Alumni Success Stories
Position: VP of Growth Hacking for Pillar Technology
Ben Blanquera, VP of Growth Hacking for Pillar Technology, is a business and community leader in Columbus, Ohio. He has spent decades being a change agent and accelerator in roles such as: VP of Information Services, Curator of Columbus Startup Digest, and Founder of TechLife Ohio.
In 2011, he was recognized by Computer World Magazine as one of 100 Premier IT leaders in America. This proficient leadership was the product of a long journey that began when he began working at Johns Manville in 1986.
“I was working in Defiance, Ohio,” he said, “by 1989 I was working in Toledo.”
His move to Toledo was the result of a promotion to engineering manager of Johns Manville’s automotive division. “It was a bit intimidating,” said Blanquera, “some of the guys were twice my age.”
When he got his promotion, he felt the need to go back for an advanced degree. He spent two years researching top MBA programs; he traveled to schools in both America and Switzerland trying to settle on a top-tier MBA program.
Then he discovered the Master of Organization Development at BGSU. “It was practical,” he said, “and it was a nationally-renowned program, in my backyard, that I could do on the weekends.”
Blanquera noticed that the primary challenges that he faced in his new role at Johns Manville were not rooted in business or technology, but rather they were people-oriented. “The MOD helped solve the challenges involved in leading people,” he said. “It answered the questions ‘how do you lead?’, ‘how do you drive successful change?’”
The MOD helped him view problems holistically. “When you’re working with people, you should use both sides of the brain,” said Blanquera, “in engineering, when we look at a problem we see frameworks for analysis and resolution. Most leaders don’t have equivalent perspectives and framework for people or for organizations.”
After being recognized in 2011 as one of America’s emerging leaders, Blanquera credits his team for his success. “More than my own award, the awards that my team has won are important to me,” he said.
The MOD was key in helping develop this team-centered attitude. It gave him the perspective and the ability to lead and manage change. “That leadership is a linchpin for leaders,” he said, “the MOD is a well-respected, recognized program which provides practical skills for leading and implementing change in an organization.”
For Blanquera, it is all about emergence and people: “There are emerging technologies and business models everywhere, everyday. Value is created when we effectively implement both of those. People and teams are critical to that success, and their effective leadership is what drives productive change.
Position: CEO, ADEPT Performance Systems
Paul DePalma started college as a pre-med student at Boston College. He was quickly drawn toward business, and ultimately he ended up majoring in economics. Work was always important to Paul as he worked a wide variety of jobs.
“I had 15 jobs before I was 25,” said DePalma.
Ultimately he settled in pharmaceutical sales, but his interest in nurturing business growth led him to work instead in consulting.
It was while working in his own consultant firm, using a lot of outside literature designed to help companies develop, that DePalma decided he wanted to develop his own materials.
He had previously considered an MBA, but what he really wanted was a degree with distinct focus. He did not know that a Master of Organization Development even existed, and when he heard of BGSU’s Executive MOD he was quite interested.
“Many of the programs that I looked at felt glitzy, some felt soft, but BG was both empirically focused and practical,” said DePalma.
At 40 years old, Paul found himself travelling once a month from Florida to BGSU, “I probably had the longest commute of any of my classmates,” he said. Once Paul arrived at Bowling Green, he found himself learning a lesson he had not expected:
“When people learned that I flew in for class, they instantly opened up and offered to pick me up from the airport. I realized I was not the best at accepting help, but if people wanted to help, I could let them.”
It was this tightly-knit cohort model that helped fuel DePalma’s success in the EMOD program. He was able to interact with students who had real-world work experience and students who had a more abstract, theoretical understanding of business and its application. “Although it was an academic experience, almost every class had information that you can use every day,” he said.
DePalma said of the program, “It was challenging but I liked the rigor of the program; I wanted it. I wanted someone to drive me. I wanted the homework. It made the degree have more value for me”.
Having a family really helped him get through the process. His wife and daughter were major driving forces in his success.
“Travelling was not a strain at all,” he said, “they both were totally supportive. They even flew up and watched me graduate.”
Now the CEO of his own company, ADEPT Performance Systems, DePalma is piloting his future. “I would strongly recommend the EMOD program,” he said. “It offers skills that are universally applicable in all functions of the workplace.”
Now 53, Paul DePalma is proud of his decision to go back to school, and he would absolutely recommend Bowling Green to anybody thinking about getting a more focused, practical understanding of leadership and organization.
“If the world of business were filled with more Bowling Green MOD grads then it would be a more dynamic, effective place.”
ELISE STEVENS MILLER
Position: Executive Coach
Elise Miller’s Bowling Green State University experience began with her Bachelor’s in 1984. “I had a great undergrad experience,” she said, “I still have life-long friends.”
After she graduated with a degree in Communications and Marketing, Elise took a job in New Jersey with Continental Airlines, where she worked for four years.
Elise’s travels brought her to Cleveland, Ohio where she assumed an administrative role in healthcare. “I worked with the CEO of a hospital within the Cleveland Clinic Health System,” she said, “and he was willing to give me many innovative projects.” This led to the start of a physician relations program, the focus of which was to encourage physician use of ancillary hospital services.
In 2000 Elise decided to focus on a role in training and development. So she left the Cleveland Clinic to work for Ernst & Young. After six months of developing web-based training for EY, the business was spun off and became Intellinex. But without the brand name recognition that came with the Ernst & Young name, Intellinex struggled.
“I found myself laid off quickly,” she said.
For the next two years Elise worked for Biomet as an orthopedic device representative. “I found a way to thrive,” Elise said. “It’s a very male-dominated industry, and it’s a hard business to succeed in as a woman.”
In 2004 Elise went back to Ernst & Young as an internal consultant in Knowledge Management. Shorty after her return she decided she wanted to pursue a Master’s in Organization Development.
She had always been fascinated by the inevitable change in the workplace, so in 2005 she returned to BGSU for the MOD. I’ve always felt that there was more to discover,” she said, “and the MOD program helped me develop my strengths.”
Her first weekend at BGSU, Elise was unsure if she would connect with any of her classmates. But by the end of her second weekend there she found herself bonding with them.
“I could feel myself changing and growing every month,” she said. “I started out somewhat narrow-minded. But by the end of it my perspectives had changed.”
The cohort model really appealed to Elise. The structure of the classes required her to work with her peers in ways that made their backgrounds relevant.
Now she is an Executive Coach in Cleveland. Having worked for years in consulting, Elise denotes a strict difference between coaching and consulting:
“As a consultant you are paid to give insight,” she said. “As a coach you are there to facilitate a person coming up with their own best solutions for change.”
Very similar to this philosophy was the class structure at BGSU. “They teach you the concepts, but they teach you to listen to your intuition too,” she said. And it was personal: “What makes BGSU so unique is that when they push you, they push you. It feels authentic.”
After years of hard work Elise is finally doing what she really loves. “I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for the Executive MOD at BGSU,” she said.
“Ultimately how I looked at life changed because of the program.”
Position: Vice President of Human Resources, Banner Health in Phoenix
Beth Stiner is no stranger to success. Her journey to become Vice President of Human Resources for Banner Health in Phoenix, Arizona contains five promotions over the past nine years.
“I see it as growth”, said Stiner, “I grew into my role at Banner. Without my degree I would not have been able to do that.”
Her first position upon graduating was Organization Development Specialist at Honeywell Aerospace. She credits the degree and the leadership skills she honed there as instrumental in taking that first career step.
Before embarking on the MOD path in 2000, Stiner was working as a program director for AmeriCorps in Michigan. When she was looking for a master’s degree program in the Midwest area, she found the OD degree at Bowling Green instantly compelling.
“The Master’s of Organization Development was something I did not know existed,” she said, “the degree validated a lot of the work I had been already been doing as a program director.”
Beth’s work experience equipped her to deal with the theories she had coming into the program. She had real-world examples from her past that she could apply to some of the concepts. But there was plenty for her to learn as well:
“I remember a course designed to make me think about myself as the tool; I began to see myself as the instrument for change. I learned how to be self-aware and self-mature. I gained a new, valuable perspective.”
Stiner credits the learning style in part for her success. “Professors didn’t just talk to me, they talked with me,” she said. “Some people think you teach with training, but at BGSU they employ lots of examples, projects, and dialogues. They allow for real world application.”
The caliber of the professors, the format, and the content all deeply factor into Stiner’s recommendation of the OD program.
In one of her last classes at BGSU where Beth recalls creating her own model for change. “I had to overcome a good amount of doubt to finish that project,” she said. “It was creative and abstract, and I hadn’t done a lot of projects like that.”
A few weeks ago at work, Stiner had a problem that aroused the memory of that project. “I wasn’t sure how to solve that problem, and remembering that project gave me the confidence to finish it.”
Her degree remains relevant to this day, “I learned I can create something, even when it seems hard,” she said, “I learned that at BG, and I take that with me every day.”
Position: President, St. Ursula Academy
Mary Werner wore many hats on her way to her position as President of St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, Ohio. She herself is an alumna and mother of 3 daughters who are graduates, and she has been a school volunteer and a board member. “It was the perfect intersection of my experience as a practicing CPA, my executive coaching, and organization development training,” said Werner, “so when there was an opening for president I took it.”
Her responsibilities require her to utilize a lot of the skills she cultivated in Bowling Green’s Master of Organization Development (MOD) program. “The board and I work on strategy for the school, we plan the vision, and we hold to the school’s mission.”
That mission is to educate young women in mind, body, and spirit. That whole-person-centered approach embraces St. Ursula Academy’s core values. “We take each student and help them achieve their highest potential,” she said, “100% of our girls go on to college.”
The kind of leadership needed to maintain that success was something that Werner perfected in her time at BGSU. “Whether you are in Human Resources, finance, or accounting, the MOD has applications that help you move into a leadership role,” she said.
Werner credits the program’s structure for helping her get her master’s degree while furthering her career. “It allowed me to manage both my professional and my personal work,” she said, “the other key advantage for me was that Bowling Green’s OD program is in their Schmidthorst College of Business as opposed to other schools, who have their program in the Social Sciences.”
The challenges of balancing graduate work and her career was still manageable. She found the schoolwork interesting and motivating, “I’d seen some of the concepts I was learning being applied in my career,” Werner said. “But I was fascinated by the theories behind them. We got to explore those theories in depth. It was challenging, but any master’s program worth its salt is going to be.”
As a person with a full career, Werner brought a depth of experience into her graduate cohort. Within that model, she got to trade her experiences with that of others. “What I got was a fantastic perspective of being with, and learning from, the wide variety of younger people around me,” she said, “being around younger people helped me expand my toolbox.”
Both the depth of perspective and the foundation in leadership that Mary gathered while pursuing her MOD at Bowling Green have been imitated in the curriculum at St. Ursula Academy. “We have always grown leaders at St. Ursula Academy,” she said. “We just developed a Women in Leadership course to help young women understand the theories and underpinnings of what it means to be a leader. It has been a core value of ours for 160 years, we are just taking leadership to the next level.”
Position: Founder, Chairman and Chief Development Officer of The Leadership Circle as well as Co-Founder and Chairman of the Full Circle Group
Bob Anderson, Founder, Chairman and Chief Development Officer of The Leadership Circle as well as Co-Founder and Chairman of the Full Circle Group graduated in 1986 from the Master of Organization Development program at Bowling Green State University. After graduation Anderson worked in leadership development until starting his own business in 1986. Anderson recently co-wrote a book titled Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results.
Before entering the MOD program at BGSU Anderson worked for The Anderson’s as a manufacturing supervisor. Anderson knew that he wanted to work with people and that development was his passion. The MOD program at BGSU gave Anderson the opportunity to pursue that passion.
“The program set me up for my career,” said Anderson, “It is a really accessible way to earn your degree and get into this field.” After completing classwork in 1982 and while working on his thesis for the MOD Program, Anderson worked at St. Charles Hospital for a few years before being appointed to Director. During his time at St. Charles Hospital, Anderson got connected with thought leaders which helped to focus him on deep leadership development, and working with leaders from the inside out. This is where Anderson began thinking about integration and his framework.
Anderson then worked on his framework/model of Leadership for 15 years before creating a 360 assessment—The Leadership Circle Profile. He then changed the name of his business to The Leadership Circle. The Leadership Circle provided clients with The Leadership Circle Profile (LCP) as well as leadership and organization development consulting services. Anderson later joined forces with Bill Adams and created The Full Circle Group. In 2013, they merged the two companies. The Leadership Circle has grown dramatically and internationally over the years and has become a big competitor in the field with offices all around the world.
“The MOD program gave me an avenue to peruse my passion,” said Anderson. One piece of advice Anderson would give to someone looking at applying to the MOD program would be to get your ticket punched. Anderson said that some of the program will connect directly to your passion and some may not. The MOD program opens the door to a wide variety of opportunities and the opportunity to specialize in the field.
When he has spare time, Anderson likes to cycle, read, and listen to music. Anderson said he is also passionate about the environment and always trying to optimize his home and reduce the carbon footprint. Currently Anderson is working on writing a second book. This book will include a major research project on the written comments on the LCP assessment. It will show how senior leaders describe leadership, what works and what does not.