DeVos Alumni Lead Northwood into the Future


Since its inception in 1993 over 1,859 students have graduated from Northwood University’s DeVos Graduate School, including 12 who work for University today. Dr. Lisa Fairbairn, dean of the DeVos program, recently interviewed these alumni-leaders about how their education serves their work today and what they would share with anyone considering completing their MBA at Northwood.   How does your DeVos education serve you in your position?

Tracie Wood, Program Center Manager-ADP, Michigan Campus

It not only gave me the business acumen I need to communicate effectively, but it also taught me the importance of self-reflection and personal effectiveness. The professional network that I established is an invaluable resource both professionally and personally.

Matt Bennett, Director of Admissions-ADP, Midland

It provided a sound foundation that decisions have impact beyond my immediate job scope or responsibility.  Specifically, I must continually see things from a “helicopter” view and be conscious of all of the key stakeholders, and how my decisions or efforts may impact others.

Bridget Eklund, Regional Marketing & Admissions, Grand Rapids

The DeVos education has already transformed my life both personally and professionally.  I now have a have a stronger understanding of myself and others, the confidence and knowledge to solve problems and make decisions, and most importantly the ability to add value to almost any situation.

Rachel Valdiserri, Director of Enrollment Analytics, Michigan Campus

The program enhanced my critical thinking to conduct logical analyses, apply processes to my coursework and, ultimately, my position at Northwood. Since all classes are integrated, my perspective became clearer as to how our organization’s disciplines should work in sync.

Georgia Abbott, Director, Alden B. Dow Creativity Center, Michigan Campus

Three things strike me: Active listening—being a better listener—and critical thinking, problem solving, and root cause analysis.

Running the Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise (ABDCCE), which is a system-wide support to the university, requires me to be open and flexible in understanding the customer base: current students, faculty, and area business leaders in the community.  I have enhanced facilitation skills from being a part of the DeVos program and learning how to listen well and give feedback.

I have used the critical thinking skills acquired through the DeVos to better navigate the organization towards grow the center and its focused expertise for the university.

Amanda Swafford, Assistant Academic Dean, Michigan Campus

As Assistant Academic Dean I have found that my DeVos education serves me every day.  Most importantly, DeVos taught me to value lifelong education and to love the process of learning.  Now, as a higher education professional, it is my job to impart this value in my students.  In addition, DeVos instilled in me the importance of leadership.

Michael Anguiano, Dean of Students, Texas Campus

The most valuable learning outcome I had personally was learning the value and importance of relationships. Developing this understanding is inherently built in the cohort model as you grow with other classmates. It also becomes evident in the cases you review and the solutions you develop.  It is this kind of holistic thinking that makes leaders effective.

Celeste Lindell, Corporate Relations & Graduate Advisor, Texas Campus

When I consider how my DeVos MBA degree benefits me in my current role at Northwood, it is the challenge of creative problem-solving that I utilize the most.  I enjoy thinking “outside the box” to find new solutions to situations that present themselves.

What would you tell potential DeVos students about how they would benefit in going through the DeVos MBA program?

Amanda Swafford, Assistant Academic Dean, Michigan Campus

One of the most important things for potential DeVos students to know is that the program does not solely teach you to be a business professional; it also guides personal transformation and helps you discover your full leadership potential.

Celeste Lindell, Corporate Relations & Graduate Advisor, Texas Campus

In my current role I have a unique opportunity to share stories and provide examples to prospective students that explain how each individual can grow by thinking critically and creating new solutions to issues that can develop in a professional setting.  In any work environment in any industry, leaders appreciate when their team members can solve an issue or improve a process with a new solution.

Matt Bennett, Director of Admissions-ADP, Midland

I tell them that if they want to be a manager, they should look at other program options.  However, if they want to lead people and organizations, then this program will assist them in developing the tools and skills to do just that!  Rather than learn about tactics and techniques on how to lead, DeVos students engage their faculty and their peers to practice and refine their leadership style.  This is invaluable when they apply this same learning to their job or life!

The Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management is planning a 20th Anniversary celebration for October 19, 2013.  Details will be posted soon on


- Interview, Dr. Lisa Fairbairn. Editing, Barbara Hummelle and the editors.