When Ian Thomas first came to Philadelphia in 2002, all he had was a friend and backpack.
Over the next few years, he moved across the country and internationally until he settled back in Philadelphia in 2011. This time, he had a family and a career in international transportation and logistics. He was working full-time when he decided to pursue an MBA at the Fox School.
Now, Thomas, PMBA ’17, runs his own company that blends exercise and tourism in a way that feels authentically Philly. SeePhillyRun invites runners of all fitness levels to join Thomas, a six-time marathon runner and certified city tour guide, on three- to five-mile courses. Groups jog around the city to check out landmarks like iconic locations from the movie Rocky, the city’s expansive mural collection or where the cowboy hat was invented.
Thomas describes himself as a businessman first, a runner second and a tour guide third, which helps to explain how, despite only being operational for about two years, SeePhillyRun has already seen a great deal of success. He differentiates his business by maintaining a hyperlocal focus rather than the “big box” approach of his competition. The company invests back into the local community and partners with organizations such as Parks On Tap, Four Seasons, Philadelphia Runner, Loews Hotels and Temple University.
“I love Philly, storytelling and running,” he says. “I saw Philly as an asset at my fingertips when I decided that I wanted to combine my passions and create a unique way to see the city.”
Thomas leverages his knowledge of business, people and international relations to curate a running experience that is interesting, engaging and transformative for a wide range of people. Living overseas and working in client management in his former career, he developed an appreciation for communicating with people who have English as their second language. He says this understanding has served him well as a tour guide searching for commonalities across diverse perspectives.
Despite the challenge of incorporating multiple perspectives in his tours, Thomas recognizes that his method of tourism attracts a particular clientele.
“People coming out to a running tour are likely to be an ‘experiential’ audience,” he says. “Going on a running tour versus a traditional walking tour is like surfing the internet rather than reading a book. It offers a taste or a piece of the bigger picture in an authentic, fast-paced way.”
He says that he feels like an ambassador for the city, promoting Philadelphia the way it would want to be promoted: shouting quick tales of how it is revolutionary in its inclusivity, creativity and open-mindedness. For example, a popular spot on his routes is the Moore College of Art and Design, founded in 1848 as the first women’s art school in the country.
When looking to the future of SeePhillyRun, Thomas asserts that the company is scalable in a variety of different ways. He could expand the business into different, historically-rich cities or could incorporate other approaches that blend wellness, tourism and hospitality such as biking. Eventually, SeePhillyRun could evolve into a virtual experience.
“As long as the energy is right, we are telling good stories, staying local and plugged into the community—a lot of great things could happen,” he says.
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.
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.”
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.
Learn more about the Part-Time MBA Conshohocken program.
Temple University’s Fox School of Business is expanding into the Philadelphia suburbs with the Part-Time MBA Conshohocken program.
This week, the nationally ranked Fox Part-Time MBA program will begin enrolling graduate students for a Fall 2018 cohort to be delivered at The Workshop Mercantile in Conshohocken. Through this unique partnership, The Workshop Mercantile joins Temple’s Center City campus as a location where the Fox Part-Time MBA will be available.
The new Conshohocken-based cohort will allow for a two-year completion structure of the Fox Part-Time MBA, which is ranked No. 1 locally and No. 7 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. The Fox Part-Time MBA at Conshohocken also will incorporate the curriculum-delivery model of the Fox Online MBA program, which U.S. News has ranked No. 1 nationally for three consecutive years.
“Our Part-Time MBA has always catered to the working professional. And for some, it can be daunting to simultaneously commute into the city to pursue a graduate degree and to manage professional, personal, and family obligations,” said Dr. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School. “This new cohort option in Conshohocken will provide students with another pathway toward attaining a Fox MBA—a pathway that will balance both the coveted in-person interaction and the online accessibility component of our top-ranked programs.”
Students enrolled in the Fox Part-Time MBA in Conshohocken will complete their first-year of coursework in person. Electives or concentration-specific coursework will be completed in the program’s second year through the same digital platform offered in the Fox Online MBA program. Students will reconvene in person to complete their capstone—the renowned Fox Management Consulting Practice, through which all Fox MBA students provide professional-grade strategic business solutions to paying clients.
“At Fox, we pride ourselves on coupling an affordable, top-ranked education with accessibility and convenience,” said Tom Kegelman, Fox’s Assistant Dean of Marketing and Graduate Enrollment. “Our Part-Time MBA students at Conshohocken will benefit from receiving the face-to-face MBA experience that they crave with the flexibility of completing some coursework online.”
About Temple University’s Fox School of Business
Established in 1918, the Fox School of Business is among the largest, most-comprehensive business schools in the world, with more than 9,000 students, 210 full-time faculty, and 65,000 alumni. Since 1934, the school has earned continuous accreditation by AACSB International—a distinction held by less than 5 percent of the world’s business schools. More: fox.temple.edu
About The Workshop Mercantile
The Workshop Mercantile is a professional education company providing experiential workshops. Being launched by John R. New, CEO and founder of The Hub, and former U.S. Congressman (PA), The Honorable Patrick J. Murphy, Executive Chairman, Mercantile WorkShops are a new kind of super-class created in partnership with leading universities. More: workshopmercantile.com
Learn more about the Part-Time MBA Conshohocken program.
For Daniel Isaacs, a cup of coffee turned into a learning opportunity for his students.
This summer, Isaacs took a coffee break from designing a new Online MBA Sustainability in Business course. As he walked to Temple University’s Saxbys café, he thought about the central questions for his course, which included how businesses are looking to reduce waste and increase efficiency and profit through sustainability.
At the Saxbys counter, Isaacs, an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Temple’s Fox School of Business, asked, “What does the café do with its used coffee grounds?”
“The manager responded, we throw them out — anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds each day,” Isaacs said. Then he realized, “I had a real-world example that my students could use to apply the sustainability concepts that we would study.”
Using the figure from Temple’s Saxbys café as his guide, Isaacs estimated that close to 500,000 pounds of used grounds were left unused annually between Saxbys’ 14 Philadelphia-area locations. Isaacs explained that “to maximize efficiency, companies need to search their value chains for waste.” And citing Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, he added that, “waste equals food.”
Isaacs challenged his MBA students to develop a consulting project around the use of Saxbys disposed coffee grounds. The students, from Fox’s Online and Part-Time MBA programs, were to create strategies for how Saxbys could best put to use the used grounds. This provided the students with an opportunity for experiential learning, which is integral to the Fox School’s fabric.
The result: In August, two students delivered their findings and recommendations to executives in a presentation at Saxbys’ corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. Ittai Marom and Ashley Murgatroyd compiled the strongest findings from the class to develop a comprehensive presentation.
For Murgatroyd, she liked the idea of offering the grounds to local farmers for use in their composting piles. “In theory, that works,” she said, “but from a practical sense, composting can only take a certain percentage of coffee grounds, so the grounds would have needed to be more widely dispersed.”
Marom believed strongly in a redesigned atmosphere at Saxbys locations, with space in each café reserved for growing plants and herbs, and producing compost to be used to make and bake products for the individual shops.
Isaacs said he has since spoken with representatives of Saxbys, who conveyed their positive feedback from the presentation. CEO and founder Nick Bayer referenced one of Saxbys’ core values: “We do more with less. We believe in finding ways to be sustainable in everything we do every day.”
“Years after you finish a degree, the courses that stand out are those that involve practical, hands-on learning,” said Marom, who will complete his Fox Part-Time MBA in May 2017. “I don’t think I’ll soon forget this course, and this project.”
“In MBA classes, it’s important to learn theories that you can ultimately put into practice,” said Murgatroyd, who will complete her Fox Part-Time MBA in December 2017. “That’s what we accomplished for Saxbys, and it was great to see their senior leadership group process our research and evaluate our suggestions.”
In her career as a healthcare administrator, Dr. Johana Vanegas had never worked closely with designers, programmers, and artists – until the second week of November, that is.
Invited to attend the Independence/Jefferson Health Hack, a weekend event focusing on improving the access to and delivery of healthcare, Vanegas and her team delivered a winning presentation in one of the event’s three tracks. She and her teammates conceived of a six-sided device that could record the emotional states of patients and, as a result, reduce hospital readmissions.
“Patients don’t want to necessarily enter data into a smartphone app and, to be honest, not every patient has a smartphone,” said Vanegas, a student enrolled in the Part-time MBA program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “That’s what makes CareCube so unique.”
The Director of International Patient Access at Philadelphia’s Fox Chase Cancer Center Vanegas and her teammates designed CareCube. The device offers its user the opportunity to answer one basic question – for example, “How are you feeling?” – six different ways. Then, the patient’s responses are collected and sent to a database. The key to CareCube, Vanegas said, is that there are many applications on which it could be effective.
“It’s the type of device you might have for an elderly and otherwise healthy parent living at home, or for someone in a nursing home, or for someone who was recently discharged from the hospital,” said Vanegas, adding that while a USB cord powered the device’s prototype, future renderings of CareCube will be wireless. Vanegas said CareCube also will include voice-recording capabilities to match the tracked response with related intimation provided by the patient.
The Health Hack winnings accrued by Vanegas and her team included: $5,000 in cash; access to Microsoft BizSpark, which offers software and services for start-ups; dedicated space at the Independence Innovation Center; and memberships to NextFab, a collaborating workspace for Philadelphia innovators. Winners from each track also will share lunch with Independence Blue Cross executives Brian Lobley, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Business, and Terry Booker, Vice President of Corporate Development and Innovation.
Health Hack, held Nov. 13-15 at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and sponsored by Independence Blue Cross, gathered 250 professionals, from artists, web developers, and engineers, to healthcare professionals, patients, and students, to brainstorm solutions to today’s greatest healthcare challenges. The event’s participants were tasked with developing solutions in one of three tracks: the reduction of readmissions, wearables, and drone-based healthcare delivery.
“It was a terrific event and I was very fortunate to have been invited to attend and participate,” said Vanegas, who was encouraged to apply for Health Hack by James Moustafellos, Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School, to apply the business design and innovation skills she learned in his course, Design Inquiry and Research.
Vanegas is slated to complete her Fox MBA in May 2016.
“It’s a difficult task, managing a full-time career, the pursuit of your MBA and your family,” she said, “but it’s incredibly rewarding, and it’s setting a good example for my two daughters. It says to them, ‘When you have an opportunity to do something special, you should take it.’”