Graduating from college or university is a major accomplishment. In an effort to recognize and praise graduates for their time, energy, and dedication throughout their journey, the CU Denver Business School held a small graduation celebration on Friday, December 16, 2022, in the Jake Jabs Event Center.
Dean Scott Dawson opened the event and warmly congratulated graduates and reminded the crowd, “this doesn’t have to be the end of your involvement with the Business School.” Mason Kolbe, chair of the Business School Alumni Network (BSAN), shared that sentiment as he welcomed the new graduates into the alumni network.
Shane Hoon, assistant dean of Student Success, presented awards to the fall 2022 outstanding graduates and student mentors, and Nimol Hen, Director of the First-Generation and Multicultural (FaM) Program awarded two students for their contributions to the FaM program.
- Jessica Johnson, MBA/MS Information Systems
- Janet Najar Madera, MS Marketing
- Mayra Prieto, BS, Information Systems
- David Adugna, BS, Risk Management and Insurance
- Dominique Jaqueline Trent, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Skye Marie Konrad, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Joey Bennett, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Kiara Knight, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
The Business School connected with a few of these accomplished graduates to glean the impact of their new achievements.
Education: a Pathway to Community Impact
Janet Najar Madera was recognized as an outstanding graduate given her excellent academic performance. At the time she applied to the Business School Master’s program, Madera said she was dealing with the repercussions of COVID-19 as a communications specialist in a K-12 school district.
She shared, “I had started this job a few weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown, not knowing the lasting effects the pandemic would have on the education landscape. I wanted to use different approaches to better communicate with our community and thought a master’s degree in marketing would help… Marketing plays a big role in transparency, awareness, and a community’s buy-in to the service of education.”
Reflecting on her graduate classes, Madera discovered how to use various marketing tools and how to craft an effective marketing campaign. She noted learning different things from creating compelling messaging to running A/B testing, online advertisements, and understanding analytics.
“All these learnings have been applied to the work I am doing outside of class and have helped me see how marketing and communications can be used to make meaningful changes in students’ experiences and what they go on to do for our communities,” Madera asserted.
Her biggest accomplishment was successfully passing a mill levy override for her school district, 27J. Madera noted that voters in the community had not passed a mill levy override in over two decades. This time was different because, with her team, Madera executed an effective marketing campaign informing the district’s community members about the district’s funding situation and needs. The campaign won a Gold Medallion Award from the National School of Public Relations Association. This was in recognition of the superior educational public relations programs, and campaigns grounded in strategic communication best practices.
As a result, 27J Schools passed the override by 57%. Madera cited that the override will generate $17 million within its first year and help provide valuable educational programs and opportunities for the 23,000+ students that they are currently serving.
Contemplating her journey, Madera acknowledged how big of a challenge it was to complete her Master’s degree while working full-time at 27J Schools, especially amidst a huge marketing campaign. She admitted to being frustrated sometimes and often on the verge of losing hope. However, keeping in mind that she was doing this for the students helped her to keep going.
Remembering Why You Started
When asked how she felt knowing that she was graduating, Mayra Prieto divulged, “It seemed that school would go on forever so now that I reached the finish line, it feels unreal.” Prieto encouraged students to take advantage of the resources that the Business school provides.
As a first-generation student, Prieto encountered many hurdles. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. and faced many hardships to provide her and her siblings access to better education. Their tenacity gave her the strength to keep pushing. “It was always in the back of my mind to make my family proud and ensure that their sacrifices were worth it,” Prieto said.
A Network of Success
After graduating this fall, Dawit (David) Adugna will mentor students in the FaM (First-Generation and Multicultural) program as an alumnus while working as an account administrator at Lockton companies, a large insurance brokerage firm. As he was asked how he secured his full-time job, Adugna revealed “I never got to fill out an application for any of the jobs that I got.” In fact, he obtained his job opportunities thanks to networking.
Bright Futures Ahead
All three grads left current students with strong and straightforward advice. Given the power of networking, Adugna advised students to make their voices heard and get out there.
University can be challenging; Madera’s final words were to “keep going.” Prieto encouraged students that they can overcome their fears because they are competent and capable: “Even if you feel lost right now, you’ll figure it out.”
CU Denver Business School continues to build a network of invested alumni who care deeply for the Lynx community and its success. With the likes of this Denver built and globally ready group of grads, the Business School and its alums are sure to continue opening doors and lowering barriers to success.