Spring 2018 Commencement Group

The next generation of business leaders is off to make their impact on the world. Over 400 students graduated this past weekend with their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees from the CU Denver Business School.

Every year the Business School recognizes two graduate and two undergraduate students for going above and beyond for their contribution as students. The following students were awarded Business School Outstanding Student awards at commencement. We applaud them for their accomplishments and wish them well in their future.

Liliana Ferrua Villanueva
MS International Business

LilianaFerruaLiliana Ferrua Villanueva has been a leader throughout her time here at the Business School, despite a difficult diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. She is taking her MS International Business degree back to Peru with her.

As an international engineering student, she had an additional challenge of a cultural and educational learning curve. Luckily Ferrua is not one to shy from a challenge, going out of her way to successfully land herself into the finals of a competition that required her to present in front of a large audience.

It started with developing a business plan for her product, Kiddin’, a shoe designed to change colors when exposed to sunlight to incentivize kids to play outside. That shoe design and business plan won her a coveted spot in the finals of THE CLIMB business plan competition held by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, where she realized her vision of getting her product to market.

Ferrua also served on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council and was an officer for the International Business Student Network (IBSN). As a part of IBSN, she welcomed and presented a Japanese delegation at an event created to strengthen ties between the United States and Japan.

“To me, my master’s degree has meant more than a higher education opportunity. I feel empowered as a woman and able to contribute to the people who cannot have the access and resources to get a better education.” – Liliana Ferrua Villanueva

After graduation, she is returning to her home country of Peru, where she will found a nonprofit that provides technical advice and mentoring to Peruvian women entrepreneurs in rural areas. She also plans to bring Kiddin’ to the market within the next few years to bring about job opportunities to artisans in Peru. She also hopes to become a professor at Universidad de Ingenieria to integrate international business education into the engineering curriculum.

Andrew Conkling
Professional MBA

Andrew ConklingAndrew Conkling discovered his passion for cars in high school. He landed himself a job with Ferrari of Denver after completing a bachelor’s at CU Boulder and graduating from automotive trade school. His dream job, he was able to work with some of the world’s most powerful and exotic cars in the world today. But he realized that professional growth at the company was rare.

To overcome his stagnant career, he found a new opportunity with Gates Corporation. Hired as an Application Research Engineer, he was quickly promoted to manager. It was at that point when he knew he needed an MBA to further his career.

Conkling believes his Professional MBA has positioned him for success, no matter what project or challenge he faced in his job.

“Obtaining my MBA from CU Denver has positively impacted every aspect of my life. It has provided me with the knowledge to become a better employee, father, and community member.” – Andrew Conkling

While raising two children, his family is his motivation. He strives to be a role model for his kids, leading them by example to follow their passions and never give up in the face of adversity. By graduating with his MBA, he is showing them that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

Conkling recently moved into a product management role at Gates, where he manages a portfolio of over $100 million. His responsibilities include designing and implementing marketing programs and promotions, product lifecycle, and new product launches.

Reflecting back, he views his success in his career as an opportunity to give back to his community and others in need. He participates in charity events, working closely with the Ronald McDonald House Charities by helping design a limited-edition promotional kit that raised over $150,000 for the organization. He looks forward to taking the extra time he used to dedicate to school and spending it on another passion of his, mission work, both locally and abroad.

Mikaela Spalding
BSBA International Business and Accounting

Mikaela SpaldingMikaela Spalding began her undergraduate journey as a pre-pharmacy student. But in her first week here, she walked out of her college chemistry class dejected. She questioned what she wanted to pursue for the rest of her life.

While exploring her options, Spalding fell into a Global Perspectives class taught by Missy Kautt, instructor of International Business, at the Business School. She learned about different perspectives, cultures, businesses, and environments. It was through this class that found one of her passions: international business.

Kautt became a valuable mentor for Spalding as she immersed herself in the opportunities available to her at the Business School. She became the vice president of the International Business Student Network (IBSN) and was invited to an all-expense-paid trip to Japan through the Kakehashi program. There she saw underground operations of three companies, spoke with executives, and developed action plans on how to grow friendship ties between the US and Japan.

Spalding applied her knowledge gained in the classroom to an internship at Western Export Services (WES) that Kautt connected her to. At WES, she got her hands dirty in real international business work – digging up ingredient compliance regulations from Turkey, China, and Brazil; creating marketing pitches for new projects; and contacting international distributors to identify the best route to market.

“College was nothing like I expected. Yet, I learned many lessons about myself. It was about the journey to who I have become and the journey I now embark upon in who I aspire to be.” – Mikaela Spalding

During her time at the Business School, she added the accounting major when she recognized how natural the field was to her. Looking forward, she is excited to graduate with a job in the construction industry and a plan to take the company international.

Thanh Le
BSBA International Business

Thanh LeThanh Le grew up in Vietnam, a country where education was seen as a privilege rather than a requirement. Even friends and family from Vietnam who currently live in the US are uneasy when they hear he is a student. They expect him to tell them he is working as a landscaper, nail technician, or factory worker. They didn’t believe he could have the English skills to succeed in college.

“By obtaining my college degree, I aspire to influence others like me to go to school and seek the career they want. I want to show others that a college degree is possible, no matter your immigration status.” – Thanh Le

Language set expectations and defined his first weeks and months here at CU Denver. He had to overcome the expectation that immigrants not born and raised in the US can succeed in higher education.

Le pushed himself academically and was noticed by a professor for his success. The professor recommended that he share his knowledge and skills through tutoring. He views the experience as a way he could give other students the same opportunity to achieve their degree. Le says that he learned as much from the students he tutored as they did from him.

When Le came to CU Denver, his only goal was to graduate with a degree that would make his parents proud. He accomplished that goal by graduating with a BSBA International Business degree, but he learned so much more about himself. He broke the immigrant stereotype and serves as an example to other international students that success is in your hands if you work for it.

Le views education as the foundation to successfully contributing to any workplace. With that mentality, his future plans are to continue expanding his education by attending graduate school.

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