Hop To It: Alumni Make Beer a Career


Danny Ranville ('08), co-owner of Bière de Mac Brew Works in Mackinaw City, Mich., is one of several Northwood alumni who are tapping into the booming industry of craft beer.

“It’s going back to the way it once was, with small breweries popping up all over,” Ranville said. “Beer is cool. And kind of glamourous. And sexy.”

On Jan. 3, Ranville and his father opened the doors to Bière de Mac, which serves craft beers brewed on site and gourmet food prepared by a classically trained chef.

“We started with a 2.5-barrel brew system, which produces 100 gallons at a time. It takes two to four weeks to, as we say, go from grain to glass,” Ranville explained.

“We were selling out of our beer faster than we could make it by February. We said, ‘Wow, what’s going to happen in the summer?’”

What happened was continued success, followed by the acquisition of additional land for the installation of a larger brewing system that will increase Bière de Mac’s capacity eight-fold.

Mike Gross (’03) has a similar story. “A buddy and I were at a brewery in southwest Michigan. It was packed, on a Tuesday at 4 o’clock,” Gross recalled. “It started us on this long discussion about business opportunities. A discussion that started with a beer.”

Gross and his friend spent the next few weeks visiting local restaurants watching people – how much they ate, how much beer they drank – to build a business plan.

In 2016, they opened Silver Harbor Brewing Company in St. Joseph, Mich.

“It’s been very successful. In the first seven months, we surpassed our five-year business goals,” Gross said, adding that they recently broke ground on an expansion that will almost double the seating capacity.

Owning a brewery is not the only way to make a career out of beer. Andrew O’Connor (’12) is a sales rep for Bell’s Brewery, one of Michigan’s oldest craft brewers. He represents the Kalamazoo-area company in Midland, Bay, Saginaw, Genesee, and Lapeer counties, working with the regional distributorto increase awareness for the 20 different varieties that Bell’s produces throughout the year.

“It’s definitely a fun industry,” O’Connor said. “Craft beer in Michigan is still growing. We have close to 300 breweries in Michigannow. It’s competitive, but it’s not cut-throat competition. Everyone gets along. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”

George Boler (’10) has a similar role with New Belgium Brewing Company, which began 27 years ago in Colorado and now has a second brewery in North Carolina. Boler works with nine different beer distributors in a Michigan territory that stretches from Monroe to the Thumb and also includes the Upper Peninsula.

It is a business that continues to grow across Michigan, which brings challenges of its own.

“The hardest part with so many craft beers out there is getting customers to try your beer,” Boler said. “We are always working to figure out how to showcase a wide variety of our styles of beer.”

You could say that beer made an honest man out of Boler.

“Midway through my college career, I didn’t know what I was going to do professionally,” Boler said. “It’s nice to see that there are different options available, and lots of ways to use a Northwood education.”

MOTOWN Cool - Custom Northwood Watch Provides Scholarships for Students from Detroit


In the glory years, Detroit was a diverse, hard-working city, powered by innovation andcreativity. Birthplace of the assembly line. Arsenal of democracy. Dynamo of prosperity, bouncing forward to a pulsing Motown beat.

Then, for reasons too complex to sum up in a few words, Detroit stumbled. For a long time, the city struggled to regain its footing, seeming to be always on the verge of falling to its knees.

But now Detroit is regaining its stride. It has a new energy, a sense of purpose, and a culture of entrepreneurship that is making things happen.

Northwood knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship, so it’s not surprising that the university is playing a part in Detroit’s renewal. In one example, a Northwood graduate is investing in the city through a fascinating urban forestry initiative (see story, Page 6). For something a little more hands-on, check out the Northwood edition wristwatch from Shinola Detroit, a new company that is making Motown’s urban cool a worldwide phenomenon.

Shinola launched in 2012 with nine assembly workers and a stylish retail store in a blighted part of Detroit. The stated goal was to generate employment in a city that desperately needed it by producing fashionable watches with an appealing brand.

The company also makes high-end bicycles, and sells an eclectic variety of products – among them leather goods, jewelry, and audiophile turntables – that can really only be linked by one word: hip. It has expanded to more than 25 retail locations (several new ones are opening this summer) around the country and also has locations across Europe.

“Since 2012, we’ve hired more than 600 people and created 200 meaningful manufacturing jobs,” the company has stated on its website, under the hashtag #rollupoursleeves. “We’re proud of what we’re building, but we know there’s more we can do, and we believe that’s true for everyone. Together, we can get there.”

Shinola marketing whiz Peter Shin spoke at Northwood in 2016 as part of Values Emphasis Week, and the natural fit between the company and the university was obvious.

“He shared the Shinola story, and talked about the Shinola brand. Ethics. Values. Purpose. Treating your customers correctly,” recalled Justin Marshall, Northwood’s Vice President of University Advancement and Alumni Relations. “I suggested the idea of a partnership between Shinola and Northwood, and creating a special Northwood watch, with the proceeds funding a scholarship program for students from Detroit. He said, ‘I like the idea. Let’s get something going.’ˮ

In true entrepreneurial fashion, something got going very quickly. Shinola agreed to produce up to 500 watches and provide them to Northwood at a wholesale price. Northwood would sell them at the retail price of a comparable Shinola watch. And rest assured, this is not your typical timepiece.

The watch face is Northwood blue. “Northwood University” is etched on the stainless steel body. It comes in a display-quality wooden box with the school’s logo burned into the top. Its Super-LumiNova hands are driven by an Argonite 1069 high-accuracy quartz movement.

“It’s a beautiful timepiece, and it’s unique to Northwood University,” Marshall said. “They are a point of pride for the alumni network – something that can be worn proudly, giving each wearer the opportunity to help others and to tell a great story."

The only place to order the special edition watch is at Northwood’s website, www.northwood.edu/events/shinola. It comes in three case sizes, 47 mm, 41 mm, or 36 mm, and sells for $550.

“Shinola has been very generous in the terms of the agreement. They will produce 50 at a time, and when we sell those they will make us a new batch,” Marshall said, adding that more than 60 watches were sold in the first week they were available, just before spring graduation. “They will not make more than 500, and if we sell that many, we will have more than $100,000 for a scholarship endowment, which will allow many students from Detroit to benefit from a Northwood education.”

Scarpelli Represents U.S. Dealerships - Meet NADA 2017 Chairman NU Alumnus Mark Scarpelli


For Mark Scarpelli, ’86, “family” is deeply rooted in the automotive industry. Growing up in his father’s Chevrolet dealership in Antioch, Ill., he learned about the family business early on. He continued to build automotive connections as a student at Northwood, where he met other young people who were as involved and passionate about the industry as he was. One student even became part of his family when he married Julie Scarpelli (Parent), ’87. This year, Scarpelli represents his extended “dealership family” as chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). In 2017, NADA celebrates 100 years of representing the interests of new car and truck dealers to consumers, automotive manufacturers, legislators, and the media. As the organization’s long-time educational partner, Northwood’s relationship with NADA is vibrant and highly collaborative. Having the first alumnus leading the organization during its centennial anniversary is especially exciting for the Northwood family.

“Mark is a great example of what Northwood alumni do to help strengthen their industries and communities through dedication and involvement. They live the school’s ideals of personal integrity and responsibility every day,” said President Keith Pretty. “We are proud of Mark’s many achievements in his career and look forward to the positive difference he will make in the industry during his year as NADA chairman.”

Scarpelli takes to heart the responsibility of being the voice for 16,500 dealers in the U.S. And he has a personal understanding of their concerns given his career as president of Raymond Chevrolet and Raymond Kia in Antioch and co-owner of Ray Chevrolet in Fox Lake, Ill.

“Being the NADA chairman is the honor of a lifetime. I speak for dealership professionals who live and breathe their businesses. They have a strong entrepreneurial spirit that creates jobs and builds local economies. And they are the bedrocks of their communities.”

Leading a New NADA Initiative

Scarpelli has never been one to sit on the sidelines. He likes to be involved and active, especially when it comes to promoting dealerships in his town, state, and around the U.S. So he was happy to introduce one of NADA’s newest initiatives, MyDealership.org, that spotlights the valuable connection new car and truck dealers have with their employees, customers, and communities.

MyDealership.org uses videos and social media to communicate the importance of a healthy franchised dealer network in the U.S. It also describes the employment opportunities and avenues for advancement that are available to dealership employees. And finally, MyDealership.org highlights the many ways that auto dealerships contribute to their communities through economic strength and social responsibility.

“As past chairman of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and now working with NADA, I’ve met many dealer professionals. They have huge hearts and care deeply about their neighbors,” noted Scarpelli. “As foundational businesses in their towns and cities, these dealerships – many of which are multigenerational – make a big difference through taxes, donations, and volunteerism in the organizations and institutions that define their communities.”

New Chairman Meets New Presidential Administration


After a year serving as NADA 2016 vice chairman, Scarpelli was elected as chairman in January – about the same time that a new U.S. president was inaugurated. Establishing a constructive relationship with the Trump administration is a top priority for Scarpelli and NADA. Scarpelli is working to ensure that the president’s administration and Congress understand the economic importance of U.S. automotive dealerships. These businesses employ 1.2 million people, providing well-paying jobs and opportunities for career growth. In fact, they are often the largest employers and tax bases in their towns. Car and truck dealerships epitomize neighborhood businesses that not only positively impact their communities but also play a significant role in the country’s economy as a whole.

“I want to make sure that U.S. policy-makers see the whole picture. That they really understand the full ramifications of decisions that affect the auto industry,” said Scarpelli. “Our goal is to bring clarity and common sense to policy so that vehicles remain affordable for consumers and dealerships can better serve their customers.”

As Scarpelli begins his chairmanship, he is optimistic about the future of the auto industry and looks forward to continuing NADA’s 100-year tradition of representing the interests of new car and truck dealerships.

To learn more about Mark Scarpelli and his passion for the auto industry, watch https://directionsav.wistia.com/medias/ mwkf888ohl

Check out this video on the Automotive News website to hear Professor Elgie Bright and Professor Emeritus Allen Pankopf talk about Northwood’s deep connection to NADA: www.autonews.com/section/nada100#VideoHighlightsSection

Go MAD Day: University Carries on Coach's Mission


As a high school football player in Chicago, Vashon Nutt had never heard of Midland, Michigan. Then Northwood coach Pat Riepma came into his life.

“I believed in Coach Riepma, and it wasn’t just about football,” said Nutt, now a junior majoring in advertising and marketing, and a wingback for the Timberwolves. “One of the things he taught us was that every day is a precious gift.”

As the new president of Northwood in 2006, Dr. Keith Pretty had heard the phrase “Go MAD” associated with the football program, but he didn’t know what it meant. So he asked Riepma.

“He wouldn’t tell me,” Pretty recalled recently, smiling at the memory. “He said it was something special between him and his players. And I respected that.”

Eventually, Pretty and everyone at Northwood learned the full meaning of Go MAD. And on a blustery day October 21, 2016, hundreds of students, staff, and friends of the university fanned out across the Midland area and beyond to help the community understand as well, through dozens of service projects performed on Go MAD Day.

“It’s very cool to be a part of this,” said Leann Colella, a senior from Missoula, Montana, majoring in fashion marketing and management, who spent part of the day helping to build a new bench for guests of Midland’s Open Door shelter. “I’m proud of myself, and I’m proud that we’re doing something to give back to the community.”

Riepma’s special message to his players was “Go MAD – Go Make A Difference.” It was a simple but powerful challenge to every person who would listen: every day brings opportunities to make a positive difference in someone’s life, and everyone who seizes on those opportunities is better for it.

In July 2015, cancer took Riepma’s life. In his memory, the entire Northwood community celebrates his spirit and the impact he had on so many people with the annual Go MAD Day.

“We continue to live his legacy,” said Northwood Dean of Students Andy Cripe. “We really want Go MAD Day to be a celebration. But we also see it as a challenge, every day, to make a difference. That’s what Pat wanted. On a daily basis, if your eyes and your heart are open to making a difference for someone, you never know when you will.”

1.) Natalie Lumsden, Rochester senior, Accounting and Sports Management major, left, and Leann Colella, Missula, Montana, senior, Fashion Marketing and Management major, cut lumber for a bench being built at the Open Door shelter in Midland’s downtown area.

2.) Blessed Sacrament first-grader Isabella Getzingr gets tips for holding a bat from Northwood softball player Meghan Franz, Toledo, Ohio, junior, Marketing and Management major.

3.) Lauren Earley, DeWitt senior, cleans inside the soup kitchen at Midland’s Open Door shelter, where 50 to 100 people a day receive a free meal. Go MAD Day volunteers were a big help, according to Nate Place, ministry support coordinator at Open Door. “This is a soup kitchen, so we want everything to be clean,” Place said. “Because people are our top priority here, this kind of work gets pushed to the back burner.”

4.) Northwood President Dr. Keith Pretty offers snacks to Go MAD Day volunteers Lindsay Orwat, Grand Ledge junior, Accounting Major, center, and Jordyn Nurenberg, St. Johns senior, Business Administration major, at Blessed Sacrament School. Pretty visited many of the sites in and around Midland where Go MAD Day volunteers were at work.

5.) Northwood men’s basketball coach Jeff Rekeweg talks to students at Blessed Sacrament School on Go MAD Day, explaining that Northwood students were volunteering in honor of former coach Pat Riepma’s belief that everyone should strive to make a difference in the lives of people they meet. “Our challenge to you is to try to make a difference in someone’s life, every day,” Rekeweg told them.

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The Real Deal: MBA Students Learn What It's Like to Build a Company


Olympus Enterprise Computers is not a real company. It is part of a complex market simulation that serves as the backbone for one of Northwood’s most unique courses. Known simply as Simulation Week, it is the capstone course for all students pursuing a master’s degree in business administration on any Northwood campus. Students from across Michigan and around the country gather in Midland and spend six days immersed in a computer-generated world of business opportunities and challenges.

This July, 165 students took part, broken into 10 teams. Faculty assign each student a role in finance, operations, marketing or sales. Four students in each team are assigned to serve as vice president of a division. One student is assigned to be president. Beyond that, the teams make all the decisions required of an organization. And there are a lot of decisions to be made, as the computer continuously redraws the market landscape in response to actions by all teams, demanding new decisions several times a day.

“It’s exhausting. Your mind is going at all times. There’s not much sleep,” said Valisa Downing, a student from Grand Rapids who served as the Olympus vice president of sales. “It’s been a great experience.”

The simulation is competitive, but students’ grades are not based solely on their companies’ financial success. Faculty have developed a sophisticated assessment system that values good decision making and working effectively with teammates.

“They have to learn to work together through the week to run a successful business,” said Scott Pontious, director of Graduate Programs at Northwood and a veteran of Simulation Week himself. “Every university has a capstone course. What makes us unique is that we bring all of our students from all over the country to campus together. We have full-time students, part-time students, online students. No one else, that I know of, offers an experience like this.”

For each simulated company, a faculty member serves as board chairman, providing guidance but, like Grether, also holding the students accountable.

“Part of the challenge of this simulation is distinguishing which of the outcomes are the result of good decisions and which are just luck,” Grether observed.

Each company sets up headquarters in a Naegele Village apartment. Board meetings are held in classrooms. Olympus was one of several companies fortunate to hold its meetings in the new Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management building, an icon of modern design and educational technology that offers students the ideal setting for learning.


“We’ve had a lot of fun this week,” Wood said near the end of his time as Olympus president. “It is really intense. There’s a lot of work, but there have been very few times when we weren’t walking around smiling.”


MBA Students Learn What It's Like to Build a Company

Sunshine streams through walls of glass into a glittering high-tech classroom inside the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management building. But dark clouds seem to be forming in the classroom. The 16-member management team of Olympus Enterprise Computers is fielding questions from the chairman of the board, and he isn’t satisfied with some of the answers.

“Are you reacting to your competitors, or are you following your mission statement?” Chairman John Grether asks the team.

Olympus President Thomas Wood speaks for the Northwood students who make up the fictional company in this academic simulation. He attempts to summarize the company’s intentions for the most recent reporting period, during which sales suffered a disturbing drop.

“I don’t care about your intentions. Your execution is the measure of your intentions,” Grether responds calmly. “I just want to hear you guys ...”

“Cry?” Wood interjects, to laughs from the rest of the team.

“I want to hear that you guys understand what happened,” Grether finishes.

When the meeting is over, the team members do understand. They understand what happened, what they will do next, and a whole lot more.









Family Business Forum


Spotlights Challenges, Benefits Follow the lineage of many businesses back to their beginnings and chances are there will be a family involved. According to Harvard Business School, half of all companies in the U.S. are family businesses. Closer to home, 45 percent of Northwood students report that their family owns a business and 34 percent of alumni report they own part or all of their own businesses. Without question, family-owned businesses are the legacies of more than a third of our students and alumni, as well as the backbone of our country’s free enterprise economy.

The reason for the proliferation of family-owned businesses is clear: they promote individual freedom while fulfilling market needs. Northwood’s appreciation for and commitment to family-owned businesses powered the Family Business Forum, hosted by the Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise in February.

The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise integrates creativity and free enterprise through intentional and mindful cultivation to realize inventions, innovations, and new business opportunities in entrepreneurship and family enterprise. The Center focuses on four areas: Family-Owned Business, Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation, and New Business Development. For more information, visit www.northwood.edu/creativity-enterprise.

The Forum kicked off Northwood’s Family-Owned Business Days by highlighting the distinctive intersection of multi generational entrepreneurship. Sharing their views about the rewards and challenges of being part of a family business, four students described how truly “up close and personal” company success – or failure – is for many in the Northwood community.

With honesty and integrity, the exceptional student panel described similar challenges opportunities, and rewards despite their families’ very different businesses.



Peter Leonard Dazbog Coffee Castle Rock, Colorado

Peter Leonard and his father became equity partners with their purchase of a Dazbog Coffee franchise in 2011, which he ran during his last year of high school. When Leonard began attending Northwood a year later, he stayed deeply involved in the business even as he took classes 1,000 miles away from the young but robust franchise. Since 2011, their store sales have increased by 10 percent each year. Northwood also recognized Leonard’s efforts as a student business owner by awarding him the 2016 Entrepreneurship Award, which is presented to one senior each year who exemplifies exceptional entrepreneurial leadership and talent.

After graduation, Leonard returned to Dazbog Coffee, ready to brew continued growth. He believes business success will reflect what he learned at Northwood.

“What I learned in class, along with the professors’ personal experiences of family business successes and failures, are invaluable to my business,” said Leonard.



Benjamin Seago APM Mosquito Control Armada, Michigan

Benjamin Seago’s family business was started by his father in 1995. Today, Michigan’s largest privately owned mosquito control company serves a large part of southeastern and mid-Michigan. APM Mosquito Control may have been destined to pass from father to son, but the reality of that timing was definitely not part of the plans. Seago’s dad tragically passed away in 2010, leaving his mother and uncle to take over the business. The dream his father created is now partly Seago’s responsibility, even as he attends Northwood.

Seago’s dual “careers” of student and family business member present more challenges than many young people face. Yet because of Northwood’s focus on entrepreneurship and business, the two duties overlap in unexpectedly beneficial ways.

“As issues came up with the business, I had ‘counsel sessions’ with some of my professors. They offered ideas and insights that my mom then integrated into our operations,” said Seago. “Northwood’s student organization, Family Enterprise Alliance, is a big help, too. It gives us a chance to talk about the ups and downs of our very fortunate but uniquely challenging situations.”



Kennedy Shea Freeman Nursery Beaverton, Michigan

Kennedy Shea’s grandfather successfully employed a proven technique for starting his own business when he bought an established nursery in 1965. The 50-year-old Freeman Nursery is now under the skilled management of Shea’s parents, who have branched out in response to a changing market and intense competition. Focusing on clear differentiation, her mother introduced the nursery’s “we grow, we know” philosophy that highlights both their multigenerational expertise and healthy supply of Michigan-native and indigenous plants.

Shea’s parents are using the key principles for success that her grandfather planted but are not afraid to innovate. And, as the third generation in the company, neither is Shea, who uses an iPad to draw her landscape designs.

“Family businesses aren’t handed down like royalty, they are handed off like in a relay. Along with that hand-off comes the incredible responsibility to hold on to the baton and keep running toward success with all your might,” said Shea.



Griffin Williams Power Process Piping Plymouth, Michigan

The idea that family businesses are all small “mom and pop” shops is a far cry from the reality that the Williams’ family company exemplifies. Power  Process Piping, started by Griffin Williams’ grandfather in 1974, is a heavy industrial contractor that specializes in the fabrication and installation of piping systems. Now with his father as president and CEO, the company handles multimillion-dollar projects for a variety of industries in and around the Detroit-Metro area. Big products and big markets created a “big business” pipeline for the family.

Williams joined his father after graduating in May 2016. He is proud to continue the legacy that his grandfather started, but he believes his role goes beyond maintaining it. Williams intends to build on his grandfather’s and father’s successes for the generation that will follow him.

“I discovered something very important during a summer internship I had with another company. I loved the work and learned a lot,” noted Williams. “But I realized very quickly that I get much more satisfaction creating value for my family business, our employees, and our customers.”

The Forum and the Future


The Family Business Forum, held in February 2016, welcomed nearly 80 people, including Northwood students, their families, and the general public. The 100 percent student-focused Forum was conceived and developed by John Gustincic, Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise director and associate professor. DeVos Graduate School student Nick Langlois, who handled event logistics, also contributed to the evening’s success. A natural extension of the Center’s focus on developing and supporting family-owned business, the Forum gave voice to common concerns of families whose companies are integral to a free market’s diversity, vitality, and profitability.

“The Forum was a celebration of family-owned businesses and effectively countered the common perception that these students are handed jobs by their parents and walk into cushy careers when they graduate,” said Gustincic. “Like all of our students, they have to prove themselves. True, they will have opportunities that many people don’t have. But a big part of their reality is that they will ultimately be responsible for the success or failure of their families’ businesses.”

In addition to being educational and inspirational, the event kick-started Northwood’s new organization, the Family Enterprise Alliance. The group gives students from family businesses a comfortable setting in which to openly share, brainstorm, and even gripe with others who understand. As panel member Griffin Williams noted, “It’s a great sounding board for new ideas, concerns, and ways to handle problems like family dynamics.”

“At the Center, we envision expanding this support even further. We hope to develop a program that will connect family-owned business decision-makers with Northwood students who will objectively evaluate their problems and offer useful solutions as class projects,” said Gustincic. “And we are continuing to offer educational resources specifically targeted to this model that cover topics like innovation, entrepreneurship, international business, marketing, and accounting.”

A Global Presence: CDK Global and Northwood University


Throughout its 56-year history, Northwood University has been an advocate for the global relevance of business and the opportunities it provides to individuals to improve their lives. This focus and drive, embedded in the faculty, students, and alumni, means that other organizations with a similar emphasis could become a lightning rod for graduates.

For this reason, dozens of alumni have found their fulfilling careers at CDK Global, with more on their way every year. According to their website, “We [CDK Global] provide integrated technology solutions to over 27,000 Auto, Truck, Motorcycle, Marine, Recreational Vehicle and Heavy Equipment dealers throughout the world.” Northwood University has a rich history of partnership within the automotive industry, and when we dug a little deeper, we found that we have stories of success throughout CDK Global’s organization. IDEA Magazine reached out to several people to hear their stories. From recent interns to those with decades of experience in this area, we wanted to find out what it was about the Northwood University education that brought so many people to pursue a career at CDK Global.

To start, we spoke with Sarah Lepri, class of 2015. She is a current senior who completed a ten-week internship with account advocates, who manage the relationships with groups of dealers.

“Some of the projects we did were strategies for the dealer’s website and designing new things to add to their website. They really allowed us to be part of the team as an intern,”

she said. Marlon Hairston, class of 2015, another senior who completed the internship in the same department told us that, “They had a whole program set up for us. As interns, we weren’t directly working with the dealers, but we did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that an account advocate would do. We learned about the different departments within CDK. We had projects on top of that that we would present to people within the company. Our last project was presented to a couple of VPs.”

Both Lepri and Hairston were offered full-time positions after their internship was completed. Lepri shared that the culture was a big reason why she decided to accept the position beginning in June. “Being an advertising major, initially I thought I’d go down the agency path. Being with CDK, it’s a different avenue but it still has that agency vibe. The culture is unbelievable. I can see myself being with them for a while.”

Northwood University Career Advancement has played a big role in Lepri and Hairston’s gaining an internship. Both found CDK Global at a career fair hosted at Northwood University. Drawn by clever marketing and a vibrant display, they echo one another when they tell us that their interactions at the fair were a significant reason why they pursued the opportunity.

Hairston told me that another Northwood graduate, Kristin Perschon, class of 2014, was at the fair helping to recruit. (Perschon says she was also recruited earlier through a similar career fair.) Perschon told us that her Northwood University education is important in her current area of digital advertising and marketing. “I think that Northwood set me up for success by being more in-touch with the world. It wasn’t just textbook material all the time. We were always working on projects that were related to business or sometimes we were making our own fake business. It helped that our teachers were always in the field. They didn’t just go to school to become a teacher and then become a teacher. I know my marketing teacher was doing a lot of market research outside of being a professor.”

Lepri said that she is interested in helping to continue the recruiting effort, and is already scheduled to help find new talent on-campus in the future.

“They gave us such a phenomenal opportunity that I definitely want to give back and help out with that as well.”

As an automotive marketing student, Hairston says the culture had a big impact on him. “I loved it. It’s definitely different than anything I’d done before. I’ve had an internship with an OEM, and the environment at CDK was more like, ‘I’m going to take you, and develop you as a person and then as an employee. I’m going to look at you and your skills, see where you’re lacking and see where you’re strong, and make you an all-around better person.’ Everyone in the office is extremely helpful. Everyone introduced themselves, and showed me their desks and gave me their extensions. And if you called that person, they would do exactly what they said they would do. They would be there to help you and guide you through your different projects. It was definitely a culture of everybody wanting everybody to do well. It was also a young and energetic office as well, which I found to be very pleasing.” It’s clear, talking to everyone involved with this piece, that the culture is a big draw.

“There’s no substitute for the closeness that we have as a company. We are a big company, but you sometimes hear the saying, ‘It’s a big town, but it’s a small town.’ It’s the same thing with this company. It’s a big company, but it’s a small company. Everyone works very well together and they interact a little like we’re a small family. Northwood is similar. It’s a bigger school but it’s a small school. Everyone basically interacts at some point,” says Jac Alvarez, class of 1995, who is General Manager and Vice President for National Accounts. He and his team manage 100 of the largest automotive dealer groups in the United States.

Greg Rancilio, class of 1991, Director, Program Management, tells us that there are some pretty clear similarities between his alma mater and his employer:

“As I reflect now on my career and the Northwood education, it really aligns with CDK and their guiding principles. The special part is when you can find an education and an institution that aligns with the company you work for. One thing I don’t think I realized as soon as I got out of school, but have come to realize now, is that the importance Northwood had is that spirit of volunteerism and community involvement. These are things CDK places a lot of emphasis on.”

Both Alvarez and Rancilio mention that there are opportunities at CDK Global to develop not only professionally, but personally. Professionally, Alvarez says, “We do a lot of things that enable our clients to be technologically advanced, create efficiencies, lower turnover, and increase revenues. And all of those things are really exciting when you can come to a customer and say, ‘I can bring you solutions that will make you more profitable, and they will make you a better company.’ When you can work alongside one of your customers to bring those solutions to life and actually come through on your commitment and deliver those kinds of results, that’s when it gets fun and your passion comes out.”

Rancilio echoes this when he encourages students to develop this personal passion early, on campus. “Students really need to take advantage of the educational setting: the classes, the sports, and the extracurricular activities. If they take full advantage of the setting at Northwood, it will definitely prepare them for other life experiences.”

As a growing business, CDK Global always encourages talented individuals to seek them out. Rancilio tells us, “If you’re a high performer, and you want to work with a global market leader, and you enjoy personal and professional growth opportunities, I would look into CDK, no matter where you are in your career, as a new graduate or a tenured one.”

With the feedback we’ve received compiling these interviews and discussions, there’s no doubt that those who pursue a career in many of CDK Global’s areas will find a challenging yet fun environment.

Christopher Deming transcribed and conducted the interviews in this piece. If you’re interested in finding out more about opportunities at CDK Global, you can find more information at www.cdkjobs.com.


Condé Nast Hires Starwood’s Arlie Sisson To Lead Its New Emerging Products Group


Magazine publisher Condé Nast has hired a new vice president to run its emerging products group — Arlie Sisson, who’s joining from Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Sisson led Starwood’s strategy for native apps on mobile, and before that, worked at mobile startup Silver Chalice New Media.

Fred Santarpia, who became Condé’s chief digital officer last fall, told me that the emerging products group is itself a new creation. Condé’s various titles (including The New Yorker, Wired, and Vogue) have their own digital teams, but Santarpia suggested that they’re “very much focused on running their day-to-day businesses.”

“We’re looking at how fragmented the media landscape is, the many different platforms that our content can find a home on and many different form factors,” Santarpia added. “Who knows what’s next? Maybe what’s next is virtual reality — I don’t know the answers, but I do know that really smart people at Condé Nast are thinking about the marketplace and how to position our brands.”

Sisson’s team, on the other hand, will be “singularly focused on innovating for the company’s future.” For now, at least, that means experimenting with different kinds of mobile apps.

“The momentum and growth in the digital landscape is unlimited and connecting people to products is more important than ever before,” she said in the hiring release. “Joining the incredible talent at Condé Nast gives me the opportunity to work with its extraordinary brands to engage more audiences in more dynamic ways on more digital and mobile platforms.”

Art and Business Partnership at Work Once Again


One of the most exciting times for a gallery occurs when a business in the community is interested in acquiring artwork.

It is exciting because a curator then feels like an artist as well, commissioned to suggest how to “paint” entire premises with just the right selection of art. For many years, the Northwood Gallery, a department of Northwood University - where the university’s belief in and commitment to the beneficial interaction between the arts and business is perhaps most visible - has been instrumental in supplying art to forward thinking  area corporations such as Dow Chemical Company, Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductors, all global industries headquartered in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region.


In summer 2014 another such opportunity presented itself. This time it involved furnishing the brand new Dow Corning building, in the brand new Uptown Bay City project on the Saginaw River bank. Being a part of this major project was exciting in so many ways: a 43 acre vacant brownfield site was to become a vibrant and sleek multipurpose urban area with commercial, residential, retail, hospitality, entertainment and medical contents. a plot by the river became the site of a beautiful, state-of-the-art new building with a curved façade reminiscent of ripples on the river. The architecturally enticing interior with many glass walls and amazing views of the water was to be turned into a stimulating and productive place of work. Original art by local artists was to a play a part in this fascinating transformation.

The Northwood Gallery was given clear and simple instructions: large canvases, contemporary and abstract style, most of it in bright and vibrant colors. It was an easy task because our area is extremely fortunate to be home to many very talented artists of national and international acclaim. A list of artists who “fit the bill” was immediately in the making. The works of Kathy Jones, Valerie Allen, Toni Swarthout, Michelle Courier, Zizelda Moreira immediately came to mind, each very accomplished, each deeply connected to this area. Only after the list was complete, did I realize that they were all women!


Kathy Jones, a doyen among them, holds an MFA degree from Central Michigan University, was born and raised in Bay City. Her first job after college was with Dow Corning where she helped design and implement the company’s first computerized payroll system. Nationally known Michelle Courier, whose work can be found in many galleries in California and Oregon, has a fine art degree from the University of Michigan and lives and works in her studio in Bay City. Valerie Allen, a true Mid-Westerner from southern Ohio, holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and CMU, and is associated with the Midland Center for the Arts, has made Midland her permanent home. Toni Swarthout, a Midland native, still another gifted artist with a corporate experience in actuaries, was born in Midland, studied at Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula, and made her career as an artist in Nashville, TN. Zizelda Moreira, a talented artist from Brazil, moved to Midland and made it her home after her husband was transferred to Dow’s Midland headquarters.

As successful corporations around the world, and reputable business schools in the U.S. know well, the role of art in business is crucial. Exposure to art promotes communication, opens people’s minds, spurs efficiency, productivity and creativity among employees; it sends the message that their employer cares to provide a vibrant and stimulating work environment. The same message is sent to customers and visitors and they know that they are dealing with an innovative business full of vitality. And it is important to note corporate art is not purchased with direct profits in mind. Rather, it is a sound investment into people’s well-being and motivation, which in turn promotes financial success. Hence, it is an indispensable asset.     

Shaheen Development and Dow Corning have made a number of thoughtful choices with this project. They requested original art created by local artists and acquired through a local gallery, confirming they had the best interests in mind for the growth of the entire community of which they are a vital part. Their actions build upon the companies’ positive image in the area.

The artists appreciate the underlying commitment as well. Kathy Jones says:

“It is an honor to be a part of a corporate collection. It is the recognition and affirmation of artists’ hard work…Art cannot survive without sponsorships like this.”

Toni agrees and adds: “It gives employees an opportunity to be exposed to original art which they may not have at home. It is a strong statement that the corporation cares.” 


The companies have also to be complimented on their choice of style. Here the riverside, the architecture of the building and the desired atmosphere suggested abstract over representational art. It is more thought provoking and open to viewers’ own interpretations. Colorist Kathy Jones sees her oil paintings as expressive abstractions of positive energy and motion that she wants her viewers to understand in their own ways; for Zizelda Moreira the most important mission of her acrylics is to awake people’s feelings; Valerie Allen’s multi-media work, inspired by Mid-Century modern architecture and the scenery of her native land, encourages viewers to recognize her interest in the passage of time, in processes and constant change. Toni Swarthout attempts to demonstrate in her representational abstract acrylic paintings a close, symbiotic, inhale/exhale relationship between the humans and the trees: “Art is …a conscious way of life”. Michelle Courier, also working in acrylics, is best known for her magnificent land-, sky- water- and other scapes through which she expresses her passion for light and nature. Her style is representational impressionism and her goal is to create an experience, to “allow the viewers to feel as if they had been there”. At the new Dow Corning Uptown Bay City building Michelle is represented by yet another of her styles, her organized, geometric abstractions which actually also play with the subject of trees sporadically interjected into planes of vibrant primary and secondary colors.    


What Dow Corning and Shaheen Development have done is a perfect illustration or our university’s long standing philosophy, “the arts make good business partners”. The project is commendable. Although the Northwood Gallery was not the only art supplier for this amazing and large building, we are very happy that we could act in our best consciousness and help place an admirable total of 26 canvases created by these five remarkable women artists. The arts and business partnership indeed is at work again, and we are ready to collaborate with more collectors and businesses large and small, to create inspiring environments.

- Mia Dvornic, Ph.D. 

  Northwood Gallery Director and Curator

Northwood Graduate Benita Ibrahim Earns “Women Who Inspire 2014” Award


In an ode to her accomplishments and dedication, Benita Ibrahim has been given the Women Who Inspire Award for 2014 by “Hope for Women Magazine”. In an interview with the magazine, she says,

“There is nothing on Earth that cannot be cured with candles, a hot bath, a rocking chair and a whole lot of prayer.” 

A 2006 graduate of the Adult Degree Program in Cedar Hill, Texas, Ibrahim serves on the Alumni Leadership Council, advising the university on alumni activity.

As the 20 year owner and operator of Beautiful Colors Daycare, a center in Arlington, Texas, Ibrahim has also been the recipient of the Educators Award in 2013 from Iota Phi Lambda. Her enthusiasm for youth education, along with her entrepreneurial spirit, has paved the way for her present and future successes.

Rising Star Cleve Gaddis Making his Mark in the Real Estate Industry


Cleve Gaddis is currently the managing partner and broker of Gaddis Partners at RE/MAX Center, one of the top 10 RE/MAX teams in the State of Georgia for eight consecutive years, closing an average of $20 million in sales volume annually. 

Also serving as the president of USA Management, Inc., a property management company, and as the general manager of Atlanta Residential Properties, LLC, a real estate investment firm, Cleve stays very active in the industry.  Prior to real estate, Cleve served in various sales management positions with Electrolux Corporation, ultimately being responsible for 86 branch offices and over 1,000 staff and sales personnel in the Midwest United States with an annual operating budget of $38 million.

Cleve’s unique perspectives on real estate, sales and marketing make him an in-demand speaker throughout the U.S. in the areas of investing, sales and marketing, negotiating, property management and distressed asset disposition.  He is a national instructor for the Certified Investor Agent Specialist designation program, is frequently quoted in local and national media and presents annual market updates to real estate trade associations.  He was the 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year for the local Women’s Council of Realtors.

Cleve holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and International Marketing, graduating Summa Cum Laude from Northwood University in Chicago. 

Barbara Jackson Scholar Recipient Farris Muhammad


Farris Muhammad, a graduate student in the College of Education, has been selected as a 2014-16 Barbara Jackson Scholar by the University Council for Education Administration (UCEA).

Muhammad, of Detroit, is a third-year Ph.D. student in Education Administration and Policy. He successfully defended his comprehensive exams recently and has a 3.90 GPA. His research focuses on the educational resilience of black males from low socioeconomic status in inner-cities. He critically analyzes the impact of poverty, urban schooling experiences and environmental factors impacting the development of black males.

The Jackson Scholars Network is an opportunity for graduate students of color to enhance their formal networking, mentoring and professional development. The fellowship partners the student with a scholar from another university with similar research interests. Muhammad’s UCEA mentor is Gerardo Lopez of Loyola University in New Orleans. The program’s namesake, Barbara L. Jackson (1928-2012), was a leader, scholar and mentor in educational administration for more than 50 years. As a trailblazer, she opened avenues of study and practice that still impact people, institutions, scholarly and applied research, diversity and urban education today.

Muhammad earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing from Eastern Michigan University. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Northwood University.

Lights, Camera, Action - Rhodni Skelton


He is a man of the Virgin Islands – both U.S. and British – who attributes much of his success to the foundation he received as a little league baseball player and the example set by his parents.

Rhodni Skelton earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Northwood University in 1997 and an MBA degree in Human Resources and Finance from Wright State University in 2006.

Today this universal Virgin Islander serves as the film commissioner for the BVI Tourist Board, where he is responsible for bringing film crews to the British Virgin Islands for television and movie shoots. He also has managed the BVI Events Marketing portfolio in this capacity.

Skelton sought out the technical knowledge to ensure he did the best possible job in his position, including becoming a certified international film commissioner.

“My undergraduate degree was in marketing and I wanted to enter a field where I could best use my knowledge and skills in a meaningful way,”

says Skelton, who jumped at the opportunity to enter the agency with the Film Commission.

Outside of work, Skelton is a devoted father of two, and attributes his drive and determination to his children, Taajah, 12, and Rhonni, 6, calling them his backbone and his heart, because they inspire him to never give up. “They are a constant reminder that I have much more to live for and they make me want to achieve my full potential, which is exactly what I want from them,” he reveals.

Successful Alumnus Tammy Darvish Supports Local Nonprofits


As Vice President of Darcars Automotive Group, Tammy Darvish is a busy, successful businesswoman who could show her support of local nonprofits by writing checks and chairing fancy galas. She does that and much more.

It is Darvish’s commitment to local nonprofits serving people in Montgomery County that has earned her the 2014 Philanthropist of the Year award from The Community Foundation in Montgomery County (CFMC).

Amid six- or seven-day workweeks and international business travel, she makes time for endless hours of charity work. She works closely with MCCH, Holy Cross Hospital, the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), Goodwill of Greater Washington, Junior Achievement and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s pediatric oncology division. During the last year, under her leadership, Darcars Automotive Group has raised and contributed more than $1 million in financial and in-kind donations. Darvish and her husband, Hamid Fallahi, also make private contributions.

After high school, she spent the summer answering phones at Glenmont Chrysler Plymouth, one of her father’s dealerships, and wasn’t sure what she’d do next.

“You have to go to college,” her father told her. He convinced her to apply to Northwood University in Michigan, a school he often recruited from, to study Automotive Marketing and Management.

Chris Clements Credits Northwood Experience for Meeting Love of Life and Landing Role as NFL CFO


When Chris Clements first visited Northwood University Michigan back in 1990 he likely had no idea how dramatically the experience would shape his personal and professional future.  Now happily married to his Northwood sweetheart, the father of three recently landed the role of Chief Financial Officer for the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.


Having first learned of his alma mater as a high school basketball camper, Clements knew that he’d like to play the game at the college level and to eventually work in the sports industry, so he was intrigued by Northwood’s business degree programs and its philosophy stressing the values of free enterprise, integrity and ethics. “They also had a beautiful wooded campus and I knew that I was interested in starting right into my major the first year,” recalled the Petoskey, Michigan native. 

It wasn’t long before the young Accounting major delved into his studies gaining a mentor along the way. 

“Professor Jeff Bennett played a role in my life from the day I’d stepped onto campus and had even contacted me before my arrival,” smiled Clements of the Accounting program Chair. “He helped me get my first accounting job while in college in the controllers department of Lobdell Emery in Alma, Michigan and prepared me to pass the CPA exam.  To this day, I still look to him as a personal friend and a respected professional advisor,” shared Clements’, who added that in addition to instilling that the vocation could be enjoyable, Bennett, now retired, taught students how to present themselves professionally by wearing proper attire, and honing their interview and presentation skills.  

It was in his sophomore year, that a chance encounter with a young freshman would change the course of his life forever.

“On the Northwood University Midland campus, they had a project once a year where they had mannequin modeling night in the store windows on Main Street through the Fashion Marketing & Management program. One of my college roommates was in the program and talked a bunch of us guys into participating, so I got placed in a window with a theme that a young Fashion Merchandising and Marketing major had to stage.  I failed miserably at modeling, but the rest is history,” laughed Clements, of the day he’d first met his wife Sherry Lautenbach. 

Now married over seventeen years, the two are parents to Riley, Ella, and Blaine, and enjoy the adventure that comes with family life and success in business. 

“I became drawn to businesses and experiences that were entrepreneurial and innovative, which were things I learned at Northwood,” 

said Clements who’d moved to New York City right out of college to work as an accountant at IMG, a global leader in sports, fashion and media operating in more than 30 countries. “We did live television, post production, and sold TV rights globally, so I spent a significant amount of my time accounting for golf events on TV which led me to a new role at our corporate headquarters in Cleveland where company founder Mark McCormack was based,” added the executive who’d spent three-years traveling to golf events in North America on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours where he handled event budgets and on-site finances before becoming global Business Unit CFO for the Golf, Tennis, Consulting, and Academies divisions.

“Northwood opened my mind and prepared me for the international sports business, providing me the opportunity to travel internationally and to work in different leadership roles within most IMG divisions.  My career there concluded in early 2014 after 18 years when I decided to accept the new challenge with the Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium,” said Clements. 

[symple_column size="one-half" position="first"]chris-family[/symple_column]

“I am extremely blessed to have now worked in two companies which have been amazing organizations. The NFL is the gold standard in professional sports, and the opportunity to work for proven, innovative, and bold business leaders such as President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Garfinkel and owner Stephen Ross makes me extremely excited to be part of the historic franchise, and to be involved with the renovation and modernization of Sun Life Stadium. I’m excited to be part of the team and to bring my family into the local South Florida community, so I think I’m living my ultimate professional goal,” he smiled.

- Suzi McCreery

Jon Montgomery Hosts Amazing Race Canada


As the second season of The Amazing Race Canada airs, host and Northwood alumnus Jon Montgomery reflects on his accomplishments and goals since winning the Gold for Canada in the Men’s skeleton race of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C.


In 2013, the first season of The Amazing Race Canada was Canada’s most-watched TV series with over 3.5 million viewers. Do you think you will top that this year?

It’s the highest-rated TV show in Canadian history, US- or Canadian-produced. The only thing that brings in [more] viewers are live sporting events like the Olympic hockey games. I think we’ll be hard-pressed to match last year’s numbers. Even if we are close to the rating from last summer, I think producers and advertisers will be thrilled.

Although you did not qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, you have a strong competitive spirit and seem to surround yourself with others who do. Your wife, Darla Deschamps, is also an award-winning skeleton racer and now you’re working with teams competing for a half-a-million dollar prize. Do you ever get to relax? And if so, what’s your favorite pastime?

I have not had the time to relax since the end of the skeleton season, but when I do, I enjoy stand-up paddling and golfing. I’ve not had the opportunity to get into fishing yet, but since we are now Victoria-based, I think I should look into getting a fly or two... A rod might not hurt either!


Besides being an athlete, you’ve been an auctioneer, a motivational speaker and a television host. Have you settled into a career yet? Would you like to continue being a television personality, or should we expect to see you elsewhere in the future?

I wouldn’t be surprised if I got into some other things along the journey, but I am really enjoying what I’m presently busy with.  Today, I am shooting a cameo in Corner Gas: The Movie. There are so many fun opportunities to be a part of, but I’m still business-minded and would like to get back into that world again in some capacity.

What advice do you have for graduates in the Entertainment, Sport, & Promotion Management program who would like to become the host of an award-winning television show? 

Connect with people who are doing what you want to do and pick their brains. Ask lots of questions. Begin to look at your life not in terms of what you hope will happen, but plan for what you want to happen and make moves to head in that direction. You’ll be better equipped and able to react when opportunities and situations present themselves. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone!

You’ve worked with several different charitable organizations, one of which is Ducks Unlimited Canada. What makes them your “charity of choice” and why do you think it is so important to give back?

My wife and I have been a part of a number of great charities. Our two main areas of focus are getting kids off the sidelines and into sports; and preserving Canada’s natural spaces for future generations. We feel it’s important to give back and help others discover the power of sport in their lives and appreciate some of the things our amazing country offers!


- Nikki Gonzalez

The Amazing Race Canada photos provided by 

Bell Media

Ashley Neuhaus (Class of 2008)


”As an Alumnus from the class of 2008 and a graduate from the ESPM program, I was thrilled when NU reached out to me to hear more about my story and life after Northwood. For the past six years I have immersed myself into the event industry and although it’s crazy, it’s a great fit for me. I have worked on events for the Chrysler Group, including Camp Jeep events, FIAT Pop Up galleries, corporate employee days and several major auto show events. Currently, I am an account manager for the Freeman Company and work on the Microsoft account out of the Seattle, WA office.  This is a new role that I decided to take on, and so far I love every minute of it.  It was a big move, as I had spent the past 28 years in Michigan, but Washington is beautiful and I couldn’t be happier.”

More recent graduates Lauren Griewski, Jay Duncan, Nick Timko, and Rachel Burton have been highly focusing on the sports aspect of ESPM. Experiences with the Olympics, the basketball team of Southern Methodist University, and the racing industry, they’re showing new avenues for future graduates.

Ashley recently made a move across the country to continue her ESPM industry dreams. From the coasts of Michigan, to the Pacific Coast, her ESPM experience is following her.

Lauren Deneweth (Class of 2013)


“I went through a lot of different sport avenues before I found my way to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). I interned for the Dow Graduate Program as well as the Red Bull Graduate program and made it to the final round for both, but got denied for both positions. And if that wasn’t enough, I interviewed for an internship at the USOC and got turned down again.

Just when I felt like I had totally run out of options, my contact that I had interviews with at the USOC offered to refer me to another internship that I had applied for at US Track & Field. Thanks to her, I finally landed an internship out of school. Being a runner, I knew T&F would be a good fit, and I ended up loving it. Interning for a National Governing Body was great because they have a small staff where you really get to own more of your own projects, even as an intern.

Where there weren’t any opening and time for my internship to end, I had kept in touch with my contact at the USOC and they hired me as their fall intern. From there, I had amazing experiences going to New York to help put on the “100 Days Out from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games” even in New York city, as well as helping with the annual SportsLink conference where all of the NGBs come in and meet with each other and hear about the state of the USOC.

Before my internship was over, an administrative assistant position became available in Partnership Marketing. It was a phenomenal feeling when I was accepted. I enjoy managing relationships and working in marketing, so being in the department where I can grow to hold my own partner accounts and one day manage our sponsor relationship was right up my alley. I finally found where I was meant to be.”