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May 6, 2021 2021-05 Alumni Business Administration

Five years later: iMBA opens new doors for first cohort

New jobs, new titles, and a renewed sense of purpose are how the first cohort of the Gies College of Business iMBA describe what’s happened to them since they joined the program in 2016. We’re sharing some of their journeys as part of our fifth anniversary celebration.

Daniel Canis | Hannover, Germany
“I became immersed in a completely different surrounding with great faculty and so many great people from all over the world without leaving my home and my family,” said Daniel Canis, UX Design Manager, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Hannover, Lower-Saxony, Germany.

Canis, who’s busy with a new job and new child, said the digital learning experience was the perfect training for digital work during the pandemic.

“Learnings from the Strategic Innovation class were immediately applicable to my current position in research and innovation,” said Canis, who was promoted in August 2020. “Working at a mature organization make the coursework on “The Other Side of Innovation” particularly valuable.”

Adrian Weidenfeller | Chicago
The iMBA program gave Adrian Weidenfeller the flexibility to work full-time while advancing his career. He appreciated the option of getting ahead with course videos during a break in his  day or late at night.

“I learned how to more effectively lead others just as I moved into a more senior level management  position.,” said Weidenfeller, VP, senior manager, financial reporting at Northern Trust Corp. in Chicago.

He said a trio of professors made a big impact. Weidenfeller recalls Prof. Hayden Noel’s enthusiasm and motivation for teaching marketing, Prof. Scott Weisbenner’s approach to finance and investing, and Prof. Ron Watkins, who taught the program’s capstone course.

“The amount of effort Prof. Watkins puts into teaching inside and outside the classroom is incredible. We learned through real-life scenarios,” he said. “He also led the very first iMBA immersion trip to Brazil, which I will never forget.”

Hideaki Ogasawara | Tokyo, Japan
Why does a doctor and medical researcher pursue an MBA?

“When I began the Gies iMBA program, I just wanted to learn something about business. I never seriously thought about managing a company, let alone starting one,” said Hideaki Ogasawara, who shared that commuter trains and frequent business trips were the backdrop for his journey.

The co-founder and CEO of Tanso Biosciences said his entrepreneurship coursework gave him the confidence to launch a start-up with colleagues.  

“I did not hesitate at all to quit my job and join them to co-found a biotech company because of the insights and courage I gained from Gies,” said Ogasawara, who is the former medical director for Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma.

Anne Dill | Champaign, IL
For banking executive Anne Dill, the iMBA taught her how to get outside her comfort zone.

“It was very enlightening being an older student. I don’t think I would have been in the right mindset to pursue an MBA right out of college,” said Dill, SVP, Director of Relationship Growth at Busey Bank.

Dill said she was initially nervous about taking statistics, but Prof. Fateneh Taghaboni-Dutta put her at ease.

“She effortlessly took a heavy course and made it relevant. She helped us understand how to use stats in decision-making, why it’s important, and how to ask relevant questions around the data collection process,”  said Dill.

She added she was immediately able to put what she learned to use: “Our company was in acquisition mode. I applied insights about company valuations and the efficiencies that can be gained from a merger.”  

Dustin Wenger | Edmonton, Canada
Early in his MBA journey, Dustin Wenger took a capstone course on Management Economics and Business Analysis that ultimately changed his career trajectory.

“My partner and I tackled a real problem – international business expansion – applying the lessons and tools we had learned in class. It gave me the confidence to use them outside of the classroom and inspired my subsequent career moves,” said Wenger.

After earning his MBA, Wenger transitioned first to management consulting and then mergers and acquisitions, shifting industries from construction to information technology. He founded Delta Business Advisory and also acts as COO of ResumeFree, a Canadian job-matching site.

Wenger said the experience also taught him about his communication and leadership style.

“Working with such a diverse group of people forces you to reconsider how you interact with others who have different cultural and professional backgrounds,” he said. “You learn how to work together to achieve common goals, bringing out differing ideas to get to better outcomes.”

Stefan Tryba | Munich, Germany
In his commencement speech, Stefan Tryba quoted Albert Einstein: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

“Working with cloud-based collaboration tools and advanced video-conferencing solutions felt quite new when I started the program in 2016, but it made it very easy for me to switch from a more presence-oriented working culture to virtual collaboration within days with my team, when the pandemic started,” said Stefan Tryba, VP, global sales, Bosch Group, Germany.

He added the global nature of the program was the perfect preparation for the challenges he faces communicating and working with colleagues from all over the world every day.

“Now that I have graduated, I have been promoted, started a lifelong learning journey, and achieved a much clearer picture of where I want to go in life,” said Tryba, who shortly after graduation was promoted for a regional sales position at Bosch.