When Fox School students return to Alter Hall to begin Fall classes, they may notice someone is missing. Recessed lighting still brightens the lobby, but an electric smile no longer lights up the room—the smile’s owner being now-retired security guard Dave Covington.
To know Covington is to have experienced a warm, light-hearted greeting each day.
“You’re going to be late for class!”
Wednesdays seemed to be Covington’s favorite day, as he would utter his iconic line, “Happy Hump Day,” to greet the masses at the week’s midway point.
Since Alter Hall opened in 2009, Covington has been its gatekeeper. He began his career at Temple University on July 17, 1977, in the bookstore. Then he worked in Speakman Hall through the 1980s.
“I worked in shipping and receiving for three years,” he said. “Some of my fondest memories there were the Christmas parties we had—after the boss left, we sang Christmas carols over the PA system.”
After a switch to a “nice, easy job” in security on December 3, 1980, Covington was in for a surprise.
“They threw me to the wolves,” he said. “My first assignment was the dorms—J&H, 1300, Peabody, and McGonigle. Finally I told them, I need help!”
Encouraged by his colleagues to enter the Temple Municipal Police Academy, Covington completed the training in 1984 as part of the “Centennial” class of officers. However, he eventually returned to TU Security and was promoted to work in Speakman Hall, the business school building before Alter Hall was built.
“I’ve met some good folks in security over the years,” he said. “We used to have annual cookouts in Fairmount Park.”
Even with his salt and pepper hair and kind expression, there have been a few people who have dared to get past Covington. As a self-described “customer service” security guard, Covington has experienced people trying to push past, sneak by, or ask to “use the bathroom.” His years of service have added up to an instinct that is rarely wrong.
“I’ve learned to trust my gut,” he said.
Dave, our beloved security guard in Alter Hall, is retiring. We will definitely miss his happy greetings, but we wish him the best in his next chapter.
What's your favorite Dave memory? Reply to this tweet and we'll pass it along! pic.twitter.com/tx1OYgj03N
— Fox School (@foxschool) August 7, 2018
Covington, a diehard Philadelphia sports fan who earned a certificate in small business while working at Fox, grew up at 35th and Allegheny. As his city has changed, he has watched Temple and Fox do the same.
“It’s like an obstacle course around here,” he said. “There are so many new buildings.”
Over the years, food at Temple has been a pastime for Covington. He’ll miss gyros from Ernie’s Lunch Truck—a beloved food truck that’s tenure on campus hasn’t matched Covington’s, yet—the most. He liked his quick breakfasts of sausage, egg, and cheese in the quiet, secluded third floor PhD lab.
Retirement, for Covington, will take some getting used to. With a songlike rhythm to his voice, he spoke about what lies ahead. He’s been an early riser for the past 41 years, with a 6:30 a.m. roll call at Temple each day. His morning pleasantries, doled out by the hundreds for decades, will now be shared with just one special person: his wife, Naomi, a Temple graduate.
“She’s already got a honey-do list at home in Mount Airy,” he said.
An endless stream of well-wishers had kind words of farewell for Covington on his last morning in mid-August.
“I’ll miss messing with the pizza guys that came in to deliver at the student organization events,” he said. “Temple’s been good to me—what a journey, what a journey.”
This is the most common question asked by people considering an MBA. To find an answer, we spoke with three students from Fox School of Business MBA programs. We discovered there are many ways to consider the ROI of the MBA, and that salary increase, while important, is not the only one. Here’s what we learned.
Not All About the Benjamins
The salary boost is the main reason cited for pursuing an MBA. But it was about something greater than bank roll for Chris Wallace.
Wallace worked at Comcast and was eager to rise in the company when he began the Fox School Executive MBA program in 2010 (which was partially funded by his employer). His objectives were to improve his financial acumen, leadership skills, and strategic thinking, all of which he claims he did tenfold.
After completing his MBA, he founded Incite, a consulting firm specializing in optimizing sales teams. In 2015, he sold Incite to GrowthPlay, where he now works as a managing director.
“If I didn’t have the MBA skillset, I couldn’t have done this,” he says. “Financially, my MBA paid for itself two years after graduating.”
“But,” he continues, “I don’t evaluate the ROI of the MBA solely from a financial perspective. For me, the knowledge, the experience, and the personal enrichment made it worth it. Some do it just to put it on their resume; you can tell who they are. If you don’t have the hunger and curiosity, you won’t learn as much. Thinking of it as a sterile business transaction is completely missing the point.”
Serving the Public Good
Heather Qader was working with the NAACP, in Washington, D.C., when she realized her colleagues climbing the career ladder had something she didn’t: MBAs. She wanted to climb, too, but was worried it would jeopardize her commitment to community activism and the public good.
She ultimately made the MBA leap. She took student loans to finance 100% of the full-time Fox School Global MBA program, which she completed in 2016. And she found a way to balance the MBA with her altruistic commitments.
“I thought business school was shallow, but I was wrong,” she admits. “It was more collaborative than selfish and individualistic. Now my business acumen is sharper and I have more confidence in business conversations.”
Qader pursued startup job opportunities after graduation, worked freelance for a real estate investor, and did marketing for a friend’s company. Within a year of graduating, she landed the perfect job.
“I’m at the intersection of business and government, which is exciting,” says Qader, now the manager of business development for the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce. “And I’m able to balance my interests and skills.”
“The ROI depends on what the timeline is,” she says when asked if the MBA was worth it. “The year after? Maybe not. As far as recouping expenses, I haven’t done that yet, but I will eventually. But now I’m in a great place and I love my job.”
The Network Is Priceless
A robust professional network can make or break your career. Jeff Fonda knows this—he also knows earning an MBA is a great way to build one.
“A big part of it was building a network—paying for access to alumni, local and national companies, and recruiters,” says Fonda, who completed the full-time Global MBA program in 2018. “I knew it was the path I had to pave to get to my next job. The education was secondary, but that changed, because I learned much more than I expected. Still, the network was the key.”
Prior to starting the MBA, Fonda had significant work experience. He was the founder and CEO of Earth Literary Project, which has opened 13 public libraries in Uganda, and also the vice president of a textbook company, Bell Tower Books. But he felt more contacts were required to make major moves. The MBA program fixed this.
“Fox helped me jumpstart my network,” says Fonda. “There were tons of events where I was able to meet many employers, alumni, and important industry representatives. Since the number of MBA students was small, we had meaningful individual time and access with recruiters and people I would’ve never met otherwise.”
Fonda’s connections in the program led to an internship with IBM’s prestigious Summit Program. He now works for IBM as a senior client relationship manager.
“My salary will definitely be higher with an MBA,” says Fonda. “And there’s no way I’d be considered for the job I’m taking, or even get my foot in the door, without the MBA network. Without a connection to the recruiter, I never would’ve gotten the job. Fox was the key to landing me here.”
“There’s no doubt,” he continues, “an MBA is worth it.”
Learn more about Fox School MBA programs.
For years, an MBA is how professionals have gotten from A to B in their careers. The MBA bump, as it is commonly called, usually manifests as a salary increase or a promotion. These days, it’s not uncommon for the MBA bump to coincide with the baby bump.
That’s right, professionals are simultaneously starting families and pursuing MBAs. Nationally, MBA students average 6.4 years of work experience, meaning most MBA candidates are in their late 20s or early 30s. That’s also around same age when most Americans are having their first child, according to a recent study.
So how can you achieve work-life balance and learn to balance budget sheets? Here are some tips from current and former Fox School MBA students who have successfully juggled parenting and pursuing MBAs.
Communications executive Kristi DeSimone already was accustomed to working virtually. That’s why she found the Fox School’s Online MBA program a proper fit.
“I never knew when my work day would end, or that I could commit to being in a physical classroom,” said DeSimone, who resides in Vineland, N.J. “The program gives me freedom to take courses in my house or while I’m traveling, and I can do coursework or talk to classmates at my convenience.”
DeSimone “scheduled everything,” she said. She delivered her daughter only a few days after delivering a presentation in a finance course. DeSimone graduated in December 2017, just before her maternity leave expired.
Find What Works for You
When Lamees Alhaj signs into her online classroom Friday at 4 a.m., most of her U.S.-based classmates are logging in Thursday at 7 p.m. “The Online MBA is ideal because our workweek here in Dubai runs Sunday through Thursday,” said Alhaj.
The program’s flexibility, Alhaj said, is paramount. She got engaged, planned a wedding, and welcomed a baby—all while managing her studies. “I can take one class per semester or three,” said Alhaj, a service excellence officer at American Hospital Dubai.
Alhaj has learned to work around her daughter’s schedule, too. Routinely, she watches academic lecture videos or completes reading assignments while holding or soothing her baby at all hours of the day.
Rely on Your Support System
In a four-week span last summer, Rory McCale relocated to the Philadelphia region, started a new job in surety insurance, bought and sold a home, enrolled in the Fox School’s Part-Time MBA program, and welcomed a baby daughter.
“Needless to say, it was hectic,” McCale said.
With his schedule constantly changing, he relied on late hours and early mornings to stay ahead.
“The professors were responsive,” McCale said. “If you had a question at midnight, you’ll get the answer you need by the time you wake up. Without support from my wife and from within the program, I couldn’t have held it together. The flexibility and professionalism of (the professors and staff) from the program have been a huge help.”
Incorporate Your Children into Your Schoolwork
Early in his career, Dan Berger embraced that there is no perfect time to pursue an MBA. So, he took a page from his father’s playbook. In his youth, Berger remembers his father reading case studies to him while attaining his MBA.
“That was 20 years ago, but the lesson there can be applied today in my MBA program,” said Berger, a Part-Time MBA student who works in the health industries advisory practice of a Big 4 accounting firm. “If you’ve asked yourself, ‘How can I study and engage with my family at the same time?’ it’s simple. Throughout this process, I’ve realized that I can read to my son, shift my priorities, and incorporate him into my coursework.
He added: “I am proof that you can start a family and get an MBA.”
Learn more about Fox School MBA programs.
UniFi, a mobile app focused on financial wellness and onboarding, won the Bernard and Murray Spain Grand Prize at the 20th annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl® (BYOBB®), a Temple University-wide business plan competition.
Led by Jessica Rothstein, an MBA student at Temple’s Fox School of Business, the UniFi team won $60,000 in prize money at the April 19 final presentations. The earnings will immediately support UniFi’s acquisition of talent and technical resources.
“Our team celebrated winning Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, but for us, it was right back to work,” Rothstein said. “We have so much to achieve in the coming weeks and months, and two pilots to launch this summer. Winning this competition will definitely help us reach our goals.”
UniFi’s mission is to solve financial illiteracy through a digital platform purchased by companies and distributed to their employees. The app, Rothstein said, aims to improve communication between employers and employees to curb low adoptive rates of benefits packages—a workplace epidemic that exists nationwide, Rothstein said.
Additionally, UniFi will create “a snapshot of a user’s finances, centralizing statements for employee benefits and mortgages,” Rothstein said, and offer access to critical financial resources “in language everyone can understand.” UniFi also will provide 24/7 support, either through text messaging or social media.
“We’re not financial advisors. We’re translators,” said Rothstein, whose business partners include Lauren Della Porta and fellow Fox MBA alumnus Derek Miller. “The world’s top financial institutions have created this content and shared it on the Internet, but people don’t understand it, or know how to look for it.”
BYOBB® is the flagship program of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), and is ranked one of the nation’s most-lucrative business plan competitions. This year, 12 finalists representing five of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges delivered presentations in competition for more than $200,000 in cash prizes and related products and professional accounting, legal, and marketing services.
BYOBB® features three distinct tracks. The winners from each were:
- Social Impact Track: Ovarian Lab. Led by College of Engineering student Emily Kight, the company produced an in-home, non-invasive urine test that screens for ovarian cancer.
- Undergraduate Track: Kovarvic LLC. The company, led by Fox School student Daniel Couser, developed a handheld device that uses pulses of vibration to influence brain waves and de-escalate anxiety attacks.
- Upper Track: UniFi.
“Even if you don’t win, you’ve already won,” said Temple provost and executive vice president JoAnne Epps, addressing the competition’s finalists. “You are our future. The notion going forward that says, ‘We do things this way, but why can’t we do it differently?’ That’s you who are posing those important questions, and that’s you who are forcing us to answer them.”
IEI recognized Steve Charles, KLN ’80, with the Self Made and Making Others Award, celebrating lifetime achievement in entrepreneurship. A Temple University Trustee, Charles recently gifted $10 million to support the university and Temple Libraries.
And for the ninth year, IEI recognized students who best demonstrate the passion for entrepreneurship that was embodied by former Fox School professor Dr. Chris Pavlides. Entrepreneurship major Douglas Trachtman and Real Estate major Jalen West received the Pavlides Family Award.
Learn more about the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.
A roundup of media mentions featuring faculty and staff from the Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.
Inside Higher Ed quotes Fox prof
How can colleges and universities encourage even the most-resistant faculty members to digitize their in-classroom courses for online programs? Inside Higher Ed addresses this in a Q&A with national online-learning leaders, including Fox School’s Dr. Darin Kapanjie. Read more >>
Saxbys, STHM, and scholarships
Philadelphia Business Journal checks in with an update on the experiential-learning Saxbys café at STHM: The coffee and hospitality company announced a $60,000 contribution to the Saxbys Fellows Endowed Scholarship, to support future educational opportunities for STHM students. Read more >>
Gender equity in corporate settings
Did you know utility companies traditionally achieve a greater gender diversity in its corporate boards than boards in other industries? Explaining why is Fox School’s Dr. Steven Balsam, who studies—among other subjects—gender diversity on corporate boards. Read more >>
WalletHub | April 6, 2018
What’s the best credit card for travelers? STHM’s Michael Sheridan explains rewards and benefits options for hotels, airlines, and more. Read more >>
BusinessBecause | April 6, 2018
The online business publication profiles a Fox MBA alumnus who leveraged his experience and education to land a position at IBM. Read more >>
Media requests: Please send requests to Christopher A. Vito, associate director of communications & media relations, Temple University’s Fox School of Business, at email@example.com
Anthony M. DiJulio, 33, wanted to be a scientist. After earning a BA in chemistry from Muhlenberg College, in 2006, he immediately landed a job as an associate scientist at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, a Swiss multinational company and a major player in the pharmaceutical world.
“They were a big, bad pharma company and I was this 22-year-old kid who didn’t come out of Harvard or MIT,” recalls DiJulio. “I didn’t have that kind of pedigree, but they took a chance on me and I delivered. I was so happy because I loved chemistry—it’s like cooking on steroids! You can take compounds and materials, do the reaction, prove the reaction, and ultimately create a substance that goes into toxicity trials and eventually becomes a drug. I thought that was so cool.”
New career doors open
DiJulio’s goal was to earn a PhD in chemistry. In 2009, while still working at Novartis, he completed an MS in chemistry at Seton Hall. Then something happened that altered his career path forever, and spun his love of chemistry in a completely new, exciting direction.
“A huge opportunity arrived—Novartis gave me a couple million dollars to set up a new lab,” DiJulio says. “Suddenly, I was handling budgets, planning, negotiating, and I loved it. This changed my whole trajectory and made me realize I wanted to do business. I knew that, in order to move up to a leadership position, I needed an MBA.”
Choosing an MBA program
DiJulio was living in New Jersey and traveling regularly to Switzerland for Novartis. He needed a flexible MBA program to accommodate his hectic professional life. And he found the perfect match in the Fox Online MBA program.
“The Fox MBA program allowed me to immediately use what I learned in business situations and it made the finance and the accounting and the economics courses more real to me,” he says. “At that stage, I’d already been through grad school and was more mature as a student, so it was my most enjoyable piece of education, by far.”
DiJulio had great success at Novartis. He climbed the ranks to become a senior scientist, and then a financial controller. However, after completing his MBA in 2012, he decided to take a bold step and move more firmly into the business world.
Finding the perfect job
DiJulio worked for a couple years as a commercial development and strategy associate with Air Products and Chemicals, and then for a few more as a pharmaceutical business development manager for Ashland Inc.
Then, in 2017, DiJulio was offered a job as a business development manager for Lonza, a Swiss chemical and biotechnology company. The new job offer uniquely synthesized his passions for chemistry and business.
“Now I do business and chemistry every day,” he says. “I have to hit numbers, I’m held accountable, and sites are dependent on me to bring in work. I interact with major pharmaceutical companies to develop their products; I work with virtual companies and startups, too. I’m engaged on a business basis and as a chemist, covering everything from finance to formulation and synthesis. It’s a two-pronged approach that links up perfectly with my background.”
One perk DiJulio discovered along his professional path is travel. In addition to traveling to Switzerland and across the U.S, he has been to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, Ireland, France, and Belgium, among other countries.
“I’ve improved myself as a person by becoming more well-traveled,” he says. “I’m really happy about that.”
“The MBA got me where I am and where I want to go in the future,” he continues. “The opportunities I’ve had in business development would be very rare without an MBA. And I’m definitely more of a resource to a company with an MBA. It was a big investment, for sure, but now I am reaping the benefits of it.”
Share your Fox School success story here.
Learn more about the Fox Online MBA program.
A $2 million gift from Temple University graduates Stanley and Franny Wang will support a fully endowed chair professorship at the Fox School of Business.
The couple’s philanthropic support allows the Fox School to create an endowed fund for the Stanley and Franny Wang Chair in Business and Management. This fully endowed chair will be held by a leading scholar in a department soon to be chosen, said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, the Fox School’s dean.
The Wangs’ gift to the Fox School, which was founded in 1918, ranks among the largest in the School’s history for the purposes of academic leadership.
“I am continually humbled by the generosity of our school’s graduates, and Stanley and Franny Wang serve as shining examples of this philanthropy,” said Porat. “The Fox School has a proud tradition of providing leading and cutting-edge business education. Stanley and Franny’s transformative gift will significantly enhance our efforts to attract the world’s top professors and most-renowned researchers—both now in our centennial year and throughout the school’s next 100 years.”
Stanley Wang is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of the Pantronix Corporation. Based in Fremont, Calif., Pantronix is a national leader in advanced packing, testing, and microelectronics assembly for industries ranging from semiconductor and automotive, to medical, computer, and military.
The Wangs earned MBAs from the Fox School of Business in 1972, with Stanley’s concentration in management, and Franny’s in accounting.
The Wangs have long supported the development and growth of the Fox School of Business. The school’s home in Alter Hall, which opened in 2009, houses the Stanley Wang MBA Business Center. The couple’s philanthropy has supported the building of schools and scholarship programs in rural China and California.
“Franny and I are lifelong advocates for the importance and value of education,” Stanley Wang said. “It is our hope that supporting the Fox School of Business in this way will launch bright futures for dynamic students and create a better world through education.”
Lisa Peskin, MBA ’86, never thought she’d work in sales.
“I had the same negative connotations most people do of the pushy, obnoxious car salesman,” says Peskin, whose focus in the Fox School of Business MBA program was marketing. “But my opinion of sales certainly changed; now I’ve been doing it for 31 years.”
Peskin started her own sales training and management company in 2003. In 2010, it evolved into Business Development University.
“BDU works with salespeople, and if they’re underperforming, we help them get their numbers,” explains Peskin. “If they’re average, we figure out how to get them good. If they’re good, we get them great. And if they’re great, we figure out how to turn them into superstars. We maximize the performance potential of the people we work with; we help each person and each team drive the numbers.”
Peskin, in addition to being the CEO of BDU, is presently writing a book. The topic? Sales!
“The focus of the book,” she says, “is what I wish people told me back in 1986 when I started in sales. I had to make so many mistakes, and I wish someone had taught me the fundamentals so I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.”
With her upcoming book in mind, we asked Peskin, who in the past has worked with Temple University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute to create workshops for students on similar topics, to share some of her sales secrets.
1. Have a well-defined game plan
“Most salespeople wing it every day; there’s no rhyme or reason to what they’re doing. How many coaches come into a game without a game plan? Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ coach, clearly had a well-defined game plan in their game against the Vikings. Salespeople need that, too. They need activity goals and result goals.”
2. Build strong networks
“In 1986, when I started in sales, it was dialing for dollars. There was no such thing as the Internet, or email, and it was all about knocking on doors and picking up the phone. The best way to fill your pipeline with good prospects is building a strong network of centers of influence who will be able to refer business on a consistent basis. The close ratios will be much higher if they come through networking.”
3. Leverage your existing customer base
“I have a concept called ‘squeeze the lemon.’ It’s not making lemonade out of lemons, it’s making the most out of every opportunity, every meeting, every day. Everything we do should be purposeful. A lot of times salespeople aren’t purposeful when it comes to their existing client base. The best way to get referrals is from happy customers.”
4. Uncover key information
“You must uncover the prospects needs and what they need to know. They need to know qualifying information, decision-making process and criteria, timelines, budget, and so on. Most salespeople are good at uncovering what the prospect needs, but not what they need to know to make the sale. They need to take a consultative approach.”
5. Prepare a customized presentation
“Most salespeople do what I call ‘showing up and throwing up.’ They go into presentation mode before they find out what the prospect cares about. When you walk into a physician’s office, they hand you a clipboard. Then you go into another office and they ask you the same questions and they take your vitals. Then the doctor does a full examination and they send you to get more tests and then they offer a diagnosis. Salespeople need to act more like doctors and not offer a diagnosis before they’ve done proper discovery.”
6. Handle objections effectively
“Most salespeople don’t try to handle objections, and the ability to properly and effectively handle them at the beginning and end of the sales process is critical. Objections aren’t a bad thing; salespeople have to stop thinking about it like that. Instead, they need to examine specifically why the prospect is objecting. There are six different objection handling techniques that we use to train people.”
7. Formulate a solid closing strategy
“Closing begins at the very beginning of the sales process. If you don’t set it up properly, you’re going to sound like a pushy, obnoxious car salesman trying to close at the end. There are about nine closing techniques. My favorite is the assumptive close, where if you’ve done everything right, you should be able to assume the sale.”
8. Maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated
“This is the most important thing. Are you willing to do what it takes to be successful and are you committed to it? The fact is you’re going to get way more ‘Nos’ than ‘Yesses,’ so you need a strong attitude, work ethic, and to stay motivated. In sales, you never get to take a breather because you’re only as good as your last month, last week, and last quarter. Attitude and motivation trump everything.”
Learn more about Fox MBA programs.
Students who earn degrees in information systems (IS) earn higher starting salaries than fellow business-school counterparts. And they benefit from one of the fastest national placement averages.
These statistics are just some of the findings from the latest edition of the Information Systems Job Index, produced by researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, in partnership with the Association for Information Systems (AIS).
Published and released in January 2018, the third installment of the IS Job Index culled the responses of 2,140 IS graduates of the Class of 2017, from 58 universities nationwide.
Some of the index’s more-interesting findings include:
- Salaries for IS undergraduates ($62,820) are the highest among students who pursue typical business majors ($52,047).
- The percentage of women in IS jobs (39%) is more than double that of women in other STEM fields like computer science (18%).
- Internships double the likelihood of an IS student getting a job offer (39% for those who hold at least one internship vs. 16% for those who do not).
“There are more than 3 million IS jobs in the U.S. alone,” said index co-author Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, associate professor of management information systems (MIS) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “This data is critical for parents of college-age children, current and prospective students seeking an accurate job outlook, employers, and policymakers—and it cannot be found anywhere else.”
Mandviwalla conducted research for the latest installment of the IS Job Index and co-authored it with Dr. Crystal Harold, associate professor of human resource management at Temple’s Fox School of Business, and Maria Boggi, a junior MIS major in the Fox School and Temple University Honor’s programs.
The AIS-Temple Fox School Job Index is the only systematic assessment of the IS job market. It is a joint project, with support from AmerisourceBergen and LiquidHub, to produce reliable national-level data on placement, job type, satisfaction, and related factors like career services, knowledge level, preparedness, and search strategies.
More: To read the Information Systems Job Index, visit isjobindex.com.
Interview requests: Please send requests to Christopher A. Vito, associate director of communications & media relations, Temple University’s Fox School of Business, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about Fox MIS degrees.
“I started at the bottom, literally at the lowest position in the company,” says Scott Grady about the job he landed in 1996, the year after he graduated from high school. It was with J.W. Pepper & Son, the 142-year-old Pennsylvania company that’s now the world’s largest sheet music retailer.
“I walked around the warehouse pulling customer orders all day,” Grady continues. “The way the orders were organized—and we’re talking about a thousand orders a day—was illogical to me. So I devised a system to help the order flow be smoother. That was noticed by upper management and it sent me on my way.”
That was 22 years ago. Grady still works at J.W. Pepper & Son, but now he’s in a C-suite position. In 2017, the same year Grady earned his MBA from the Fox School, he was promoted to chief strategy officer (CSO).
Grady began climbing the ladder at J.W. Pepper & Son soon after devising that new order system back in his warehouse days. In 2001, he was relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and tasked with opening a new sales and marketing office. In his nine years out west, he earned a business degree and rose from being operations manager to vice president and regional marketing manager.
He returned to the Philadelphia area in 2010, this time as J.W. Pepper & Son’s vice president of brand strategy.
“It was a defining moment for me,” recalls Grady. “I had worked in many different roles, from operations and management to marketing, but this was a senior leadership role working closely with the core brand and new brands. I had to learn how to be entrepreneurial inside of a company that was 140-years-old—that’s when I decided I needed to get an MBA.”
The Fox Online MBA experience
Grady entered the Fox School’s Online MBA program in 2015. As a working professional with a hectic schedule and senior level responsibilities, he was drawn to the flexibility of the online format. He was also skeptical, namely about the lack of direct interaction with fellow students. But the program’s in-person residency, held at the Fox School’s Alter Hall at the beginning of the first semester, was a major perk.
“I was afraid that, since it was an online program, I’d be too far removed from people,” he says. “But the residency brought us together and it was a defining experience. I learned so much and I’m still friends with many of the other students. It was great to work and network with professionals who were already in the field doing great things.”
“Every day,” he says about his two years in the program, “there was so much practical work application for what I was learning. Balancing the work load wasn’t the biggest challenge, it was figuring out how to apply everything. What I learned from the entrepreneurship class, about business models, is something I apply in almost every business meeting now.”
The C-suite demands confidence
Grady, in his current role as CSO, is responsible for managing a portfolio of projects and initiatives, a team of developers and business analysts, and new mergers and acquisitions. One of Grady’s main focuses with J.W. Pepper & Son, whose biggest client in the sheet music game is public school music programs, is bringing new technology initiatives to music classrooms. He recently helped launch Cut Time, a group management tool for music educators. And last year, he oversaw his first acquisition.
Grady regularly applies what he learned from his MBA at J.W. Pepper & Son. He says the most important skill he acquired was how to be a confident decision maker.
“At this level,” says Grady, “you have to be a confident decision maker. You have to earn people’s trust and you have to be decisive. You have to look at all the angles and to make sense of all the incoming information, and then make decisions that will effect the entire business. Being able to make these big decisions is the number one thing the MBA gave me.”
Learn more about the Fox Online MBA program.
On February 2, Temple University’s Liacouras Center was buzzing with excitement for the Fox School of Business and School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management winter graduation ceremony, where over 500 undergraduate and graduate degrees were conferred.
The keynote speaker was Lori Bush, MBA ’85. Following her position as the president of Nu Skin, the personal care brand, Bush served as the CEO and president of skin care company Rodan + Fields until her retirement in 2016.
In her speech, Bush, the author of a best-selling wellness book titled Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change, detailed how she achieved great things in her career by being scrappy, leveraging her strategic training, and pushing the limits of business with limited resources. She advised the new graduates to look at the small moments of everyday life through a business lens, as this can lead to meaningful, career-changing insights.
“Everything is business,” said Bush. “You have to take inspiration from everyday life—then just add business principles and stir.”
The student speaker was Beatrice Raccanello Esq., MBA ’17. Raccanello, a native of Italy, earned her law degree from Bocconi University in Milan, and then relocated to Philadelphia to earn her Master of Laws from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law. While working full-time for the Beasley School, as the assistant director of the Office of Graduate and International Programs, Raccanello enrolled in the Fox School’s Part-Time MBA program.
Raccannello spoke about how she was initially afraid to move to an unfamiliar country, but that her experiences as an international student ultimately molded her into a bolder leader. She found strength and inspiration by working with other exceptional students in the Part-Time MBA program who, like her, had full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and other life commitments.
“We became better leaders,” she said, noting how beneficial it was to work with students who brought diverse backgrounds and professional perspectives to the classroom. “We were able to collaborate to pursue our dreams.”
In an evolving healthcare industry, prominent surgeons are choosing to pursue graduate business education—a trend that continues to grow nationally.
(Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Fox Focus, the school’s alumni magazine.)
It’s 4:30 a.m., and Alexander Vaccaro reaches for his alarm clock.
Soon after, he’s reading lectures and watching transcribed videos from the seat of a recumbent bike. The piece of exercise equipment doubles as Vaccaro’s classroom desk as he completes coursework during his daily workout.
An orthopaedic surgeon and spinal specialist, Vaccaro maintains a tightly organized schedule. He’s the Richard H. Rothman Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at Jefferson University Hospitals and president of the Rothman Institute, an international leader in orthopaedic science, research, treatment, and technology. And he completed his Online Master’s of Business Administration through Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
Vaccaro estimated that he committed at least two hours daily to his Fox Online MBA. Often, it was more.
“I’m being honest when I say this: It’s one of the hardest and one of the most-rewarding things I’ve ever done,” said Vaccaro, who’s also a professor of neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery. “You know what you do for a living. Getting your MBA helps you figure out why you do what you do, and you’re able to do it better.”
Vaccaro is one in a growing number of accomplished medical professionals, with a slew of letters following their surnames, who supplemented their clinical educations with a business education at the Fox School.
The reason? As the landscape in American healthcare continues to evolve, medical professionals like Vaccaro are learning that one of the greatest issues in their field is a business-related one.
“I was brought up thinking about care for the individual. Now I have to care for the system that cares for the people,” Vaccaro said. “I almost think an MBA should be mandatory for clinicians. When you get into medicine, you need courses on how to run a program, and you need background skills in operations, marketing, law, ethics, and communication. Those in medicine who plan to lead need an MBA.”
Healthcare spending in the United States reached $3.3 trillion in 2016, or 17.9 percent of its gross domestic product. And that figure is expected to continue climbing. Physicians equipped to tackle the challenges of operating a medical facility, in relation to both patient treatment and business management, are in high demand.
According to a 2011 U.S. News & World Report study, hospitals run by trained physicians earned quality scores that were 25 percent stronger than hospitals run by management. Having a physician who is capable of balancing a budget and managing personnel “is more than valuable. It’s indispensable,” said Dr. Steven Szebenyi, the former chief medical officer and senior vice president of healthcare management with Health Partners Plans, a not-for-profit health insurance organization in the Philadelphia region.
Szebenyi, in his former role, oversaw all clinical aspects of Health Partners Plans, reporting to the company’s chief executive officer and senior team, managing a staff of nearly 200, and overseeing its budget, among other duties. The push for a business education among the nation’s top healthcare workers can influence hiring practices, Szebenyi said.
“I look for someone with more than clinical experience,” Szebenyi said. “I look for someone with administrative training, additional training, or both. That need is only going to continue to grow. With this shift from volume-driven healthcare to value-driven healthcare, you see more and more physicians taking more prominent roles and leadership positions.”
A gathering of more than 700 of the nation’s preeminent business and healthcare executives at the University of Miami’s “The Business of Healthcare: Bending the Cost Curve” conference in January 2014 concluded that the challenge of lowering overall costs while raising the quality of care remains. And in November 2014, Todd Kislak, who boasts a decade of healthcare management experience, told Bloomberg Businessweek that the issue boils down to “the coats vs. the suits. What you need is people who can wear both.”
Temple’s Fox School of Business is preparing physicians to do that. A number of high-ranking surgeons have completed the Fox Online MBA program, which combines technology, collaboration, and real-world experience, so professionals in any industry can balance the rigors of continued education, full-time employment, and family.
Like Vaccaro, Dr. Cataldo Doria earned his Online MBA at the Fox School.
For years, Doria, the director of the Jefferson Transplant Institute and the Division of Transplantation at Jefferson University Hospitals, said he had considered a graduate degree in business administration, before choosing Fox for its “top-notch reputation,” he said. “Medicine is changing so much and so fast, and unless you really understand the economics and the business of it, you’re going to be left behind,” said Doria, the Nicoletti Family Professor of Transplant Surgery.
Three other physicians who earned their Online MBAs from the Fox School have noted immediate gains professionally as a result of their recently attained business credentials.
When Dr. Vani Dandolu had elected to pursue her Online MBA, clinical colleagues said she had swayed “to the dark side,” said the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Nevada School of Medicine. Instead, Dandolu viewed the program as an opportunity to learn business-world language without having to give up her stake in academic medicine.
“I get more credibility, my opinions are taken more seriously and, really, I would not have been a serious candidate for my current position if not for my additional degrees,” said Dandolu, also the ObGyn residency program director and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Nevada. “I was very clear on what I wanted to get out of my MBA and I believe that focus is critical when you are pursuing any new venture.”
Philadelphia-area surgeons Dr. Aron Wahrman and Dr. Daniel Dempsey, who attained their Online MBAs at Fox, agree. As clinical assistant professor of surgery at Penn Medicine, Wahrman sees a benefit to giving the program’s top medical students and residents a taste of business education.
“I think traditional curriculum, which mainly focuses on scientific and clinical curriculum, does them a disservice,” said Wahrman, who earned his Fox Online MBA in 2011. “With everything that’s going on in healthcare, the patient is expecting quality and value, and an MBA gives you a broader perspective on topics pertaining to that. Moreover, you can’t just give (administrative duties) to people in healthcare who aren’t as vested in taking care of patients or in making decisions at the individual and community level. That’s why I think pursuing a Fox Online MBA was a good fit.”
Dempsey is professor of surgery, chief of gastrointestinal surgery, and assistant director of perioperative services at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to commencing his Fox Online MBA studies, he said he possessed a basic knowledge of a hospital’s business operations, but “by no means was I an expert.” He said he’s since been able to complete financial analyses on greater returns on how his hospital spends, and better understand profit loss and cash flow, as a result of his most-recent degree.
Like Dandolu and Wahrman, Dempsey said he faced vilification from his colleagues in medicine.
“The common reaction was, ‘What’re you doing that for? You’ve been doing aspects of administration for years,” he said.
And Dempsey’s reply?
“I have one foot in each camp now,” said Dempsey, who earned his Fox Online MBA in 2011. “Having an MBA, especially one from Fox, trains you to be a more-effective messenger between these two large arenas. Suddenly, you’re able to help non-clinical administrators understand a surgeon’s point of view, and you also are more able to help the clinicians understand how an administrator sees something.
“Overall, that business education facilitates greater communication between the two sides.”
The responses Dempsey received are somewhat commonplace. In a 2005 research paper written by Dr. Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, professor in public health sciences at Clemson University, students reported uncomfortable exchanges with doctors who saw them as “traitors” for having enrolled in a joint MD/MBA program. Sherrill, whose research has concentrated in medical education, identified a critical “gap in training,” when it comes to clinical leaders who lack business education.
“The real driver is the financial constraints of healthcare today,” she said. “In fee-for- service medicine, there wasn’t a push for cost efficiencies. Reimbursement services have changed. There was a time when you didn’t have to worry about cost. You’d be reimbursed no matter what you charged. It’s gotten more important in healthcare to be cost-conscious. There’s more regularity around quality and accountability measurement, from payers and policymakers.”
Dr. Maria Chandler, the president of the Association of MD/MBA Programs (AMMP), said nearly 70 dual-degree programs exist in the United States. One of them is housed at the Fox School, through which dual-degree students pursue the Fox Online MBA. The program, which can be completed in less than two years, employs a flipped-classroom model.
The program features what Fox has coined “a curriculum carousel,” which provides multiple entry points throughout the calendar year. Students can pursue the degree at their pace, and can register for one or up to three courses per semester. Each course is delivered one at a time over four weeks, and the program can be completed in as quickly as 20 months.
The program-opening residency features a leadership course, networking and team building opportunities, professional development workshops, and special events.
As Chandler sees it, the overlap between the two industries is “larger than people think,” and necessitates a foundational business education.
“I’ve seen surgeons without business training stand up in meetings, and say they need new equipment for one reason or another,” Chandler said. “And when they are asked, ‘How do you suggest we pay for that,’ the surgeon can’t make a business argument.
“Then, I’ve seen others who say, ‘If you double throughput through our department, the piece of equipment would pay for itself in X amount of months.’ Now, all of a sudden, the surgeon has the CEO’s ear and can get what he or she wants. And that’s just a small sampling of what a business education can do for a medical professional.”
A dual-degree program, according to Chandler, gives students the skills, vocabulary and applicable training to succeed in both arenas following attainment of their degrees. In her leadership position with AAMP, Chandler said she has come into contact with a wide array of scholars who were thankful for the joint education, executives who wished they’d had it, and a small subset of those who don’t see the value in it.
“I once met a surgeon who was in charge of a $6 billion budget and had absolutely no business training,” she said. “In what other industry would someone be tasked with managing a budget of that size and have no business training? That’s the current state of the healthcare industry.”
Vaccaro, the orthopaedic surgeon and Rothman Institute president, said he did not want to be left behind within his evolving field. Pursuing an Online MBA at Fox allowed him to supplement his medical know-how with the ability to, in his words, “speak the language” of the business community.”
“I’m a much-better leader today because of Fox’s program,” Vaccaro said. He earned an MBA, he said, “to run a healthcare system, to improve its quality, and to make it more accessible and affordable. We have to start to control the healthcare system, and that’s what a business education can do for someone like me.”
Learn more about the Fox Online MBA program.
Horns blare. A moped pushes its way into the visual anarchy of West Bengal traffic. The sun beats down through a thick haze of pollution. Meanwhile, four Fox School MBA students thread their way onto a side street.
The students stop at a small building in the heart of Kolkata, the international headquarters of Sari Bari. Through Fox Management Consulting they are here to help Sari Bari operate more efficiently and increase the revenues that fund their social mission of helping women who are stuck in, or at risk of entering, the sex trafficking industry in India.
“One of their biggest tasks is workforce development,” says Austin Litteral, an MBA student who worked on the project. “It can take a full year to help a woman rehabilitate physically and emotionally to the point where they can work.” Among other skills, the women often need basic reading and writing skills so they can sign their names and fill out standard forms.
When the women are ready they are taught to sew, reshaping second-hand Saris into brilliantly colored blankets and handbags. Younger women are employed to make the kanthas, traditional Indian blankets sewn from layers of retired saris.
Kantha blankets require long, straight lines of cutting and hand sewing which can be difficult for older women with less dexterous hands. To address this, Litteral explains, “Sari Bari introduced a new line of clutches years ago which required shorter cuts and were easier for the older women to sew.”
Planning new products to better serve employee needs is one of the many adaptions Sari Bari has made in order to balance its social and financial priorities. For the MBA students accustomed to addressing only one bottom line, the project was a lesson in creating synergies.
Litteral recalls, “At one point we suggested to management that they restructure workflow for efficiency, and they responded, ‘If we do that, it will open up more warehouse space for us to hire more women.’ Those were the terms they were thinking in.”
Louis M. Tritton served as the project executive for the Fox MC team, utilizing her years of experience in ecological consulting to offer recommendations and support. She noted that, given the unique demands of Sari Bari’s work, her team couldn’t simply consult from home.
“The Fox team immediately recognized the value of visiting the production sites, talking with sewers and managers, and observing the business in person,” Tritton said. “The trip to Kolkata made their recommendations practical and feasible.”
The team provided Sari Bari with a model for tracking costs and managing outputs more effectively, as well as recommended pricing and process improvements that should allow Sari Bari to meet and grow the sizable demand for their products.
Litteral’s teammate, Dorie Heald, said the project utilized the breadth of her MBA training. “HR, production, marketing, logistics, managerial accounting—we got to use all of that in our project. Plus, it felt good to know our changes would ultimately help Sari Bari employ more women.”
Back in Kolkata, a door opens. The students step into a room filled with women’s voices and brightly colored cloth. Like the women themselves, the students are hopeful that each piece they pull together will help Sari Bari become a stronger, more cohesive whole.
Fox Management consulting has completed over a hundred projects for non-profits, start-ups, and businesses around the world. Connect with us to learn what we can do for you.
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I’m sitting in the middle of the dining area at the Temple University Main Campus location of honeygrow—the health-forward, fast-casual, customizable salad and stir-fry restaurant—strapped into a Google Daydream VR headset. In reality, I’m swiveling wildly and waving my arms like a lunatic. In virtual reality, I’m moving ingredients around—a cartoon chicken, an oinking pig, and a cheese wheel—to various shelves inside a walk-in refrigerator. It’s fun. I’m also learning quite a bit about food safety regulations.
This is one of the scenes in the VR experience honeygrow uses to onboard new employees. Created in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based experiential art shop Klip Collective, it’s the latest tech-savvy move from the company founded by CEO Justin Rosenberg, MBA ’09. When Rosenberg developed the business plan for honeygrow while studying at the Fox School, tech was an essential component, namely the automated kiosks that simplify the ordering process while creating a uniquely interactive experience for customers.
Honeygrow opened in 2012 and now has 23 locations in nine cities, including New York, Chicago, and Boston. Since honeygrow is constantly onboarding new employees, it wanted to develop an innovative, efficient way to teach newbies the ropes. Kyle Brown, honeygrow’s director of operations, estimates that about 100 people will take the VR training each year. He claims turnover has already dropped and employees are earning required training certifications at a significantly higher rate.
“Technology is not a silver bullet to stand out, but rather an operational enhancement to better streamline the experience for both guests and team members.” – Justin Rosenberg, founder and CEO of honeygrow
The first thing I see once jacked into the VR experience is Rosenberg welcoming me to honeygrow. Next I observe employees as they prepare menu items on the salad and noodle line. Then I’m thrown into the interactive walk-in exercise. I learn all about how raw pork and raw beef should not be stored together. I also witness an employee providing fantastic service to customers in a virtually crowded honeygrow dining room.
Virtual reality is a buzzing topic in the news, so using this technology in an inventive way has earned honeygrow attention from publications like Wired, The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur. In addition to optimizing new employee training and relations, it elevates the honeygrow brand by showing how much they value experimenting with new technology. And honeygrow’s success in virtual reality is raising the real bar—months after announcing its VR strategy, major companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken have jumped onboard to do the same.
“Technology is not a silver bullet to stand out, but rather an operational enhancement to better streamline the experience for both guests and team members,” explains Rosenberg. “It’s critical to be constantly searching for ways to thoughtfully and purposefully be better than our competition. And we love to figure out ways to be better than we were yesterday.”
Learn more about Fox School MBA programs.
The Fox School Part-Time MBA program has expanded to Conshohocken and is now enrolling graduate students for the Fall 2018 cohort. This hybridized program combines online courses and traditional, classroom-based courses held at the Workshop Mercantile in Conshohocken.
For a recent episode of Burb Media’s “Burb Buzz,” host Erin O’Hearn visited Workshop Mercantile to discuss the new program. To learn more about the unique curriculum and vibrant space, she interviewed Fox School assistant dean of marketing and admissions Tom Kegelman and Workshop Mercantile chairman Patrick Murphy. Watch the video below.