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Council of young business leaders builds its network p. 13

The Road to 2020: The 21st century college of business p. 22


On a Roll


Nita Umashankar brings a true ASSET to India’s marginalized citizens p. 12

Getting it right: EMBA celebrates 30 years of changing lives p. 24

dean’s letter Progress and Opportunity The J. Mack Robinson College of Business marks its 100th anniversary in 2013. This year is also the centennial for Georgia State University which began as an Evening College of Commerce. As we celebrate this important milestone we are mindful of our distinguished past and are proud of our stature today. In this issue of State of Business, you will learn about the accomplishments of some of our outstanding alumni and the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and faculty. But, as we celebrate a century of accomplishments, we are also looking ahead to how we will build on this

outstanding legacy. In the recent development of the college’s strategic plan, Vision 2020, we began with a clean slate and asked what a business school for today and the future should be. In these pages, we share the details of this process and the resulting plans for the college. I hope you enjoy this issue of the magazine, and, as always, I welcome your comments.

H. Fenwick Huss Dean



CONTENTS On a Roll Cinnabon President Kat Cole (MBA ’10) is charged with building a billion-dollar company. The Robinson alumna is expanding offerings, entering new channels and opening more locations, all while staying true to the heritage of the beloved brand. We visit Kat at Cinnabon headquarters to learn how she’s using the company’s key differentiators to drive innovation.

The Road to 2020 What does it mean to be a relevant business school today and what will it mean in the future? A task force of Robinson faculty and the college’s Board of Advisors spent 18 months exploring this question, then used their findings to develop Vision 2020, a strategic plan to guide the college moving forward. Key architects Frank Blount, Richard Phillips and Pamela Barr discuss the initiative.

Flash Back, Fast Forward When the Executive MBA program marked its 30th anniversary last fall, there was much to celebrate. The Financial Times ranks it among the world’s top programs, and an impressive roster of alumni says their Robinson EMBA has contributed to their success. We asked graduates, current students, program faculty and administrators to tell us how the EMBA program “gets it right.”

From Peachtree Street to Wall Street Each year, a handful of the college’s top students are selected for the Panthers on Wall Street program – four days in New York during which they meet with executives from some of the world’s most prestigious financial services firms. Find out why alumni of the program are devoted to its future success and to helping other participants succeed.


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DEPARTMENTS The Pulse Top Stories In the News First Person Faces Bill Curry Rajeev Reports The Last Word


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board of advisors VOL. XXIV NO. 2 | Spring 2013 State of Business is published twice a year by the Office of Communications and Marketing for the alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Georgia State University Communications and Marketing J. Mack Robinson College of Business University Plaza Atlanta, GA 30303-3083 Georgia State University, a unit of the University System of Georgia, is an equal opportunity educational institution and an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Mark P. Becker President Georgia State University Risa I. Palm Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs H. Fenwick Huss Dean Robinson College of Business Irene M. Duhaime Senior Associate Dean Richard D. Philips Associate Dean of Academic Initiatives and Innovation David R. Forquer Assistant Dean for Executive Programs Ralph Kahlan Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration Toby McChesney Assistant Dean for Graduate Recruiting and Student Services Tracy A. Widman Assistant Dean for Assessment, Accreditation and Faculty Data Management Charlotte Parks Associate Vice President for Development Peter A. Ashley Director of Communications and Marketing Jenifer W. Shockley Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing Morgan Scroggs Student Assistant Meiling Arounnarath, Michelle Hiskey, Rhonda Mullen Contributing Writers Meg Buscema, Francis Klaess, Stephen Jones, Greg Miller, Carolyn Richardson, Steve Thackston Photography EM2 Design

Questions or comments? Go to the online version of State of Business at

Ed Baker Publisher Atlanta Business Chronicle and Sporting News Sandra E. Bergeron Chairman of the Board TraceSecurity, Inc. W. Frank Blount Chairman and CEO JI Ventures Thomas D. Body III Chairman WIREFREE Partners, LLC David Boehmig President Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty Richard E. Bowers President Richard Bowers & Company Ed H. Bowman Jr. Chairman and CEO FYD Global Opportunity Ventures Frank H. Boykin Chief Financial Officer Mohawk Industries, Inc. Maxwell M. Burns Analyst Sarasin & Partners LLP Ann-Marie Campbell President Southern Division, The Home Depot Frederick (Fred) W. Cerrone President and CEO Hotel Equities Rahim B. Charania CEO American Fueling Systems Kat Cole President Cinnabon James E. Copeland, Jr. CEO (ret.) Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

Rene Diaz President and CEO Diaz Foods Bradford W. Ferrer Executive Vice President Finance & Administration CNN Worldwide James A. Harkins III Partner Coastal Equity Development, LLC Jefferson L. Harralson, CFA Managing Director, Research Department Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, Inc. William C. Hatcher Vice Chairman (ret.) Genuine Parts Company Russell H. Heil Senior Vice President (ret.) Delta Air Lines, Inc. Tony G. Holcombe Vice Chairman Director, Numerex Corp. Gerald W. Hudgins President Hudgins Construction Company Elizabeth (Beth) H. Johnston EVP, Human Resources Qatar Airways Group Eric J. Joiner Vice Chairman AJC International, Inc. Barbara Babbit Kaufmann CEO BBK Enterprises, Inc. Kenneth Lewis Chairman and CEO (ret.) Bank of America Corp. Richard K. Little Chairman (ret.) Rosser International Michael I. Marto President and CEO Executive Visions, Inc.

Charles B. Crawford President, CEO and Chairman Private Bank of Buckhead

Thomas Matthesen CEO Presidential Financial Corporation

A. William Dahlberg III Chairman (ret.) Mirant Corporation

Connie D. McDaniel Vice President Chief of Internal Audit The Coca-Cola Company


Eric J. Joiner, Chair

E. R. Mitchell, Jr. President and CEO E. R. Mitchell and Company Kevin Mooney President General Markets Blackbaud, Inc. Parker H. Petit Chairman and CEO MiMedx Group, Inc. Deepak Raghavan Co-founder Manhattan Associates Wayne D. Reid, CPA Partner Frazier & Deeter, LLC William H. Rogers, Jr. Chairman and CEO SunTrust Banks, Inc. Michael B. Russell CEO H. J. Russell & Company Scott O. Seydel President The Seydel Companies Michael S. Shannon Managing Principal Liquid Strategies LLC Nick Shreiber CEO & Principal Partner Nick Shreiber & Associates, LLC Houston Staton Chairman and Founder WirelessWERX, Inc. Geri P. Thomas President, Georgia Bank of America Ronald F. Verni Director Craneware Richard A. Vines General Partner Geocapital Partners, LLC Andrew Wise AVP Financial Advisor Morgan Stanley Smith Barney David Yu President and CEO ProLink International, Inc. Carl R. Zwerner Chairman Glass Capital Management



the pulse Your front page to people, trends, happenings and news

Kudos to Two CIS Scholars Mark Keil and William Robinson of the Department of Computer Information Systems (CIS) have good reason to smile. Keil has been named John B. Zellars Professor of Computer Information Systems – an appointment that recognizes CIS faculty with outstanding achievements in research, teaching and service. He succeeds Dan Robey, a mentor of his who held the Zellars Professorship until his retirement in 2011. In addition, Robinson received good news of his own: The associate professor learned that he had received a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation to improve software development processes.

within the RCB network.

New posts for Phillips, Grace Two of Robinson’s most prominent risk management scholars have been appointed to leadership positions within the college. Richard D. Phillips, formerly chair of the Department of Risk Management and Insurance (RMI), has been named Associate Dean of Academic Initiatives and Innovation. Martin F. Grace has assumed Phillips’ former duties as interim chair of the RMI Department. Phillips joined Robinson in 1994, and became RMI Chair in 2006. Under his direction, the department’s focus shifted from insurance-centric to being a broader study of risk dedicated to understanding, quantifying and developing strategies for managing risks faced by individuals, organizations and society. In addition to his leadership of the RMI Department, Grace is James S. Kemper Professor of Risk Management and associate director of Robinson’s Center for Risk Management and Insurance Research. Since joining the college in 1987, he has published extensively in leading journals and has twice testified before Congress on regulatory and policy issues.









He’s a Legend

The Blueberry State?

Student Ambassadors

Phillips has served on many collegewide initiatives, most recently as chair of the task force that laid the foundation for the college’s Vision 2020 strategic plan.




Robinson in upper echelons of U.S. News, Financial Times and Bloomberg Businessweek rankings U.S. News & World Report: Part-Time MBA Robinson’s part-time MBA jumped 15 spots in U.S. News’s “Best Graduate Schools” rankings, placing No. 17 nationwide (top 6%) and No. 9 among public university programs. In specialty rankings, the college’s graduate program in Computer Information Systems moved up one place to No. 8. U.S. News & World Report: Undergraduate Three Robinson undergraduate programs are in the national top 10 in U.S. News’s “Best Colleges” rankings. Risk Management and Insurance is No. 4; Computer Information Systems is No. 8; and Real Estate is No. 10 – an advance of two spots. The college’s B.B.A. is ranked No. 36 among public university programs and No. 56 overall.

Kumar featured in “Legends in Marketing” series

Financial Times: Executive MBA In its ranking of the world’s top 100 Executive MBA programs, the Financial Times puts Robinson’s EMBA at No. 19 among U.S.-based offerings and No. 63 globally – an advance of five spots domestically and one spot internationally. Bloomberg Businessweek: Part-Time MBA The college’s part-time MBA received high marks in Bloomberg Businessweek’s biennial rankings, which were last conducted in 2011, placing No. 22 nationwide, No. 8 among public university programs and No. 1 in Georgia. For more information, please visit

Many already considered him a legend, but now it’s official. Robinson’s V. Kumar (VK), is one of a handful of scholars who were chosen for the “Legends in Marketing” series from SAGE Publications. Kumar holds the Richard and Susan Lenny Distinguished Chair in Marketing and is executive director of the Center for Excellence in Brand and Customer Management. He is prominent within academic and business circles for his contributions to the theory and practice of marketing – most especially for his pioneering concept of Customer Lifetime Value, which measures a customer’s future value to a company and has helped IBM, Procter & Gamble and Prudential, among others, generate more than $1 billion in revenue. The “Legends in Marketing” series was created to ensure that the next generation of academics can access the work of the discipline’s preeminent scholars and to preserve their publications for posterity. The work of each “legend” is organized into six to ten volumes, each of which is devoted to a specific area of research. Having published more than 200 papers on a broad range of marketing topics, VK is the subject of 10 volumes totaling 3,028 pages. VK also directs the Department of Marketing Ph.D. program. He recently was awarded a Regents’ Professorship, the highest academic status granted by the University System of Georgia.



the pulse

top stories

New Master’s Program Responds to Hospitality Sector Needs

Starting this fall, Robinson will offer a one-year Master of Global Hospitality Management program. The new degree was developed in response to growing demand for upper-level industry managers, according to Debby Cannon, director of the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration. The program is designed for experienced hospitality professionals as well as for those new to the field. In addition to earning a degree, graduates will receive a Certificate of Specialization in Sustainable Hospitality Management.

To learn more about the Master of Global Hospitality Management program, please visit

Korean Connections The commercial bonds between the state of Georgia and South Korea are considerable. The Asian nation is ranked No. 10 among Peach State trading partners, and Kia chose the town of West Point for its first manufacturing site in North America. Robinson’s Department of Computer Information Systems hopes to strengthen those bilateral bonds even further. The department offers programs for American and Korean professionals and students designed to help

participants gain a better understanding of the other nation’s business practices. First year activities included organizing a technologyfocused study tour to Korea and Hong Kong; welcoming a trade delegation from Seoul; and presenting speakers with expertise in business differences between the two nations. In summer 2013, the department will host a 30-person group of Korean information technology professionals.

For more information, please visit or contact J.P. Shim at S TAT E OF BU S I N E SS


Applying Marketing Muscle to Social Issues

Thirty-six doctoral students and junior faculty from around the world recently gathered at Georgia State’s Buckhead Center for the 5th Biennial Marketing and Public Policy Workshop and Doctoral Seminar – a four-day event at which emerging scholars received guidance on how to apply their marketing expertise to the greater social good. “As a nation, we are over-consuming in areas that affect our long-term welfare. We have high rates of obesity and personal debt, including alarming levels of student loans. Our appetite for new, bigger and better is creating real environmental issues,” said host organizer Pam Ellen, who is an associate professor in Robinson’s Department of Marketing. “At the same time,” she continued, “we have regions with shortages of access to health care, nutritional food sources and – with extended droughts – sufficient water. There is no shortage of problems but there is a shortage of rigorous marketing research that can help to resolve these issues. Our workshop is designed to encourage and equip junior scholars to do just that.”



The topics at each workshop vary, but the emphasis is always on how the discipline can respond to pressing concerns, such as enhancing financial and health literacy, reducing consumption of water and electricity, and contributing to social entrepreneurship initiatives to improve the quality of life in impoverished communities here and overseas. Participants learn expectations for rigorous research in marketing, policy, and consumers and society; develop and present their ideas; and cultivate friendships and working relationships. Networking is a key feature of the workshop, given that these scholars are in such a specialized field there are only pockets of them around the world. “Some people are under the impression that business school and businesses only serve stockholders, but we also serve stakeholders, which include consumers and society-at-large,” Ellen said. “We want to give these doctoral students and junior faculty the tools to make an impact in the world.” – Meiling Arounnarath

the pulse

top stories

Two Start-ups Take Top Honors in B-plan Competition A team’s proposal to fix what it characterized as “an inherently flawed produce supply chain” beat out a large field of contenders to win the 2012 Herman J. Russell, Sr. Center for International Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition. Brian Chew, Emily Archer and Nizar Bhamani pitched Second Story Gardens. The company slogan, “Bring the farm to the market,” describes its business model. Second Story Gardens would optimize wasted space in urban areas by building and operating sustainable hydroponic greenhouses near grocery stores, thus slashing transportation and fuel costs associated with traditional farming. The four-person team behind Ad-On Advertising – Eric Ames, Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Jean-Jacques and Renelyn Monteloyola – presented its firm’s plan to sell advertising space on disposable, recyclable cups. The cups would be imprinted with client messages and distributed to local and mid-size businesses for free. Ad-On Advertising was first runner-up in the competition. Second Story Gardens won $10,000 and received $8,000 in legal, accounting and brand management services, plus co-working space provided by the competition’s sponsors. AdOn Advertising received $1,000 in co-working space. The members of both teams had further reason to celebrate. All seven graduated from the Professional MBA program in December.

News from the Department of Risk Management and Insurance

Director tapped for economic capital forum. Markus Stricker has been named inaugural director of the Willis Economic Capital Forum. The forum, a partnership between the RMI Department and the Willis Research Network, is charged with investigating how best to model, manage and regulate the risk capital of insurance companies and the insurance industry. Prior to joining the forum, Stricker co-founded an actuarial and risk management consulting firm and held senior positions in risk management at Towers Perrin Tillinghast, Aon Re and Swiss Re. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from ETH Zurich. Huebner Foundation relocates. The Board of Trustees of the S.S. Huebner Foundation for Insurance Education announced that it will relocate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania to the RMI Department. The foundation was established in 1941 and is named for the father of collegiate risk education, Solomon S. Huebner. It has a long history of advancing the study of insurance as integral to a well-rounded education in business and economics. The foundation has supported more than 200 Huebner Fellows since its inception, one of whom is Robinson Associate Dean Richard D. Phillips.



the pulse

in the news

Unfair = Unwise? The abrupt dismissal of Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit by the company’s chairman exemplifies “the failure of a leader to understand the potential collateral damage caused by the way a decision is made and carried out,” according to Robinson’s Nathan Bennett. Bennett and Stephen Miles, a CEO succession specialist, wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek that the manner in which Pandit was shown the door could cause lingering problems. “Whenever employees conclude that unfair treatment has occurred, their further investment in their relationship with the company is at risk.”

“Individuals who are serious about becoming a chief human resource officer know they need to continually improve their knowledge in the areas of strategy, innovation, operations, Lean Six Sigma, and even sales and marketing.” Daniel Stotz of the Executive Education Program in Training + Development


WISDOM FROM THE FEW AND THE PROUD How should one choose a place to work? Steve Olson of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility advises following lessons learned from a partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps. “Choose your unit carefully, and lead and cultivate it carefully,” he told USA Today. “The culture and ethos of the organization you’re in is going to do a lot to form you, and you have to be mindful of that when you join.”

FITNESS ROI Corporate wellness programs not only whittle waistlines, they also reduce medical expenses and increase productivity, according to Patricia Ketsche of the Institute of Health Administration. But seeing a return on investment on such programs takes time. “The cost savings accrue over the long term,” Ketsche told Morris News Service. Although some participants will backslide into bad habits, the potential boost to the bottom line remains significant. “If 20 people lose weight and 15 regain it, you still have a long-term benefit from the five who kept it off.”


Floored Cities in which the economy relies on the success of a single industry were hit especially hard by the recession. Case in point: Dalton, Georgia. The “Carpet Capital of the World” lost more than 4,600 jobs, and many of the unemployed are still pounding the pavement. Rajeev Dhawan of the Economic Forecasting Center told the Associated Press that absorbing Dalton’s flooring sector workers will be a tall order. “To come out of that hole will require a brand new booming industry that is going bonkers.”

Never Say Never What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, few people in their 20s would have said they wanted to rent forever. Today, it’s a different story. Jon Wiley of the Department of Real Estate says that’s because members of Gen Y grew up with a volatile housing market, making many hesitant to become homeowners. But such resistance is not absolute. “They can be influenced to buy, if the answer to ‘Can I afford it?’ is yes,” Wiley told “Marketplace.”

No Turnkey Solution The “stacked ranking” method of employee evaluation was made famous during Jack Welch’s turnaround of GE in the 1980s. Thousands of firms adopted the performance review process, but many have left it by the wayside in the years since. Why the wane in popularity? “They reached for an answer that worked for someone else,” said William Bogner of the Department of Managerial Sciences. “There is a desire to have a single, one-size-fits-all solution, and there is never one size that fits all,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There is no shortcut to good management of people.”

Crowning Relationships

“Are you all flash and no cash, or are you a guardian of your money?” Conrad Ciccotello of the Wealth Management Program in

Qatar is spending billions of dollars on new construction and infrastructure improvements as it prepares to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Foreign investors keen to invest in the Middle Eastern kingdom would be wise to cultivate friends in high places before coming to the table, Tamer Cavusgil of the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) told GlobalAtlanta. “To do business there, it helps to be close to the decision makers, the members of the ruling family. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Cavusgil said. “Qatar is not democratic, but it is a progressive, forward-looking state that is open to modernizing its economy.”

Putting on the Brakes Speculation went into overdrive when General Motors announced it was getting out of its advertising deal with Facebook. But whatever the reason behind the reversal, the automaker’s move was a smart one, according to V. Kumar of the Center for Excellence in Brand and Customer Management. Kumar and IT consultant Bala Sundaram wrote in Forbes that, “There are certain logical and fundamental reasons why not all paid ads would work.” The two added the company’s decision to pull back on its Facebook advertising “seems to be a good course correction for GM while giving Facebook a chance to improve its advertising offerings for businesses.”

The Blueberry State? Although the peach is Georgia’s official fruit, state sales of blueberries have outpaced those of their fuzzy cousin since 2008. Does that mean it’s time to retire the “Peach State” moniker? Not so fast, says Ken Bernhardt, Regents Professor Emeritus of Marketing. “If we’re No. 1 in people’s minds, that’s what counts. And that’s the brand we should keep,” he told the Atlanta JournalConstitution. “Perception is reality.”

On Shaky Sand Synovus Financial Corp. settled a shareholder lawsuit over more than $200 million in bad loans to Sea Island Company. As part of the settlement, the Synovus board will no longer be allowed to approve loans. “What is especially interesting is that the directors won’t be able to participate in the approval of any loans, whether large or small,” Mark Chen of the Department of Finance told Bloomberg. “That does seem to be unusual.”

The Robinson College makes news all the time. Keep up to date on the latest headlines at



F 1 RS T P E RS N Nita Umashankar Assistant Professor of Marketing and Co-Founder, ASSET India Foundation

A true ASSET for India’s marginalized citizens Nita Umashankar returned from a gap year in Bangalore, India, haunted by the marginalized women and children she had seen. Many had no choice but prostitution; others were sexually trafficked. “I was stunned by what I saw and knew something had to be done,” said Nita. Spurred to action, Nita worked with her parents, both of whom are on faculty at the University of Arizona, to found the ASSET (Achieving Sustainable Social Equality through Technology) India Foundation. The foundation differs from many skills-building initiatives for India’s poor, which focus on sewing, basket weaving and painting, by preparing its students to enter the nation’s booming information technology sector. “There is always a large supply of entry level positions in IT and a pressing need to fill them,” said Nita. ASSET students are 16 to 22 years old and either children of prostitutes or rescued from trafficking. For six to nine months they study conversational English, computer training and life skills. Since the first center opened in 2007, more than 600 students have graduated from the program and 70 percent have been placed in jobs. When asked what ASSET has taught her, Nita discusses the resilience of the students. “They cope with uncertainty and survive despite the challenges they face. We have so much to learn from them.” For more information about the ASSET India Foundation, visit

– Morgan Scroggs

the pulse


Council Connects Young Alums with Robinson Andy Wise (MBA ’06) decided to form the Robinson Council of Young Business Leaders after a conversation with Dean Fenwick Huss at a college event. While they were chatting, the dean remarked that Robinson needed a leadership group focused on connecting new and recent alumni with the college. To join the invitation-only group, members must be alumni of a Robinson undergraduate, graduate or certificate program, currently active in the business community, less than 45 years old or have graduated less than 10 years before becoming a member. At present, the council has about 100 active members. Its mission is, “To cultivate and unite a network of young business leaders, strengthen ties between the Atlanta business community and J. Mack Robinson College of Business alumni and serve as advocates of Georgia State University through active participation and networking, fundraising, business leadership and community involvement.” “We want all-stars, those who represent their company well at work and in the community – the best of the best – those who want to be a part of Robinson again and want to get re-engaged and want to have fun,” said Wise, who is an assistant vice president and financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Elizabeth Spence (MBA ’08) is director of human resources at Coca-Cola Refreshments. She’s been with the

council since it was founded in 2009 and is now a board member. “I joined because I felt passionate about the Robinson College and I wanted to work on strengthening the university’s relationships with local companies,” Spence said. The council conducts corporate visits during which members enjoy candid conversation with C-level executives. The group has met with senior leaders of CNN, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Cookerly Public Relations, Cox Communications, Frito-Lay, McKesson and NCR, among others. They also perform community service, teaming up with Atlanta nonprofit Park Pride to clean up and beautify public parks.

“It’s important for people who are fortunate enough to have the resources and time to give back,” Spence said. “It also drives our mission to make the Robinson College more visible in the community, and it drives networking and relationship building between our members.” Wise would like to see the group continue to grow by helping current students, through programming and by being an example. He hopes the council can one day sponsor a scholarship for Robinson students, describing it as “the ultimate legacy.” “We’re not trying to be the largest alumni group, just one of the most impactful,” Wise said. – Meiling Arounnarath

For more information about the Robinson Council of Young Business Leaders, visit



the pulse


Coca-Cola Global Ambassadors experience business abroad “I knew that the only option I had to afford the program was to get scholarships. If it were not for The Coca-Cola Foundation funding, I would not have been able to study abroad.” Gadson (top), who graduated in December with a B.B.A. in economics, was one of the first recipients of the Coca-Cola Global Ambassador Scholarship Program, a fiveyear initiative to help more first-time study abroad students, minority students and those traveling to emerging markets gain a competitive edge in the global market.

Tyler Sutherland (bottom), an undergraduate double major in actuarial science and risk management and insurance, studied transitional economies in China to prepare for a career in a large international insurance group. His group traveled across China to Tibet and the Three Gorges Dam, and large multinational companies based in Shanghai. “This trip changed me in three main ways: culturally, academically and becoming more business savvy. From chaotic traffic with no wrecks to biking on top of the Xian city wall, from being the only blond person within a two-mile radius to seeing ancient Chinese monuments blend seamlessly with current businesses and vendors, this trip had plenty of eye-opening experiences. It made me appreciate my education even more, and it was very enlightening to see how these major companies handle Chinese red tape and transparency. Not only to handle, but to make massive profits at the same time.”

Until Sajillah Gadson boarded the flight for Brazil, she had never been on an airplane, or out of the United States. Her dream of a career as an international business consultant was rooted in the classroom. With this trip, her dream took wings. “I have a new perspective on what it is like to do business in a different region of the world that is experiencing exponential growth,” Gadson said after her return from studying in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife and other areas.

The philanthropic arm of the Atlanta-based soft drink company is funding the program through a $200,000 award to CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research). According to CIBER Executive Director S. Tamer Cavusgil, the gift will go a long way toward enabling scholarship recipients to develop as global citizens. “These are students who, given the chance, can do great things,” said Cavusgil. “Studying abroad allows them to gain life skills and will probably change their perspective forever.”

Four receive Alumni Awards

Robinson honored four individuals who have distinguished themselves through career achievement and community service at the college’s 2012 Alumni Awards, held on November 8 at Georgia State’s Buckhead Center.

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Alumni Leadership Award (Lifetime Achievement)

Rahim B. Charania, CEO, American Fueling Systems, B.B.A., 1996; MBA, 2008

Iqbal Paroo, managing partner, Paroo and Associates, B.B.A., 1972; M.H.A., 1975

Alumni Award for Entrepreneurship Michael I. Marto, president and CEO, Executive Visions Inc., MBA, 1986 Learn more about the recipients at


– Michelle Hiskey


Honorary Alumnus Nicholas Shreiber, CEO Nick Shreiber & Associates

curry on leadership

Leadership Begins in the Cradle... and Never Ends On December 14, 2012, our country experienced another mass murder, this time at a small school in Newtown, Connecticut. In the time since so many innocent lives were lost, we have been reflecting on the role of violence in our culture. For many, the emotions are still raw – we continue to pray for the victims’ families and to wonder where we go from here. Violence is a way of life for our children. Our society extols violent behavior and desensitizes young minds to its horrific consequences in myriad ways. Every day, vitriolic social media posts, television shows, video games, movies, music and the vindictive rhetoric spewed by some of our self-styled loudmouth “experts” reinforce the idea that violent retribution is normal behavior, even a birthright. Our culture repeatedly teaches, “If someone offends you, get even, hurt them. Reject them, hate them, separate from them and ridicule them.” This is especially true of young males. I know – I have been with them on a daily basis since I was one of them. We are dealing with a virtual tsunami of negativity, and we have not begun to understand its long-term consequences. The outpouring of love and sympathy from across our nation for the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre was and continues to be overwhelming. This is a good thing, but it is not nearly enough. I trust that each of us has rededicated ourselves to making a difference in the lives of young people before yet another tragedy. Each of us is responsible. Every one of us has a “catalytic capacity” to change the lives of those around us for the better. When I was 15, my high school football coach asked me to become a summer day-camp counselor. In a few weeks I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I would work with young people. There was a sense of wonder at the children’s energy – it was fun,

and I really did love those little fellows. I am considerably older now, and believe it or not, I still hear from many of them. I still work with young people. I still love them, all of them. As for competitive sports, we can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Listen to what your child’s coach is saying. Watch how he or she conducts business and the lessons that are conveyed. Carefully consider what is pounded into the young mind of each player, and know that ultimately, for better or worse, most of these players will live out what they were taught. For balanced adults who care about our generation’s legacy, understand that there is most likely a young person counting on you. What is your life’s message? What do young people sense from you? Do you live out kindness, generosity, personal accountability and grace? I have seen single moms work miracles with their sons. There are grandmothers and even great-grandmothers who raise wonderful young people against all odds. When two or more parents are involved, including a father or other positive male role model, the likelihood of positive results increases exponentially. My experience is not scientific, but is based on the thousands of young people I’ve coached – most of whom were young men. Most were student-athletes. Most come from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds. Leadership begins early, and lasts forever. You do not have to be a parent or a coach. Sometimes all it takes is one act of kindness. It is never too late to be the difference in another’s life.

Bill Curry

A former Super Bowl and All-Pro lineman in the National Football League, Bill Curry was the head football coach at Georgia State University from its inaugural season in 2010 through 2012. He is a Distinguished Executive Fellow at the Robinson College and his column is a regular feature of State of Business.



on a roll by Peter Ashley



Good luck trying to label Kat Cole, president of the Cinnabon® brand and Robinson alum. Kat’s tenacity as a leader is matched only by her commitment to others. After a very successful run as a vice president at Hooters, Kat was named Cinnabon president in 2010. Since Kat took the top job, Cinnabon has grown in both size and breadth of offerings, and under her leadership, the brand has multiplied core economic metrics a few times over. It currently operates in more than 1,000 franchised locations around the world. “We own quality indulgence,” said Kat Cole in an interview with State of Business. According to Kat, and to millions of satisfied patrons, quality indulgence is Cinnabon’s true differentiator. Although well known for its cinnamon rolls, that’s not what Cinnabon is really famous for; it’s what the rolls and other

How do you innovate around a simple concept like a cinnamon roll? “Everything starts out simple,” says Kat. The key is to discover all the ways the current product can be logically extended while always protecting and reinvesting in the core/legacy business and products. “Innovating a version of what already exists is a win on so many levels. The efficiencies it creates are impressive.” Other ways to innovate include expanding the existing product line with new offerings that still fit within the brand. “I think innovation is successful when you are clear on your relative differentiators. For us it’s quality indulgence. In fact, some of our more popular products don’t have cinnamon or frosting in them. The other products work because we know what we own – quality indulgence.”

Despite the persistent economic headwinds the U.S. has been experiencing since 2008, Kat Cole has continued to move forward, remain positive and expand an already successful brand. products provide, according to Kat. In fact, many of Cinnabon’s strong-selling products don’t even contain their trademark Makara® cinnamon. “As we move into more channels, we must manage the marketplace and consumers’ expectations of what the brand means,” says Kat. It’s clear that people love the Cinnabon brand, they enjoy going to a Cinnabon bakery and they indulge in a Cinnabon cinnamon roll. “So Cinnabon is a brand, it’s a location and it’s a food item,” says Kat as she deftly explains how to grow the brand while preserving its heritage. The focus on owning the quality indulgence market, and not just cinnamon rolls, is what has helped Cinnabon successfully expand its offerings.

“We have expanded more rapidly than expected, so we have a lot of brand management work going on at all times. My role is quickly transitioning into more of a brand manager, making sure that the brand is built to give and get its highest and best value in each channel and that each channel supports the others.” The success and confidence that Kat exudes as she describes her ever-changing role may be surprising to those who know her story – a story that makes her success that much richer.



Starting from Scratch

Just as a baker carefully shapes each cinnamon roll, Kat’s life helped shape her as a person and a leader. To understand her success fully, it’s important to take a look back. Those who have heard Kat speak at an event (she is a sought-after keynote speaker) will attest to the inspirational nature of her experiences. But it is the response to her experiences and not the events themselves that are the source of the inspiration. Case in point, Kat grew up in Florida with her two sisters, raised by a single mom who had to work hard, sometimes doing multiple jobs, to make ends meet. “My mom managed to feed three girls on $10 a week,” recalls Kat. “My mother left our father when I was nine. And I was not surprised… I looked at her and thought, ‘what took so long?’ I learned a lot of leadership lessons from that experience…often when the right call needs to be made, there are a lot of people around you who already know, and are waiting for you to make it.” One of Kat’s first lessons in life was figuring out how to make difficult decisions, and to make them at the right time. “Asking, if not me, who, and if not now, when?” – these are big leadership lessons that I take into every aspect of my life and my work. I



constantly challenge my employees to ask those questions,” Kat reflects. “I still make mistakes, and my biggest mistakes are often not making the right call fast enough.”

“Although I will never forget where I came from and that it made me who I am, I was always trying to prove that I wasn’t defined by where I came from.” Although neither her mother nor Kat knew it at the time, the strength and resilience her mother demonstrated was actually preparing Kat for a successful future – one filled with challenges, opportunities and risk taking. About her mother, Kat said, “I got to see her step up, figure it out and make it happen.” While only 19 years old and working for Hooters, Kat had another set of transformative experiences. Because of her hard

work, tenacity and natural leadership, Kat was asked to travel abroad to open new locations for Hooters. Traveling internationally at such a young age prepared Kat in many ways to lead a global brand. “The early years of teaching and coaching, and truly recreating the brand in other countries helped me build a leadership muscle, a culture muscle and a communication muscle,” Kat recounts. It was those early lessons – a strong role model in her mother and experiences travelling internationally at such a young age – that really shaped Kat as a person and as a leader. “I was never going to know how strong I was as a leader until I moved out of my comfort zone to see what I could do in new, complex situations.”

Hungry for Knowledge

“I was dying for knowledge,” says Kat. This insatiable hunger for knowledge has been one of the key motivators throughout her life. “Although I will never forget where I came from and that it made me who I am, I was always trying to prove that I wasn’t defined by where I came from.” Determined to rise above her challenging, nontraditional start, Kat constantly looked for ways to grow and develop. The clear path to success was the relentless pursuit of knowledge and education, though “No one in my immediate family had graduated college.”

Although already a successful leader within Hooters, Kat decided to pursue an advanced degree, and enrolled in Robinson’s highly ranked Executive MBA program, earning her degree in 2010. In 2011, Kat was honored as one of Robinson’s distinguished alumni. What motivated a successful executive to return to school for a rigorous business program? “I wanted validation that what I had learned in the real world (my world) was actually the real business world and how things translated outside of my company. I didn’t know if the contributors to my success were the result of my knowing the company so well, or if I actually had the right view of business,” Kat recalls. “It was both a validation that things I’m doing actually work, and it was a retraining, reworking of my mindset so I could be more successful either within that company [Hooters], or for my next chapter.” The next chapter, as it turned out, involved lots of cinnamon, dough and frosting.

Giving Back

“My whole career, literally my whole career, since I was old enough to know what volunteer organizations were, I volunteered,” recalls Kat. “Every weeknight and weekend I could. When you are doing good works, typically the best version of yourself is able to be seen, because it is such a pure giving situation.” Kat is a regular and avid volunteer with organizations that support women and children, and that fight hunger and homelessness. She also travels abroad extensively to provide assistance and raise awareness of global poverty. A strong focus on volunteerism has helped define Kat’s leadership style and her leadership advice to young entrepreneurs. “My advice for entrepreneurs would be of course to have a highly relevant and differentiated concept, but beyond that, to give until it hurts. Literally give until it hurts. Whether that means giving away sample product, whether it means

Even at a young age, Kat was astute at anticipating roadblocks to her success – roadblocks she had no intention of stumbling over. “Because I was young, because I worked for Hooters, because I dropped out of college, I got every certification I could to combat what I believed would be natural judgments against me in the business world. All these things were stacked against me on paper, so I was trying to compensate by these other types of certifications. Then of course the penultimate of education… my opportunity at Georgia State.”



volunteering your services. Eventually there will be reciprocity and you will learn so much. Giving is huge.” What else would she say to budding entrepreneurs? “Look at the world as having no borders and no boundaries. Try to run your business online; go start it in another country. Get out of whatever your box is.” For Kat, that means always looking for ways to innovate, transform and take the appropriate level of risk. Without change and innovation, it’s virtually impossible to be successful in today’s complex, global environment. “The world just moves too fast to stay who you are. If you have your own goals to grow aggressively, then you can’t just stay the same,” says Kat.

Undercover Boss

On November 16, 2012, Kat Cole and Cinnabon were featured on an episode of the popular television program “Undercover Boss.” The premise of the show is that successful CEOs and presidents of companies shed their leadership status and secretly join the ranks of their employees. The purpose is for leaders to learn what really goes on in their companies, and for them to learn firsthand what their employees face each and every day. Although Kat is very familiar with the underpinnings of the restaurant business, she still found the experience deeply rewarding, educational and humbling.



“It was a reminder of how much of an impact our managers and franchisees have on our younger employees,” Kat recalls. “I remember being the 19-yearold employee with two jobs, and dealing with life. The people that I worked with, their stories were eerily similar to mine.” It was these similarities that touched Kat in ways that she had not anticipated. “I was emotionally moved by my employees. We just have great people. I was unbelievably moved and impressed by how much pride they put into the product and their jobs. It was awesome.” The pride of ownership demonstrated by Cinnabon employees is clear to anyone who has been lured by the unmistakable and irresistible aroma of Cinnabon. Kat attributed much of that pride to the culture that is built on talented, passionate founders, great franchise partners all over the world and the vibe built around baking – a very tangible, inherently warm and friendly activity. “How the culture translates through to the frontline is so important,” says Kat. “It doesn’t matter how popular Cinnabon is, or how much media and PR attention we get, if that culture of sweetness, kindness and friendliness isn’t present, then we are missing the boat. And we certainly won’t get to our goal of being a $1 billion consumer brand.” Will they make it to $1 billion? No doubt – in fact, they are practically already there. Cinnabon has all the ingredients for continued growth – great products, dedicated employees and a visionary leader. Cinnabon’s tagline is “Life Needs Frosting,” and it’s clear that Kat Cole provides more than her fair share.

“The world just moves too fast to stay who you are. If you have your own goals to grow aggressively, then you can’t just stay the same.”




by Rhonda Mullen


The task force started with a clean sheet of paper and a broad charge from Dean H. Fenwick Huss: to reimagine the Robinson College of Business for the 21st century. The college convened the group to draw up a strategic roadmap through 2020, and throughout the 18-month process, task force members and the Robinson Board of Advisors explored a fundamental question: What does it mean to be a relevant business school today and what will it mean in the future?



The question came on the eve of Robinson’s 100th anniversary, which it is celebrating this year. In its first century, the college has become one of the largest business schools in the nation, with programs ranked among the best in the world. Georgia State and the Robinson College have produced more of Georgia’s top executives with graduate degrees than any other school in the Southeast. Its faculty are among the nation’s most prolific scholars, graded “A” for teaching excellence by Bloomberg Businessweek. Each year, the college attracts 8,000 students as diverse in nationality and ethnicity as they are in business experience and educational background. With such proven progress, why consider sweeping change? For one thing, external forces are coming to bear on all business schools, says Richard D. Phillips who chaired the task force and is associate dean of academic initiatives and innovation. Geographic barriers have fallen, and students have their choice of programs through online offerings. Additionally technology is having

a big impact on every niche of business and the world is growing increasingly complex. Today’s challenges require professionals with cross-disciplinary skills, ones who can respond creatively and profitably to opportunities. “For the longest time, Robinson has had the best part-time MBA program in the nation, but monopoly builds complacency,” says Phillips. “We have to continue asking questions and implementing answers to survive and thrive.” As a professor in the Department of Managerial Sciences and its interim chair, Pamela S. Barr teaches students to think and plan strategically. She brought that knowledge to bear as a member of the task force, then as chair of Robinson’s strategic planning overview committee. In synthesizing feedback from throughout the college, she learned that “we have to be adaptable. What makes us strong now won’t keep us strong. We always need to be forward looking to continue to improve.”


The college’s Board of Advisors, most of whom have led strategic planning initiatives at their companies, were actively involved. W. Frank Blount was board chair at the time; he says it was a particularly important undertaking during his tenure. “Working with Dean Huss and other Robinson senior leaders to provide major input into the development of the strategic plan is exactly the type of active role the board should play in the advancement of the college,” says Blount. “Robinson is a special place with a very bright future, and the Board of Advisors feels that the crisp execution of this strategic plan will truly distinguish the college.” Robinson’s plan includes some initiatives that are underway while others will require the college to first build capacity. “It is forward looking, but not so out there that it’s hard to grasp,” says Barr. “It builds on the strengths and reputation that we already have while at the same time, it challenges us to stretch.”

Read the strategic plan at




• Offering a cross-disciplinary curriculum from day one

• A focus on cross-disciplinary research

• New degree programs that meet industry needs

• Developing research fellowships for undergraduates

• Nurturing student leaders

• Increased research support for the Ph.D. and other programs

GOAL 3: ENGAGEMENT • Innovating with industry • A stronger infrastructure for connecting with alumni • Growing international ties



FLASH BACK FAST FORWARD An approach of innovating, adapting and transforming has marked the Robinson College EMBA program for 30 years, but more than anything, say those who know, it has changed lives. In 1982, as Patricia Allgood prepared to cross the stage to receive a diploma from a brand new Executive MBA program at Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business, her accounting professor pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to her. “Your last name starts with ‘A.’ You’ll be our very first graduate,” he said.

continue their careers while coming together for intensive classes every other weekend. The founding director, Dave Ewert, recruited premier faculty from Georgia State’s part-time MBA program who had classroom expertise, years of practical business experience and the ability to teach in a compressed format.

In the 30 years since, Allgood’s résumé has grown thick with accomplishments. She ran and sold a successful healthcare software company, Dental Systems. Later she consulted with large corporations introducing new technologies that produced efficiency and increased productivity. For the past decade, she has served as a group chair with Vistage International, helping CEOs hone leadership skills and build their businesses. “The EMBA program gave me a broad foundation to understand so many areas of business,” Allgood says. “For my career, it was invaluable.”

Today, the Robinson College EMBA program is ranked among the top 100 programs worldwide by the Financial Times. It ranks fifth among U.S.-based programs for international course experience on the FT scorecard. Its first two directors, Ewert and Maury Kalnitz, served as chairs of the board of the Executive MBA Council.

While EMBA programs are common today, in 1982, they were not. In fact, Georgia State’s Executive MBA was among the earliest programs in the country and one of the first to offer an international residency (to Japan in its early years). The format allowed a cohort of executives to

In October, the program celebrated its 30th anniversary – a notable accomplishment, says David Forquer, assistant dean of executive programs. “Business schools operate in a competitive market. You either adapt or die,” he says. “We’ve adapted, responded and continued to get better. You don’t last this long without getting something right.” Here are a few highlights from those close to the program – from administrators and faculty to alumni and students – about what they think the Robinson EMBA has gotten – and continues to get – right.

THEN EMBA program, 1982



All in the approach

In 1996, in the midst of growing a supply chain company and working between 60 and 80 hours a week, Deepak Raghavan took a leap and went back to school to pursue an EMBA from Georgia State. Raghavan wanted to shore up skills in finance and accounting to keep his company, Manhattan Associates, moving forward. “Those years were a blur,” he says. “I was focused on school and work. I even gave up watching TV.” He managed the company’s growth from 70 to 500 employees while completing an intense schedule of rigorous classes every other weekend. Why did Raghavan stick with it? One reason, he says, was the faculty. “The faculty didn’t just lecture. They led meaningful discussions. Good teaching is not about being a face on a stage. Instead, it focuses on the students.” Today Raghavan is taking those lessons to his own students. Although he continues to serve as a board member for Manhattan Associates – which has grown to more than 2,000 employees around the globe, with recent market valuation in excess of $1 billion – his business success has allowed him to pursue his passion – the stars. He spends much of his time now teaching astronomy and physics at Georgia State. He has modeled his teaching style on that of the EMBA faculty, encouraging his undergraduates to work collaboratively on team projects.

Around the world (in 15 years)

Sevo Eroglu is no stranger to traveling abroad with a group of executives in tow. For 15 years, she has led the international residencies that Robinson EMBA students complete at the end of their studies. These trips immerse students in the business, culture and politics of countries as diverse as

“The EMBA program gave me a broad foundation to understand so many areas of business. For my career, it was invaluable.” PATRICIA ALLGOOD ’82

Japan, Argentina, Thailand, China, Vietnam and others, and give them opportunities to visit with business and government leaders throughout Asia and Latin America. “The trips bond people in ways that are forever,” Eroglu says. “When they are thrown together in a completely unknown culture with people that they’ve known in a different environment, they learn.” To gain access, Eroglu draws on the relationships she has made with wellconnected friends over the years. “It’s all about relationships,” she says. “They’ve allowed us to open doors for our students that were closed to many other universities, including Ivy League schools.”

Eroglu credits Dave Ewert with the foresight to add an international component to the program. “He fought to convince the dean that he should take the first class to Japan, and it turned out to be visionary. It positioned our program at the leading edge, and our students cut their teeth on their experiences abroad. Now all business schools have an international component.” As part of the 30th anniversary in October 2012, Eroglu led a group of alumni on a tour of her native country, Turkey. Managers at Turkey’s largest supermarket chain rolled out the red carpet for the group at a champagne reception. In Istanbul, alumni visited with executives at The Coca-Cola Company, toured the Grand Bazaar and other historic sites, and got an insider’s look at the business of Turkey’s most famous baklava baker. “Being part of the EMBA program has affected me professionally and personally,” says Eroglu. “It’s a special part of my life because I’ve been able to see what students take away from these trips. The contributions to their development are so immediate and visible.”

Immediate application

Christian Halpaus in the class of 2014 runs International Freight Forwarders (IFF), a transportation logistics business serving medium- and small-sized importers and exporters that has thrived even during the recession. In leading this family business over

NOW EMBA program, 2013



the past six years, Halpaus has seen his employees double from 30 to 60, and he believes that IFF has the potential to “chart across the country and go nationwide.” But to do that, Halpaus knew that he needed a broader business skill set. That’s what led him to an information session about the EMBA program at the Robinson College, where he had earned an undergraduate business degree in 2001. He was only scouting, thinking he’d apply in a year or so, but the presentation by the graduate students about the program caught him, in his words, “hook, line and sinker. I decided it is never the right time, so I might as well get started.” Since July, Halpaus has been juggling the business, his family and school. Although that’s a challenging schedule, he has no regrets. “For me, the program has proven invaluable. I started applying what I was learning from day one,” he says. For example, his classes have given him a better understanding of accounting so that at a recent company meeting he was able to suggest that extraordinary income earned by the business should be a below-the-line item on the income statement. “I used to just look at the bottom line,” he says, “but now I can question nuances about our retained earnings and our balance sheet. That will be important as we seek to capture more market share moving forward.” Halpaus also likes the example that he’s setting for his three young children, teaching them the importance of education. “I’m doing this for them,” he says. Recently, as he sat at the kitchen table working on a class assignment, his eight-year-old daughter joined him, bringing her own homework.



Twice the effort, twice the learning

Talk to any Robinson EMBA graduate, and it won’t take long before the marketing management class and the name Ken Bernhardt come up. Bernhardt, Regents Professor Emeritus of Marketing, taught in the program for three decades, often taking his lessons to executives who didn’t rank marketing high on their lists of skills to master. “Teaching in the EMBA program was twice as hard,” Bernhardt says. “You had to be on your game because the students were so smart. I learned as much from them as they did from me.” Bernhardt’s favorite feedback came from an EMBA student who served as CFO of a regional communications company. “Before I took your class,” the CFO confessed, “my eyes glazed over whenever the marketing manager started his report. Now I’m totally interested. I know the right questions to ask and how to evaluate the answers.”

Confidence lessons

When the PNC Bank began recruiting Shena Tharnish, the timing wasn’t ideal. The senior IT manager was happy with her position at the Home Depot, where she had worked for 12 years, and just a few months prior, she had started the EMBA program at Georgia State. But the bank continued to pursue her and in January 2012, Tharnish agreed to an interview. She had just finished her first semester of coursework, including Steve Olson’s leadership class, and that, she says, helped give her the confidence to listen to what another company had to offer and to negotiate a competitive package. “Before

the program, I wouldn’t have had the guts to ask for what I felt that I deserved,” she says. She started in spring 2012 as vice president of enterprise network infrastructure and services for PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, and is now responsible for data, voice and video infrastructure throughout the company, including 3,000 branches and 5,000 ATMs around the country. Tharnish, who is in the class of 2013, commuted back to the Robinson College every other weekend to complete her coursework, which she wrapped up in December, and in January, she completed her international residency in Vietnam and China. PNC Bank supported her studies, something that she negotiated from the get-go. “What I’ve learned about myself in class and working with others has been eyeopening,” Tharnish says. “I think differently now. The program changed my life.”


Reagan Evans, also in the class of 2013, likes to joke that Delta loves him. Like Tharnish and others, his career took a leap forward during his EMBA studies, and he commuted to finish his coursework. Evans landed a position as director of quality at Matrix Medical Network in Scottsdale, Arizona, which trains and educates nurse practitioners to do health risk assessments. Evans had previous experience with some of the Matrix management team, but he believes that pursuing the EMBA gave him “a leg up. I became more than the logistics guy,” he says.

“Everyone says they want the program to move them to the next level. My move just came in the middle of the program, thanks to what I was learning.”

“What I’ve learned about myself in class and working with others has been eye-opening. The program changed my life.” SHENA THARNISH

The EMBA program’s emphasis on technology helped Evans keep pace. Robinson was among the first business schools in the country to give premium program students iPads loaded with textbooks and other course materials. Administrators also have invested in technology enhancements at the Buckhead Center, including video teleconferencing systems that allow users on both ends of an exchange to annotate documents in real time and share presentation materials. An in-class recording system captures lectures for those unable to attend a particular class. In a collaborative learning laboratory, students work at media-scape tables to share presentations with their group, the entire class, or a remote source. Breakout rooms include smart whiteboards that interface with a PC or allow remote collaboration.

Podcasting studios are coming soon. “Thanks to the iPad and Tegrity (lecture capture software), I was able to keep everything from school with me as I travelled back and forth,” says Evans. He made his last commute for the program earlier this year.

Coming and giving back

Like many of Robinson’s EMBA alumni, Jorge Maroto, managing partner at Maroto Management Group, wanted to give back to the program. The 2008 graduate has done that by serving as president of Robinson’s EMBA Alumni Club, rallying busy executives to find time for the many activities that the club offers. Over the past year, alumni have generously supported philanthropic causes, from packing medical supplies and equipment for MedShare to donating suits for a clothing drive for job seekers. The club’s signature golf event raised $11,228 to support scholarships for undergraduate business students at Georgia State. Planning activities that appeal to the range of graduates is challenging, says Maroto, because the club includes heads of Fortune 500 companies who might want a sounding board, entrepreneurs looking for feedback on business plans and those networking to find new opportunities. But he believes the effort is worth it. “I’m inspired by the energy and dedication that our graduates bring back to this program,” he says. Next on his slate of plans is establishment of an alumni advisory board to mentor new

alumni and a workshop to coach executives on how to field media questions or pitch their elevator speech.

The director’s perspective

Given the longevity of many of the faculty members, administrators and alumni associated with Robinson’s EMBA program, Laura Crawley is a relative newcomer. Yet in her three years as director of the EMBA program, Crawley has her elevator speech down pat. She points to the program’s three decades of impact locally and globally, to 30 years of faculty experience that has prepared mid-career professionals to take on leadership roles, to the many ventures and companies developed and nurtured as a result. But more than anything, Crawley values the 30 years of relationships that have been forged through the program. “Faculty and administrators, students and alumni have come together at the Robinson College to build an EMBA program of national and international stature,” she says. “It has not only stood the test of time but also thrived, grown and matured. I’m proud to be a part of it.” To learn more about the Robinson College EMBA program, please visit




STUDENTS IN THE PANTHERS ON WALL STREET PROGRAM ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT ITS INFLUENCE ON THEIR LIVES. Things came full circle for Travis Steed (M.S. ’10) this past September. Steed was hosting 18 of Robinson’s most accomplished students at the New York offices of Macquarie Capital, where he is an equity research analyst. The Robinson alumnus had a great deal in common with the group before him. He graduated with a perfect GPA and knew he wanted to work in New York. So did his eager Robinson guests. But most significantly, they were all participants in Panthers on Wall Street – a highly selective, multi-faceted program that culminates in a four-day experience in the financial center of the world. Steed had been part of the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2008, the inaugural year. Now, he was welcoming the Class of 2012 to his firm. “If you’re going to be part of Panthers on Wall Street, it’s not just a one-semester,



two-semester deal, it’s a commitment,” he said. “I feel compelled to pay it back.” PASSING THE TEST

Panthers on Wall Street was given the go-ahead for a one-year pilot, after which it would be evaluated for continuation or cancellation. “The program was designed to identify our most outstanding students and introduce them to top New York firms,” recalled Board of Advisors member Jefferson Harralson (MBA ’91), a managing director at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods who has been involved with Panthers on Wall Street since its inception. Eighteen of Robinson’s best and brightest, including Steed, were tapped for that first foray to the Big Apple. Visits were arranged to nine top-tier firms including J.P. Morgan; Deloitte; Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (Harralson’s firm); and KPMG.

Just one rub: They were in New York during September 2008 – one of the bleakest months of the global financial crisis. “The markets were melting down around us,” remembered Jason Aldrich, executive director of Robinson’s Career Management Center. Would executives keep the appointments amidst the crisis? Fortunately, they did. And the well-prepared Robinson team was not rattled by the chaos. “The upside of the collapse was that it gave our students a chance to shine,” Aldrich said. “They asked good questions, and several of them landed interviews while we were there.” Aldrich recounts a particularly gratifying moment from the trip: “One executive told me, ‘that’s one of the best groups we’ve ever had visit the firm. You’re welcome back anytime.’” Panthers on Wall Street was here to stay.



By the time they board the flight to New York, Panthers on Wall Street students have invested dozens of hours in a rigorous application and preparation process that starts in January and continues through wheels up. Competition is stiff. The selection committee receives 75–100 applications each year from which it chooses 16–18 undergraduate and graduate students. Hopefuls attend a non-alcoholic “mocktail” party to see how they interact in group settings and communicate on their feet. Those who move to the next round are interviewed by the selection committee, which then chooses the Panthers on Wall Street class – typically by the end of February.

Travis and knowing that he’d gone through this program showed that there is this possibility to succeed. A lot of people worry: Am I ever going to end up in New York? Am I going to have that opportunity? But we’re in this group because we have what it takes.” Vora will join Ernst & Young this fall. Michael Holtgrewe (B.B.A. ’09) was in the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2008. Today the summa cum laude graduate is an account manager with Google. “The ultimate thing I gained from the experience was confidence,” said Holtgrewe. “Being in meetings with senior level leaders from different companies gave me confidence that I would be able to make it in the city. Going to New York with Panthers on Wall Street let me know I’d be able to make it there.”




Then, the real work begins. There are professional development sessions, teambuilding exercises and assignments to research the firms they will visit. “By the time we got to New York we were inseparable,” said Mariya Skovardanova (B.B.A. ’10), who was in the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2009. “We met during the summer almost every Saturday.” Skovardanova, who received Georgia State’s Kell Award for having the highest GPA in her graduating class, is an investment banking analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. THE ULTIMATE CONFIDENCE BUILDER

Although it’s unlikely any Panthers on Wall Street student could recite – or sing – “New York, New York” from start to finish, they surely know the song’s concluding line, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” They come away from the program knowing that they can, indeed, “wake up in that city that doesn’t sleep.” Krishna Vora (M.P.A. ’12) was part of the Panthers on Wall Street group that visited Travis Steed at Macquarie this past September. “Seeing

And now Holtgrewe meets with each Panthers on Wall Street class when they are in the city. “I give them advice on how to make the most of the trip and how important it was to getting me where I am.” Holtgrewe’s and Steed’s commitment to paying it forward is a sentiment shared by most program alumni, including its most recent participants. Ammar Raza (B.B.A. ’12) was part of the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2012. Raza, who routinely made the President’s and Dean’s Lists for his high GPA, is in New York for an internship at a Big Four accounting firm. He will return to Atlanta this summer for an internship at a Fortune 500 company, then plans to enter Robinson’s Master of Professional Accountancy program. Although Raza’s dance card is pretty full, he foresees giving back. “What I’m taking away from this program is, you know, everything,” he said. “If you look at me from a year ago to now I am a completely different person. The program has helped me become more professional and more mature. Thank you, Panthers on Wall Street.”


ONLINE EXTRAS For more information about Panthers on Wall Street, please visit Meet the entire Class of 2012 at





Political Rancor, Corporate Uncertainty and Global Malaise Will Temper 2013 Growth Congressional rancor over how to handle the debt ceiling and the indiscriminate spending cuts triggered by the sequester is tempering corporate investment. Those factors, combined with a precipitous drop in exports, have put the brakes on real GDP growth in 2013, which will be a subpar 1.2% for the year – a steep drop from 2.2% growth in 2012. I peg the statistical drag from federal spending cutbacks at 0.5% of GDP in 2013 – a value that will hold for the next several years. Domestic uncertainty – specifically over the implementation of the sequester and the inevitable showdown over the debt ceiling – is weighing heavily on the U.S. economy and making the private sector skittish about investment and hiring. Now that the sequester has been triggered, and because lenders will not offer open-ended credit to finance the status quo, politicians will have to send a credible signal to the capital markets that they are serious about controlling big deficits and ballooning future entitlement liabilities. I anticipate that will happen around the third quarter of the year. The other culprit in 2013’s lackluster GDP is export growth, which will be only 0.8% for 2013 − a drop from 3.2% in 2012 and vigorous 11.1% growth in

2010. The decline can be attributed in part to the contraction of the eurozone GDP. Also responsible: the Chinese economy, which practically stalled last year after the government tried to fight inflation by turning off credit to staterun enterprises, as well as a downturn in Japan. Look for the eurozone to start growing later this year, which will contribute to better export growth in 2014 (4.5%) and 2015 (5.9%).

In calendar year 2012, Georgia added

70,300 jobs National Dynamics Also Felt in Peach State The same forces that are tamping down the national economy are also affecting Georgia. But, have we turned a corner at the state and metro level? The answer is a conditional yes. One reason I couch this positive news in conditional terms is state job numbers. In calendar year 2012, the state added

70,300 jobs, more than double the 32,500 jobs added in 2011. The recovery will continue, but at a slightly lower rate of 63,200 jobs in calendar year 2013 because political uncertainty and a weak global economy are taking a toll. Export growth, long a bright star in the state economy, has dimmed drastically. After growing by 20.1% in 2011, exports grew by only 2.0% during the first 11 months of calendar year 2012. Any Georgia firm, whether Coca-Cola or Kia, which relies on overseas sales is facing headwinds from the stalled global economy. One sector that will maintain its picked-up pace is education and healthcare. The sector added 6,100 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2012 and will continue to do well because uncertainty regarding the Affordable Care Act is over. Knowing that the act will not be repealed, many hospitals are gearing up for expansion. I expect the sector to add as many jobs in 2013 as it did in 2012 (11,200). In 2014, global economic prospects will improve and actions by Washington in 2013 will pay dividends by boosting corporate and consumer confidence. 2015 will see even more gains.

Rajeev Dhawan is director of the Economic Forecasting Center. Dhawan provides economic forecasts for the nation, the region and Atlanta at quarterly conferences. Learn more about the Economic Forecasting Center at



The Last Word H. Fenwick Huss, Dean, Robinson College of Business

Writing Robinson’s History

Winston Churchill famously said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” At Robinson, we intend to write our own history by first shaping our future. Although we cannot predict the future, we can anticipate the changes and do our level best to prepare for them. Robinson’s strategic plan – Vision 2020 – provides a positive, obtainable roadmap for the college’s future development. By focusing on three overarching goals – quality of business education, research distinction, and business community engagement – we will ensure that the college continues its upward momentum. In terms of enhancing our reputation for quality business education, Robinson will: • Develop a networked curriculum, which means integrating cross-disciplinary topics • Create programs to challenge and recognize our top students, such as a leadership program we are piloting with students in the college’s Honors Program, to help prepare them for life in the global business world • Develop elite programs to meet the needs of current and future leaders • Create new opportunities for students to have meaningful international experiences by increasing study abroad opportunities and expanding partnerships with international universities • Create a Center of Excellence in Communication to help students achieve greater levels of success by arming them with these critical skills in a real-world setting

To achieve global distinction for research, Robinson will: • Develop and support research across traditional boundaries to ensure that Robinson remains at the forefront of solving complex, future business problems • Institute an Undergraduate Research Fellows Program to engage students early in the process of conducting academic and applied research • Increase research support and funding by attracting new funding, donations, and grants for the college To engage the business community at all levels, Robinson will: • Create embedded relationships with industry partners by leveraging existing relationships and fostering new ones • Empower the alumni base to become more engaged by providing meaningful opportunities for participation in the life of the college • Develop sustained, significant international relationships by creating new programs with universities around the world Each of these is a worthy goal. Together they comprise a vigorous and exciting strategic vision that will guide the Robinson College in coming years. Already recognized by many stakeholders to be a top business school, Robinson is poised to accelerate its growth, reach, and impact not only in Georgia, but also across the country and around the world. With the continued enthusiasm of our students, the excellence of our faculty, the dedication of our staff and the engagement of our alumni I’m confident Robinson’s history will be well written.

Robinson is poised to accelerate its growth, reach and impact not only in Georgia, but also across the country and around the world.

To read the Robinson College strategic plan, please visit S T AS TT EA TOEF OBFU B SU I NS EI N S SE S S


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State of Business | spring 2013 | Vol. XXIV No. 2  

State of Business is published twice a year by the Office of Communications and Marketing for the alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Geo...

State of Business | spring 2013 | Vol. XXIV No. 2  

State of Business is published twice a year by the Office of Communications and Marketing for the alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Geo...