Celebrating Family Loyalty with the Northwood Alumni Legacy Endowed Scholarship


A Northwood degree comes with an added bonus that many alumni may not know about: a scholarship designed especially for their eligible NU legacy-student children. The Alumni Legacy Endowed Scholarship was created in 2010 to recognize academic achievement and leadership potential in the children of our alumni who choose Northwood University.

Northwood is fortunate to have alumni who have passed on their enthusiasm for their alma mater and “The Northwood Idea” to their children. We celebrate this special relationship by offering financial support to kids whose love of Northwood was ignited by their parents.

“We are proud that our alumni share their love of the university and their belief in the value of a Northwood education with their children,” said Carmen Mittler, Northwood’s director of Annual Giving. “Through the Alumni Legacy Endowed Scholarship, we honor the loyalty of multigenerational Northwood families by investing in their students’ potential during their NU careers.”

A Parent Alumnus

Craig Smith, ’81, is an entrepreneur and dealer operator of Craig Smith Auto Group and Craig Smith RV Center in Ohio. The years he spent at Northwood prepared him for his successful career and also shaped his belief in the importance of a free enterprise system. His son Brent started at Northwood a year into the ’08 economic downturn, which hit the auto industry especially hard. The Alumni Legacy scholarship that Brent received lightened the family’s financial burden during an incredibly challenging time. Now Craig and his wife, Ginger, are happy to give back to help other students attend Northwood.

“Every day of my life I use something I learned in college, from accounting to writing. So I was very happy when Brent chose Northwood. Now that he’s graduated, I can say that he gained knowledge and skills, especially how to think critically and to do so with empathy, that will contribute to his future success. Northwood has made a big difference in both of our lives. And I’m equally excited that our younger son, Alex, is starting at NU this fall,” said Craig.

A Recipient (and Alumnus!)

Brent Smith, ’13, general manager of Craig Smith RV Center, had his heart set on Northwood from the time he was in middle school. His choice may have seemed like a “natural,” given that his dad is an alumnus. However, it was also an excellent choice for his career. Brent’s Northwood education helped him learn about the multifaceted automotive business. And the connections he made at school have helped him build his industry knowledge and support base as he builds his future.

“I was thrilled that I could follow in my dad’s Northwood footsteps. He has always been a mentor and role model for me. When I started at the school, I found a new source of support: For the first time, I was around other kids who were as passionate about the automotive industry as I was. I wish more kids could attend the university, because it offers such a focused and relevant business education. The scholarship definitely helped me, and I’m glad it’s available for other kids of alumni.”

Quick Facts about the Northwood Alumni Legacy Endowed Scholarship

  • Available to eligible dependents of degreed alumni
  • Funded by private donations and events such as the Annual Northwood Scholarship Golf Outing and Northwood Auto Show Gala
  • Awarded to students based on demonstrated financial need and academic merit

For more information or to donate to the Northwood Alumni Legacy Endowed Scholarship, please contact Sherri Riepma, Private Donor Scholarship coordinator, 989-837-4146 or riepmas@northwood.edu.

SCHOLARSHIP SPOTLIGHT - Regina and Jason Brickl Family Scholarship


Northwood’s standing as the premier university for automotive marketing turned out to be a very good thing for Jason Brickl, ’95, and Regina Brickl (Bombard), '95. Despite growing up in different states, they found each other, along with a shared business vision, at Northwood. Now married and living in Prairie du Sac, Wis., they use many of the lessons learned at the University every day in running several thriving dealerships in three states. Yet one of the most satisfying achievements for them is their philanthropic involvement in their communities and Northwood. Jason’s interest in automotive marketing was captured early on when he started working for Ballweg Chevrolet in Sauk City, Wis., at age 16. “Darlene Ballweg, the owner of the dealership, noticed me and became my mentor. When she learned that I wanted to own a dealership one day, she told me ‘Go to Northwood.’ So that’s what I did,” said Jason, who is now chairman and CEO of Ballweg Auto Family.

After graduating in 1995, and spending time working in California, Jason rejoined Ballweg’s dealership in 1999 as general manager with a percentage of ownership. Since then, he and Regina have worked hard to build the Ballweg Auto Family business that now comprises five dealerships in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Missouri.

The Brickls’ success provides opportunities to make an economic and social difference in their communities. They actively invest in their town’s prosperity by supporting a variety of groups, including the local school district’s River Arts Center, Future Farmers of America, and Sauk Prairie Healthcare.Even their alma mater, where they met and learned the business of automotive marketing, is part of their commitment to community.

Belief in Northwood

Regina and Jason are thankful they developed their entrepreneurial drive, leadership skills, and commitment to social responsibility at Northwood. The Brickls’ belief in the University’s approach to education has grown even stronger over the years. They both appreciate that the University continues to improve and educate students who are bright and motivated.

To share that confidence in Northwood, Jason takes time to recruit at the University and hire graduates. In fact, eight NU alumni currently work for Ballweg Auto Family businesses. The Brickls have also given their support in person and with contributions to the Northwood University International Auto Show and the Auto Show Gala. And for several years, they funded the Ballweg Automotive Group Annual Private Donor Scholarship.

Their support continued in 2015 when they created the Regina and Jason Brickl Family Scholarship, which is offered to academically achieving students at Northwood. To date, three students have received the scholarship.

“It’s rare to find greater commitment to the University than what you witness with Regina and Jason. They met as students, established a life together after graduation, built a successful business, and hired Northwood grads. And throughout all of that, they remain committed and generous donors. We are honored by their friendship and support,” said Justin Marshall, vice president of Advancement and Alumni Relations.

Focus on Students

Jason and Regina both received scholarship support when they attended Northwood. So they understand first-hand the big difference a little help makes in pursuing a college education. “Through the scholarship, we hope to take some of the financial pressure off students and give them a strong first step toward their careers,” said Regina. “We know they are getting a great education at a prestigious institution, and we want to help them dream big and achieve their own successes.”

To create a private donor scholarship, contact Sherri Riepma, private donor scholarship coordinator, at 989-837-4146 or email riepmas@northwood.edu.


More Than Just a Game: Besh Part of Pokémon Go Craze


After graduating from Northwood in 2007, management major Linda Besh started her traditional career as a financial analyst for a conventional Japanese company. But, it didn’t stick. Today, developing events for the reality game Ingress and planning future Pokémon Go events for game developer Niantic, Inc., 54-year-old Besh is anything but traditional. In her spare time, Besh began playing the geospatial reality game Ingress. “I saw Ingress as a big sandbox where I could try different approaches to motivating people, so I started playing. A lot.”

By the time she left her day-job in 2013, Besh’s international reputation as an Ingress leader and community-builder had grown and she was named to the “Elite V,” one of the top five players in the world. Her prize? A trip to Google headquarters where she presented her leadership approach and community building ideas, and two months later, received a job offer.

Besh now has the kind of job many people just dream about. When she’s not out meeting fellow community-builders or exploring a new city, she works from her home in Plymouth, Mich., connecting to coworkers and planning upwards of 1,000 local and global events for gamers each year.

“I’ve heard people say that if you’re not a Stanford or UC Berkeley graduate, you won’t get a job in the gaming industry,” Besh said, “but I’m living proof that a Michigan college graduate can compete. The Northwood Idea taught me about creating community. I apply it every day when I deal with people, on the job and off.”

Fashion Merchandising and Management Program Offers Students and Alumni Diverse Careers


The fashion industry is an artistic and beautiful business that inspires individuality and encourages creativity. Yet underneath its stylish allure is a mega industry that significantly contributes to our national economy and international trade. Fashion is an international, multicultural business that nets $1.75 trillion a year. Career opportunities are nearly endless and always evolving. The fashion industry encompasses many fields, even law, finance, and corporate social responsibility, while still catering to those who have a passion for clothing design and marketing. Northwood’s Fashion Marketing and Management program is designed to prepare students for the many careers available.

Alumni Jerry Bostick (’05), Julie Mason (’11), and Tammy Weiss-Perretti (’96) have discovered that fashion is a perfect career fit.


Jerry Bostick

Bostick is part of the fashion industry from head to toe. As a key account executive for the wholesale side of Puma North America, he manages apparel, footwear, and accessory sales. He lives with his wife and newborn son in Dallas, Texas, where he oversees Puma's five-state South Central region. But he didn't start out with a career in fashion in mind.

Northwood: Why did you go into the fashion industry?

Bostick: I wasn’t even interested in fashion when I started at Northwood. But I had the incredible opportunity to be part of the school’s Term in Europe program. Traveling around Europe and experiencing international relations first-hand really opened my eyes to the fashion industry. I saw what a huge, global industry it is. And how fast it changes and evolves. That interested me.

N: What do you like best about your job?

B: Traveling. I travel all over the country and really enjoy going to new places and meeting new people. New York Fashion Week is a favorite. I find building my clients’ businesses and cultivating professional relationships very rewarding parts of the job, too.

N: What do you think is integral to success?

B: With all the focus on industry and business, I think it’s important to keep in mind that your number one brand is yourself. Keep that “brand” strong with integrity, honesty, and hard work, and you will find success wherever your passion and interest take you.


Julie Mason

Mason puts her NU degree to work as an assistant buyer for Zulily, where she plans and coordinates three-day events for the website. Partnering with the in-house copy department, production and photography studio, and creative teams, as well as independent vendors, she curates products to drive demand and intrigue customers. She lives in Seattle, Wash., and enjoys many of the activities, especially the shows and fun-themed runs, the city offers. The challenges and rewards of her career today reflect her experiences at NU.

Northwood: Does your job reflect the NU philosophy in any way?

Mason: Yes! The freedom to be an entrepreneur and try new things. At Zulily, there’s such an interesting balance between business acumen and creativity. I don’t believe that’s the case for most buying positions.

N: Did you work on the Style Show when you were at NU?

M: I worked on the Style Show for several years. My senior year I was the Student Design Chair, which was a lot of work and responsibility but also a lot of fun. I loved that it gave students an opportunity to express their creativity and talent.

N: How did your NU education help prepare you for your career?

M: The fact that I came out of a four-year college with dual majors prepared me well for my career. It was interesting to employers and helped  me stand out from the other candidates. My  ability to complete that course load while doing extracurricular activities showed that I was a focused and determined individual.


Tammy Weiss-Perretti

As global sourcing manager for QVC, Weiss-Perretti manages the apparel sourcing team responsible for Isaac Mizrahi Live!, H by Halston, and C. Wonder brands that are sold in the U.S. and five European countries. She spends a lot of time overseas, building vendor relationships and ensuring high standards for product quality and social compliance. Living with her husband and son in Phoenixville, Penn., Weiss-Perretti enjoys the start-to-finish aspects of her work life.

Northwood: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Weiss-Perretti: My team and I take a design concept and make it a reality by managing the entire product lifecycle. I find it very gratifying to see something I’ve worked on for so long finally become a success. But what I find most rewarding is seeing the professional growth of my team and helping them achieve their goals. Individual successes contribute to our team’s overall success.

N: Were you always interested in fashion?

W-P: I knew I wanted to be in the fashion industry and go to Northwood since I was in eighth grade. But I didn’t want to be in design, which is what most people associate with fashion. My NU education showed me that the fashion industry is incredibly diverse and I could have an important part even if I wasn’t a designer.

N: What is it like to be involved in the fashion industry?

W-P: It’s fun. A ton of work and not always glamorous, but it’s never boring. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, something new arrives. It’s such a diverse industry with careers that go beyond design and buying. If you’re interested in something, you can probably do it in the fashion industry.


Q&A with Ryan Williams


In November 2014, Ryan Williams (MBA Class of 2010) hit a milestone many would envy. His company, Fidelis PPM, that he co-founded had just finalized a partnership with Vero Products (a division of CU Direct). This project, which was an idea that began during his time in the DeVos Graduate School, would now be able to reach a broader audience.  The partners formed DRIV Technologies, so we reached out to Williams to tell his story about this endeavor.

NU: You were enrolled in the DeVos program. Tell us a little about that.

Ryan: It was the inaugural class of the Dealership MBA program. It was an executive MBA and we did part time on campus and then online as well. It was a fantastic program for me. The timing was unique and strange in that it was the heart of the recession. So it was interesting to be studying and going through an MBA specific to the automotive world during the worst automotive crisis in US history. It was interesting to say the least.

How did you hear about the DeVos program?

Automotive News, actually.

So you’re thumbing through the magazine and you happen to see this?

I was familiar with DeVos from my undergraduate work at Northwood, but as it relates to the launch of the program, I just coincidentally happened to see the article and the press release that it was being launched, and it was great timing I guess.

Tell us your 30-second elevator pitch of the business you created, Fidelis PPM.

We created a cloud based prepaid maintenance platform for Dealerships, OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], and TPA’s (Third party administrators), to create and maintain their own pre-paid platform.  It is a product and a strategy that has gone highly underutilized until late.   We private label this now for seven different third party administrators, administrators and banks in the country.

What brought you to this idea? What was the brainstorming process for this?

When working for Zurich I had a client in upstate New York that had an old pre-paid program that was provided to them through an administrator. The program was priced poorly and really more beneficial for the administrator than for the dealership or the consumer. They didn’t sell very many of them.  It was there where I met my three future partners.  We did, however, believe in the concept of PPM delivering industry leading customer retention.  We set out to have a pure play for a dealer.  Something fully transparent on costs, benefits and without any hooks.  If we could allow the dealers to keep the money, keep the forfeiture dollars and let the customers get a great value, the customer would return to the selling dealership and create an organic lift customer retention.   Retention is the backbone of any successful dealership operation. We thought if we can create a platform to deliver all we thought it would while proving a substantial lift in customer retention proven through DMS integrated reporting, we would have a winning platform and idea on our hands.

How difficult was it to manage the creation of a new business plus graduate school?

You know you should probably ask my wife that. To her it was pretty difficult. I had two small kids and a wife. I’m sure for her it was very, very difficult.  It probably didn’t help that I wanted to quit working for a large well-respected insurance company to go off and play start-up in the middle of the recession either.  Graduate school is fun. I think it’s a pretty big misnomer that people don’t really get. As long as you do what you love to do, and you study what you love, it should be fun regardless of the amount of work you put into it. It was probably a lot of work, at the end of the day though, it was pretty awesome. I had the opportunity to assess a future business idea with my cohort, my fellow students, and my professors to plan and roll this out in a kind of sandbox arena. This is a safe place where I vetted it and looked at it and said, “Yeah it’s a good idea. Let’s keep doing it. We should do this.” It was pretty cool!

So you’re in grad school, and you were actively using your faculty, your colleagues, and your cohort, bouncing ideas off them. That’s interesting. That’s cohort as focus group almost. Were there a people in your cohort that had a variety of industry experience?

Yes, I would say we had a broad base of automotive industry experience as a whole. From F&I, AFIP, to dealers themselves, to finance companies, to OEMs. You really couldn’t have picked a better depth or breadth of experience and roles in the industry if you tried.

If you could give some advice to a group of current students, what would you tell them?

Work hard and put yourself out there so you see opportunities. Look for what’s broken and realize that you can probably fix it. Surround yourself with people who can help you, mentor you, and push you in the right direction. And never underestimate the value of an MBA, a PhD, or anything else in education.

The timing of mine was great, but the MBA was a feather in my cap for the sale of the company. When my new partners realized I had a pedigree from the F&I world working for Zurich Insurance, but also had an education to back it up and run the company, I know that was a huge selling point to them. Get as much education as you can. Don’t stop.

Dave Robertson (MBA Class of 2010), who is a mentor of mine, was in my cohort. I’m not sure how old Dave is, but he was the oldest guy in our class and getting an MBA. He was a great example of someone who just doesn’t stop learning. You hear that a lot but he’s a guy that actually does it.

So, look for opportunities, and realize that a lot of things need to be fixed, and a lot of things still need to be done. If you’re pigeonholed into something, make a change. You’re in control.

John Luke Appointed General Manager Hilton Orlando


John Luke has been appointed general manager at the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando connected to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, according to Ted Ratcliff, senior vice president operations eastern North  America for Hilton Worldwide.  Luke comes from Hilton Minneapolis and will take over operations for the AAA Four Diamond Award® winning hotel, effective June 29, 2015.

Luke began his 33-year career with Hilton Worldwide in high school when a new hotel opened near his home in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. He worked there through college and after graduation was recruited by Hilton and hired into the Hilton Management Development Program. He completed his Management Training at Hilton Chicago and Palmer House Hilton and went on to develop a vast understanding of hospitality with a focus on Front Office and Revenue Management. While rising through the ranks of Hilton, Luke has held positions across the United States including director of front office operations for Hiltons in New York, San Francisco, Georgia and Los Angeles. He was also assistant general manager at Waldorf Astoria in New York and New York Hilton Midtown.  He then moved to Hilton World Headquarters in Beverly Hills, California, becoming the company’s first regional director of front office operations.  A few years later, he was promoted to vice president of front office operations and systems and led the conversion of Hilton’s legacy reservation system to a new Windows platform.

Luke has been very active in Minneapolis’ professional associations. He has served as past President & Chairman of the Board for the Minnesota Hotel & Lodging Association, Vice-Chairman of the Board & Officer for Meet Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau, past President for the Minneapolis Hotel Association and Board Member for the Chad Greenway Lead the Way Foundation. He has been a general manager for the past 15 years, 11 of which have been spent at Hilton Minneapolis, where he was Hilton Worldwide General Manager of the Year in 2011 and General Manager of the Year for the Minnesota Lodging Association in 2014.

Luke holds a Business Administration degree with a dual major in Marketing & Management and an Associate degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Northwood University in Midland, Michigan.

Jeff Stauffer, Son of Northwood Founder and Class of 1976, Launches New Marketing Group


Jeff Stauffer is no stranger to the automotive parts business.  With over 39 years of automotive marketing experience and counting, he has decided to open a new automotive marketing services and consulting business.  “I have been blessed to work for some of the industry’s leading manufacturers and iconic brands including Monroe®, Walker®, Moog®, Wagner®, PEAK® , WIX® and Raybestos®,” said Stauffer, “and have enjoyed great success developing and driving marketing strategy and market share growth through integrated sales and brand activation.”

Some of SMG’s major capabilities will include brand & marketing strategy, planning and activation support; new product & brand development; advertising & sales promotion concepts, planning and activation; public relations & events management; digital & social media strategy, content & website development and activation; market research and data management services; and sports marketing, sponsorship assessment and activation.

Jeff has received Northwood’s Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award, Northwood’s Outstanding Alumni Award, and is a member of the Northwood University Automotive Aftermarket Advisory Board and the University’s Board of Governors.  We asked Jeff a few questions:

Tell me how your Northwood experience has influenced your career and your decision to start Staufman Marketing Group.

My guess is, my Northwood experience was not unlike what most students “should be” experiencing.  Even though a significant amount of my free time was spent in athletics since I was a two-sport athlete (basketball & baseball), I still found/took the time to take advantage of what Northwood has to offer, to get involved in clubs, going to special seminars, internship opportunities, listening to and meeting business leaders/alumni that come to campus... and more. All part of shaping who we are and guiding us into the Northwood afterlife! I honestly did not know what industry or business I was destined for, even as I was going through the senior interviewing process.  But I knew I was more than ready to launch into a business career thanks to all the preparation Northwood provided me. Upon graduation, I took a sales promotion position with Walker Manufacturing Co. in Racine WI, the leading supplier of automotive vehicle exhaust systems, and the rest is history... 39 years later!

What’s important about entrepreneurship? Aside from having a good financial foundation to start your business and the right passion, determination, and salesmanship skills... whatever business you go into, your best chance for success is having a unique/different/innovated product or service that allows you to stand out from the pack and delivers on the interests/needs/desires of your target audience.  And to understand those dynamics, I can’t overemphasize the importance of “data and research” to provide the insights needed to formulate a winning, successful strategy and go-to-market plan.  Entrepreneurship can be tough.  You are the driving force and energy and people need to feel that passion in a positive way.  It’s not always easy, but surround yourself with the best people you can! That is key to any successful business and leadership! Above all... do something where you will HAVE FUN!

As a very active alumnus, what’s the importance of staying involved with the university?

Why wouldn’t you? Unless for some reason you didn’t have a great experience, which is slim to none!  If you haven’t been back to the Northwood in the last 2-3 years...OMG, you won’t believe what it looks like...what it has done to provide new facilities, the new Turf Building and now the Bennett Sports Center renovations, the new DeVos Graduate School... and more to come!  Part of the culture that makes Northwood is the support it gets from alumni.  And yes, whatever financial support you’re able to provide is good, but there are other benefit to “giving back” and staying involved beyond sending checks...like providing student internships, hiring graduates, come back to campus and speak to students.  I really enjoy all the updates on how the sports teams are doing on NU Facebook/Twitter... If you’re not getting the Northwood Idea magazine or a member of www.NUBlueLink.com, you’re missing out on some very inspirational NU Alumni success stories, and other NU happenings around the globe.

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.”

Business Experience Gives a Different Perspective for Incoming Senate President


When William Paul Cole III became the 49th president of the West Virginia state Senate, he brought with him a different view and wisdom from his father.

“One thing I have that’s a little bit unique is that business background,” the deep-voiced Cole, R-Mercer, told the Daily Mail last week while sitting inside his Nissan dealership in Bluefield. “I tend to look at things through a business prism.”

His perspective, in large part, has been influenced, not by a career in politics but as a professional businessman.

Cole, 58, currently oversees about 500 employees between five automobile dealerships located in West Virginia and Kentucky, a manufacturing plant in Tennessee and a variety of other business interests.

But he knows that having a business perspective is not simply enough to fix the woes that ail the state.

“It’s so easy, especially for a businessman, to point a finger at all the things that are wrong in West Virginia and things that need to be fixed,” he said.

Cole credits a lesson learned while working for his father, William Paul Cole II, as a big reason he finds himself in the position he’s in today.

After graduating from Northwood Institute, Cole returned to the southern coalfields and had a frank conversation with his father.

“I pretty quickly asked for a meeting with my father and sat down and proceeded to tell him basically everything that was wrong with his business,” Cole said.

Cole said his father, a patient man who listened to everything the college graduate had to say, told him that any idiot could point a finger and say what’s wrong with something but it takes a real person to stand up and be a part of the solution.

“Don’t come to point out the problems without at least having thought it through to a proper solution,” Cole recalls his father saying. “More importantly, make yourself a part of that solution.”

It was that decades-old message from his father, who once served as mayor of Bluefield, that will be in the back of Cole’s mind as he leads the Senate.

When he arrived in 2012, Cole said his fellow Republicans were more interested in getting a majority in the House of Delegates than the Senate.

“They said ‘we’ve got a long way to go in the Senate. We’ll pick up a couple in 2014 and we’ll finish it up in 2016,’” Cole said.

Since Election Day, Cole has spent less than a dozen days — excluding weekends — in Bluefield. He admits it will be an adjustment to spend so much time away from his hometown but he’s clearly looking forward to it.

“I think the position I’m about to have is certainly a position that we can make a huge difference,” Cole said.

In his spare time — although he admits there’s no more of that — Cole enjoys flying. He has flown for the past 38 years, amassing over 4,000 hours of total flying time and has an airline transport pilot rating, as well as helicopter and seaplane ratings.

“I’m a little bit passionate about my flying,” Cole says with grin.

He also enjoys playing golf, especially at The Greenbrier, where Cole says he can hold his own. He’s played in several pro-am tournaments, including one last year where he was paired with professional golfer Stuart Appleby, who won the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.

But even as he’s involved in politics, flying or golf, Cole knows he will forever remain the businessman who once learned valuable lessons from his father.

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart and always will be,” he said.

Cole said he will use his perspective to constantly ask questions and re-evaluate whether or not something is working in state government.

“You ask why we do something a certain way and if the answer comes back ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ that’s a wrong answer,” Cole said. “In government, too often the answer is ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ We need to think a little differently about how we do things.”

The fact the state’s population is shrinking and the wider use of technology should allow for government to become more efficient, he says.

“Yet the size of state government continues to grow. There’s a disconnect there,” said Cole.

Cole said just like a business, it would take more than the next two years to address some of the issues the state is facing.

“As a businessman, I have to bet on if I build it, they’ll come,” he said. “If we set the stage in West Virginia, if we make the investment, if we build it, those job creating businesses will come.”

I’m flattered that people are holding my name up. There’s other good names that are being mentioned as well,” he said. “But I want to get through this session and make sure we’ve done a good job.”

- Charleston Daily Mail • Jan 12, 2015

Cindy Ballard Shares to Students the Importance of Personal Brand


Cindy Ballard is responsible for all aspects of Human Resources for Tribune Publishing.

Cindy Ballard has left 20th Century Fox to become Tribune’s Los Angeles-based senior vice president of human resources starting June 15, a role in which she will “attract and retain premium talent”.

While At 20th Century Fox, Ballard supported the company’s efforts to deliver the highest quality entertainment experiences, and all facets of strategic human resources, including organizational issues, talent management, employee relations, recruitment, HR development, benefits and compensation on a worldwide basis.

Prior to joining Twentieth Century Fox in 2007, Cindy served as Vice President at Infotrieve, Inc., where she oversaw Human Resources and Operations. Before Infotrieve, Cindy served as a Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Interpublic Group: Initiative Media. Cindy was involved in all facets of strategic human resources across North America, Australia and United Kingdom. Prior to joining Initiative Media in 2000, Cindy served as Senior Manager, Human Resources for Borders Group, Inc. At Borders, Cindy developed, implemented and communicated human resource strategies and practices, as well as successfully implementing a corporate diversity program. Before Borders, Cindy served in human resource capacities at Interpublic: Campbell-Ewald and Midway Airlines. She started her career working in Human Resources/Administration at Dow Chemical.

Cindy holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northwood University, and belongs to numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM), National Human Resources Association (NHRA) and Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA).

Cindy Ballard on campus sharing her presentation titled “Developing Your Brand”

  • First impressions formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone
  • 55% of a person’s opinion determined by physical appearance
  • 7% of impressions based on what the person says
  • 38% of first impressions determined by tone of voice

Alumna’s Opportunities Lead to Reality TV Show Pilot


As an adolescent growing up in Novi, Michigan, Ann Marie Taepke (Nelson) had first learned of the advantages of a Northwood University education from family members who had attended its Michigan campus, and soon was drawn to the university’s advertising and marketing program, and the fact that she could start classes in her major right away.

And now looking back, she says her Northwood experience played a role in preparing her for a future she never saw coming.

“I was very fortunate to be selected as the Promotions Chair of the Northwood University Michigan International Auto Show in 2006. That position provided me with so much creative license that it really opened my eyes to the power of marketing and what it takes to build a campaign from the ground up. I was hooked,” grinned Taepke, who’d played a major role in increasing turnout.  “I’d proposed reallocating our budget to include a more expanded radio blitz, and that year we had record-breaking attendance. At one point, we ran out of parking. While everyone was scrambling, I was giddy,” she laughed.


UPtv crew members film as Taepke (right) works with Penn and Kim Holderness (left) on a client pitch.

And Taepke’s post-graduate endeavors hold promise as well.

After graduating in 2007 and gaining experience at a software company, she soon delved into digital communications channels which led her to join Ignite Social Media. While working with some of the world’s biggest brands such as Jeep, The Body Shop, Microsoft and others, she was the only representative available to comment when a local news team needed social media insight relating to the 2012 Super Bowl.  There, on the Raleigh/Durham set of WNCN NBC-17 she soon became a regular, and met former anchor Penn Holderness, who later made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“What was supposed to be a casual conversation over coffee turned into a job offer to lead social media and digital marketing for a quickly growing company on a flexible schedule. It was a big leap.  One that I don’t believe I would have been able to take without learning to value entrepreneurship and the importance of taking calculated risks at Northwood,” reflected Taepke.

Now the Director of Digital Strategy for Greenroom Communications, a video production and digital marketing company owned by Holderness, his wife Kim, and managing partner Sharon Delaney McCloud, Taepke looks forward to participating in a reality television show pilot which will reveal the behind-the-scenes creative process that goes into a successful campaign, whether it be for a client or the Holderness family brand. To be filmed in Raleigh where Taepke now lives with her husband and daughter, the show will premiere on UPtv Thursday, March 26th, 2015 at 10 PM ET.

When asked what advice she has for current students, Taepke reflected, “You have to be true to the person you are and what you love to do. That’s where you’ll find success in life.”

Projected in approximately 70 million homes, UP is the television brand that promises to always uplift the audience. It presents original movies, dramatic and reality series, comedies and specials filled with inspirational stories and characters with character. The UP network can be found on most U.S. cable systems as well as DIRECTV channel 338, DISH channel 188 and Verizon FIOS channel 224. It also offers instant access gMovies, the first faith-friendly streaming entertainment service.

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. 

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“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.