.

“We’re really pleased with how it’s all come together,” Wildstein said. “The first Michigan dealership we bought was in the black in its first month, and we’ve never looked back.”

Wildstein said operating several dealerships generates scale economies that are beneficial, but the most important factor in Alan Jay’s success is having the right employees.

“It’s all people. I’m smart enough to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, pay them fairly, and let them do their jobs,” Wildstein said. “We have a statistically low turnover rate. It’s our culture. You can’t demand it. You can’t buy it. You can’t grow it. You just have to have people who are happy to be where they are.”

And it helps to have Northwood connections.

“We definitely learned a lot of things at Northwood that have helped us be successful,” Wildstein said. “And the relationships that began at Northwood have become my lifelong friends.”

Fitterling Inspires December Grads

Jim Fitterling, Dow’s chief executive officer, delivered the keynote address at Northwood’s December 2018 commencement ceremony.

Jim Fitterling, Dow’s chief executive officer, delivered the keynote address at Northwood’s December 2018 commencement ceremony.

Commencement Address Highlights Close Relationship Between Dow and Northwood

The bonds between Northwood and Dow are growing stronger, with several recent examples of support and cooperation between the two organizations.

In December 2018, Jim Fitterling, Dow’s chief executive officer, presented the keynote address at Northwood’s commencement ceremony, encouraging graduates to consider their new role in the world with an understanding of how Dow views that role.

“Corporate America – companies like Dow all across the nation – needs you to help us fulfill our mission. Now, a lot of you may think that mission is simply making money, but that’s a very narrow – and outdated – view of capitalism,” Fitterling said. “We’re actually engaged in creating new wealth and helping spread that wealth throughout society.

“This form of capitalism – called inclusive capitalism – means that we’re engaged in the business of making the world a better place, through hiring workers, creating new products, solving old problems, and working with our communities on quality of life issues. Yes, we need to make money to keep the enterprise going and to satisfy our owners, but we’ll fail miserably if that’s the only outcome we focus on,” he said.

Fitterling’s comments came on the heels of engagement by several of Dow’s top leaders in a community service project aligned to Northwood’s Go MAD (Make a Difference) Day. While in Midland for the company’s Corporate Operations Strategy Week, 31 Dow leaders joined forces with 88 volunteers from a variety of Northwood groups to package meals for the Kids Coalition Against Hunger on Nov. 13.

Working with United Way of Midland County and Hidden Harvest food distribution organization, the volunteers packaged 10,074 meals for families locally, across the country, and around the world.

“It was a great collaboration, bridging two strong Midland entities, Northwood University and Dow Chemical,” said Rebecca Rekeweg, who helped organize the activity in her role as director of Volunteer Engagement for United Way of Midland County. “Being able to help connect Northwood’s future global leaders with current Dow global leaders was phenomenal. It was a great experience for everyone involved.”

Students worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Dow leaders packing the meals. The activity took place a few weeks after Northwood’s annual Go MAD Day, a campuswide surge of community service and volunteerism. That spirit of contributing to a greater good is just what Fitterling talked about in his commencement address.

“If you think about it, Corporate America is the largest civil institution in the country,” Fitterling said from the podium inside Riepma Arena. “And, increasingly, that position carries with it a moral obligation not only to ‘do well’ from a financial standpoint, but to also ‘do good.’”

Fitterling pointed out that at least one current Dow employee (and probably many future employees) was among those about to receive a diploma, and he offered insight into what Dow and other companies value in the people they hire.

“We flourish on the power of individuals. We’re proud of team Dow – the whole of our company – but we progress, we survive, and we thrive when individuals are free to bring their whole selves – their authentic selves – to work every day,” Fitterling said. “I encourage you – wherever you are – to help create communities of people who value not only a diversity of people, but also a diversity of thought.”

International Grad Changes Lanes to Launch Internet Startup

Jolique Möller (’11) was named by the Dutch Financial Times as one of the “fifty young entrepreneurial talents of 2017” and nominated as a “business wonder” for the influencer marketing software she helped develop.

Jolique Möller (’11) was named by the Dutch Financial Times as one of the “fifty young entrepreneurial talents of 2017” and nominated as a “business wonder” for the influencer marketing software she helped develop.

Taking over the family business can be a perfectly respectable and fulfilling career choice. It just didn’t turn out to be the path that Jolique Möller chose.

Möller (’11 B.A.) chose instead to be a technology entrepreneur, co-founding one of Europe’s hippest companies, Influentials. Based in the Netherlands, Influentials uses proprietary software to connect internet bloggers with organizations seeking to get a message out to the world.

“We offer a software solution where influencers connect with paying brands – such as L’Oréal,” Möller said by phone from her office in Rotterdam, her hometown. “There are so many bloggers out there that want to connect with businesses, but they don’t know how.”

There is no cost for bloggers to sign up with Influentials, and thousands of them have. Most are in the Netherlands, Möller said, but roughly 600 have signed up from the United States despite a lack of any effort to attract them.

“Launching a company has been a bumpy ride, and I learn so much every day,” Möller said. “It would have been so easy for me to take over the family company, but I don’t think it would have been this much fun.”

The original plan was, in fact, for Möller to take over the family business from her father, who owns seven auto body shops around Rotterdam. That’s why she attended the International program at Northwood, which her father heard about at an industry gathering. After beginning her studies at a European university, Möller completed her international business degree at Northwood’s Florida campus.

“I would do it all over again,” she said of her Northwood experience. “It was quite intense. It was fun and nice, but hard. ...If I have kids, I would encourage them to do it.”

After graduating, Möller went to California for an interview with California-based automotive company, Tesla, but decided she would rather launch a startup company than work in the auto industry. Her choice was reinforced when she had a happenstance meeting with a talented software engineer who became her business partner.

“It’s the law of attraction. Once you want something, you focus on it, then you meet people who will help you get there,” Möller said. “It’s like you’re driving a car, and they are the dot on the horizon.”

Students Discover Their Inner Leader

The 2018-19 executive board members have helped make the new NSLS chapter one of the largest student organizations at Northwood.

The 2018-19 executive board members have helped make the new NSLS chapter one of the largest student organizations at Northwood.

Northwood students find more than classes enrich their lives on campus. With 50 registered student organizations at the University, the extracurricular choices meet a variety of interests. Now students who want to actively develop their leadership skills have a new-to- Northwood organization designed just for that: the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS).

As the largest leadership honor society in the U.S., NSLS has more than 950,000 members nationwide. NSLS focuses on helping students discover and achieve their goals. The organization also emphasizes the vital connection between leadership and becoming a force for good within a community. NSLS’ mission aligns closely with many of Northwood’s own values.

“I really like the way that NSLS shows students that being a leader is more than being the boss. It teaches them that everyone can be a leader every day as they make decisions that influence others,” said Northwood Career Advancement and Internship coordinator Deborah Schummer. “Through NSLS, students look inward to learn about their natural leadership styles and look outward to discover how they can be a positive influence on others.”

Faculty advisor Schummer and several students launched the NSLS chapter at Northwood in the fall of 2017, with chapter induction in May 2018. In the short amount of time since, student enthusiasm for the organization has been tremendous, making it one of the largest student organizations on campus with 147 members.

“NSLS membership is open to a greater number of kids than many honor societies where membership is tied to high grade point averages. This inclusiveness allows more of our students to use NSLS’ fantastic tools to discover their own natural leadership styles and voices. Best of all, this knowledge is something they will use for the rest of their lives both professionally and personally,” said Schummer.

“NSLS has helped me gain confidence in myself as a leader. Through the development process, I established a vision of who I want to be and how I can make a difference in causes that are greater than myself,” said Matt Hunyady (’19), Northwood’s NSLS chapter executive board secretary and membership outreach chair. “I’ve learned through NSLS that effective leaders generate enthusiasm and inspire others in everything they do.”

NSLS Membership Process

Joining NSLS is just the first step to becoming an inducted member. For students to gain a deeper knowledge of their leadership styles, they must successfully complete the organization’s five-step process. This 12-hour process requires students to actively engage as they attend NSLS orientation, Leadership Training Day, three speaker broadcasts, and three Success Networking Team meetings. Then they are ready for NSLS induction, the final step.

For more information about the organization, visit the NSLS website at nsls.org. The current executive board of the Northwood chapter also welcomes inquiries at nsls@northwood.edu.

The Real Deal

R. Jason Bennett (’17) poses with his teammates in the M.B.A. business simulation project. As the capstone of the Northwood M.B.A. program, teams of students spend a week running a simulated company, competing against rival teams to produce the best results – and earn top grades. (Photo courtesy of R. Jason Bennett)

R. Jason Bennett (’17) poses with his teammates in the M.B.A. business simulation project. As the capstone of the Northwood M.B.A. program, teams of students spend a week running a simulated company, competing against rival teams to produce the best results – and earn top grades. (Photo courtesy of R. Jason Bennett)

Students with Military Experience Find Good Fit in Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Program

Military service personnel transitioning to the business world are finding great success at Northwood as they apply their well-honed strategic and tactical thinking to Northwood’s M.B.A. program and its capstone simulation.

“I’ve had some great leadership opportunities in the military, and I decided that a Northwood M.B.A. would round that out and give me the business and analytical experience I was lacking,” said R. Jason Bennett (’17 M.B.A.), currently a captain in the U.S. Army National Guard. “I had leadership skills, but the M.B.A. was a natural conduit for that additional experience.”

Bennett has been with the Guard for more than 10 years, including one 12-month deployment to Kuwait/ Iraq. When not on active duty, he trains one weekend a month and two weeks each year. Bennett lives in Midland, Michigan, and works as a local manufacturer’s representative for a paint company.

Bennett started the Northwood M.B.A. program in 2016, and he was one of seven students in the program with military ties when he took part in the program’s capstone experience, a week-long, full-time business simulation in which teams of students run virtual companies that compete against each other. “The simulation reminded me of deployment in certain aspects,” Bennett said. “You’ve got a group of people who are thrown together to accomplish an objective. Then add in the pressure of this (simulated) company being a part of your grade. Obviously, you’re not being shot at, so I probably didn’t exhibit the same amount of stress that some of the other people did, but life is all about perspective, and knowing that it impacts your grade made it very stressful for some people.” Military service personnel transitioning to the business world are finding great success at Northwood as they apply their well-honed strategic and tactical thinking to Northwood’s M.B.A. program and its capstone simulation.

(Read more about Bennett’s M.B.A. capstone experience, including helping a teammate overcome a late-night panic attack, in the online version of IDEA magazine.)

“Bennett’s combat experience proved beneficial to the success of his team, which is a common outcome for students with military experience,” said Michael Anguiano, who oversees Northwood’s outreach to active-duty members of the military, veterans, and family members.

“The military trains you to respond to situations like that. It’s a mindset that is well developed,” Anguiano said. “No question, having activeduty military and veterans take part in the M.B.A. capstone experience is a great benefit to all the students in the program. They bring a lot to the table.”

At the same time, the M.B.A. program has proven very successful in helping people transition from the military to the business world.

“We are a critical part of that bridge from the military environment to the professional environment,” Anguiano said.

Northwood has long been recognized as a military-friendly university. It offers generous course credits for military experience. It works closely with the federal government’s Veterans Administration to arrange tuition funds, and provides additional funding for costs that exceed Veteran’s Administration caps.

Northwood faculty and staff consistently work hard to accommodate scheduling and other restrictions that make it difficult, especially for active-duty personnel, to take part in classes. Sixteen active members of the military have been enrolled in Northwood’s graduate program at one time or another since 2016. Most are Reservists with civilian jobs, like Bennett, but some have been fulltime service members.

“When I got into the M.B.A. program, it was kind of seamless, after my time in the military,” said Johnathon Higgins (’17 M.B.A.), who left the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2017 after eight years of service and now works as an operations consultant for H&R Block in Kansas City, Missouri. Higgins said his team in the capstone project experienced some serious setbacks, but he was able to help lead the way around them.

“We sank down really low, and we had to pull ourselves up,” Higgins said.

Putting the Team First Pays Off

Among the many things that Bennett has learned during his years as an officer in the U.S. Army National Guard is that the team is bigger than any one individual.

That lesson paid dividends – for everyone – when Bennett was assigned to the finance unit of a team in the Northwood M.B.A. capstone experience, in which students fill leadership roles in fictional companies that compete against each other in a week-long computer-based market simulation.

“In my group, our vice president of finance was super smart, but the president of our company wasn’t happy with his performance, and she told me, ‘You need to give the presentation (to faculty evaluators) tomorrow.’ She was worried that if the presentation didn’t go well, it would have a negative effect on our grades,” Bennett recalled recently. “You can get into that mindset during the simulation. It’s made to feel like real life, so you really feel like you’re managing millions of dollars and people are going to lose their jobs if you make bad decisions.”

Despite being fully prepared to step in, and knowing that it would boost his own prestige, Bennett advised the company president to let her vice president complete the task, offering a common-sense rationale.

“As an officer, I’ve had to brief generals, so yeah, I can go in tomorrow and make this presentation, but you would be taking away an educational opportunity from this other person,” he told her. “At the end of the day, we’re all selfish to a certain extent. We want to perform well in front of our peers. But if I do well at the expense of one of my teammates, that’s not good for the team.”

At another point during the simulation week, one of Bennett’s teammates suffered a late-night panic attack, which he helped to counteract.

“I said, ‘Look, we’re going to pass. You just need to take a step back here and realize that this is a learning opportunity.”

Bennett’s ability to handle pressure is, at least in part, a product of his military experience. As a first lieutenant, he commanded a platoon of 31 soldiers during a 10-month deployment to the Iraq-Kuwait border in support of American forces in 2010 and 2011. His unit guarded a border checkpoint and formed a quick reaction force that moved into Iraq when needed, often for recovery of broken-down vehicles.

Once, Bennett and his unit were out in the countryside when the worst sandstorm to hit the area in many years blew in. It looked like a computer-generated special effect from the motion picture “The Mummy,” he said. But this was very real. And there was nothing to do but hunker down and ride it out.

“I was blessed that our unit suffered no casualties during our deployment, and we didn’t have to engage hostile forces,” Bennett said. “The closest I came was when a semi-trailer truck driver thought maybe he would run me over so that he could get around a long line of trucks waiting to cross the border. But I was able to convince him to stop in a way that didn’t require me to fire my weapon.”

Bennett, now a captain, has spent the past two years as a National Guard battalion logistics officer. He serves one weekend a month and two weeks each year; the rest of the time, he’s a manufacturer’s representative for a paint company.

When he took part in the M.B.A. capstone simulation, Bennett was one of seven students with military ties, including one whose path had crossed his before.

“She was a retired lieutenant colonel who was in my group. On the first day of the simulation we were going around the table introducing ourselves, and she was talking about her experiences, and I found out that she and her team had worked on a contract that had had a direct impact on my team during our deployment,” Bennett said. “Over the course of the week, whenever we had a few minutes, she and I would talk. I wanted to absorb all the knowledge she had.”

By the end of the simulation week, Bennett’s team was a high-performance machine. The president of the company agreed to let the finance vice president make the key presentation, and it went well. The team finished the week with the top overall score. And the payoff extended well beyond the grade that resulted.

“Even though we were only together for those six days, I developed quite a few bonds in that time,” Bennett said. “It was a good experience.”