College students face challenges, often beyond the classroom. CU Denver Business School proudly educates resilient individuals who transform their most significant challenges into opportunities.

In the spirit of opening doors and lowering barriers to success, the business school prides itself on setting the stage for extraordinary possibilities, developing inclusivity, and promoting diversity and forward-thinking leadership. Business school graduates are charged with working toward equity, sustainable growth, and being a force for good. The school is honored to serve these students and support their dreams. 

This spring, four 2023 graduates received accolades of “Outstanding Graduates,” and two seniors were honored for their hard work and dedication to the First Generation and Multicultural (FaM) program. 

Outstanding Graduates

Makayla Vincent, BSBA, Accounting, Financial Management, and Finance

Makayla Vincent had always dreamed of owning her own business and improving the world. A natural entrepreneur from a young age, Vincent sold chicken eggs on her family farm in Sedalia, Colo. By high school, she had created small businesses and led many charitable organization efforts. She knew her inherent skill set would require financial know-how to create her desired future. Vincent selected CU Denver for its integrated, real-world education, providing a platform for success after graduation.  

With her sights set on a university, Vincent held jobs from age 14 to prepare for college payments and maintained a host of extracurriculars on the side. However, devastating news derailed her plans when her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Multiple Myeloma during Vincent’s senior year. She refocused her efforts on her family and care for her mother.

“I fought so cancer couldn’t steal the education I had worked so hard for… When I got into CU Denver, it meant that I had done it. I had overcome what cancer had tried to take away from me…I knew that it was of utmost importance to get my degree. A degree would open more possibilities, increase my awareness, and make my family proud.”

Pursuing a triple degree in Accounting, Finance, and Financial Management, Vincent worked full-time, achieved a high GPA, and still managed to put money toward her mother’s chemo. During COVID, Vincent planned meal trains for high-risk individuals unable to access grocery stores (i.e., new mothers, older generations, and those with autoimmune disorders). Post-pandemic, she also hosted community brunches open to all, offering warm tea, homemade meals, and outdoor space to improve mental health. Despite significant challenges, Vincent held fast to earning her degree and using it to help her community. 

“I have been overwhelmed by the piling list of commitments and tasks I need to complete, but I have always prioritized my learning. Having a degree is incredibly important to me. It represents all I have worked for and has given me the proper tools to be an asset to my community with my ideas. I will be able to help local small businesses thrive and help individuals establish responsibility with their hard-earned money.”

Vincent credits the business school with access to high-visibility internships and insight from some of the industry’s most intelligent, successful mentors. 

“I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me, whether that be a CPA, small business owner, or working for a big corporate finance company. Regardless, I plan to be the best I can be in any position and give back to my community…I am proud to be a CU Denver business student and am grateful for the life lessons it has taught me.”

Aleyna Elmas, BSBA, Financial Management

Aleyna Elmas is a 21-year-old Turkish-American freshly graduating from the University of Colorado Denver Business School with a BSBA in Financial Management. She pursued her degree in just three years while balancing full-time studies and part-time work. Upon graduation, she will begin her career as a financial analyst at Trimble Inc. 

Outside of her academic and professional pursuits, Elmas co-founded the non-profit TAYCO (Turkish American Youth of Colorado). The organization aims to promote and educate young Turkish Americans about their cultural heritage and the value of giving back to their community. As a first-generation Turkish-American, she is passionate about preserving her cultural identity and sharing her history and traditions with others.

Claire Hamilton, MBA, Information Systems Specialization

In her Outstanding Graduate application, Clare Hamilton quoted Martin Luther King Jr.:  “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.” She believes her CU Denver MBA experience helped her develop said intelligence and character.

Spending much of her early career in marketing and communication roles, the MBA program encouraged Hamilton to step outside her comfort zone and discover a new passion. Hamilton attributes the program with the courage and confidence to accept a role that combined her marketing strengths with her new information system skills. As the Senior Digital Engagement Admin on the University Information Services team, she works at the intersection of marketing and technology, using her former favorite responsibility as the cornerstone of her current role. 

Her educational journey was storied with the pandemic, a career change, and, sadly, her father’s passing. In an MBA program assignment, Hamilton could reflect on her father’s leadership and was challenged to apply it within the scope of  her career. 

“I’m extremely grateful I got to do a project detailing my dad’s leadership style as a part of the Leading Individuals and Teams coursework. The main takeaway from this project was the fact that leaders don’t need to have all the answers to be successful. Instead, they need to exhibit humility, respect, and perseverance.” 

She cited one of her father’s favorite Calvin Coolidge quotes as inspiration for decision-making: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Hamilton sought to do just that, press on. She is proud of her accomplishments and the challenges she overcame. Her degree pursuit and completion have helped her realize she can persist through any challenge. “I’m looking forward to applying what I have learned from this program, both in intelligence and character, moving forward.”

Brian T. Bybee, MS, Management and Organization 

Like many of his classmates at CU Denver, Brian Bybee was a first-generation college graduate.

In addition to maintaining a 4.0 grade point average while earning his MS in Management and Organization with specializations in Business Strategy and Innovation, and Leading Change Management, Bybee was an active student community member. He participated in graduate student government, traveled to Barcelona to study international entrepreneurship, and was vice president of the CU Denver Society for Human Resource Management Club (SHRM). As Vice President, he enlisted high-powered human resources leaders from roles across industries to speak to the club and students in the Business School. He facilitated connections with students who wanted to further their relationship with speakers beyond their events. 

He was honored to have been nominated by one of his professors for the 2022 Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Collegiate Program Case Competition and was a proud member of two chapters of CU Denver honors societies, Beta Gamma Sigma (The International Business Honors Society) and Sigma Alpha Pi (National Society of Leadership and Success).

Bybee’s proudest achievement was mentoring CU Denver undergraduate students. 

“I have had the best connections with those who, like me, are introverts trying to find a place in a world not always designed to their strengths. I have used my experience spanning a twenty-seven-year career to support and provide an edge to these students with a new career on the horizon. My mentees have inspired me to begin creating content on this topic. I hope to be invited someday to speak to the business school and affiliated clubs.”

Bybee recalled his challenges throughout his academic career, along with the sacrifices that his parents made for him to pursue his education. 

“My degree means that I can do anything. My degree means I am responsible for paying it forward to my campus and community and investing in others as the CU Denver community has invested in me.”

FaM Outstanding Student Awards

Shyanne Cook, BSBA, Finance

The third of seven children, Shyanne Cook was a first-generation student. She recognized her busy single mother as the main contributor to her drive, perseverance, and consistency. She described her college experience as a unique one. Studying for nearly six years, rotating between part-time and full-time employment, even working overnight and attending school after her shifts, it was an uphill battle, but she finally reached the peak of her mountain. 

“I am a mother; I work full time to support my family,and attend school full time. The true cost I paid was missing networking opportunities, self-building activities, and making connections outside of class.”

Cook lauds the First Generation and Multicultural (FaM) business program as a large part of her success at CU Denver, and for helping supplement opportunities she would’ve otherwise foregone. 

“I am a part of the first cohort of FaM, and I wish I had access to it sooner. The FaM business program has increased my exposure and trajectory for my career. I have attended many events, site visits, and workshops that help develop inclusive leadership skills and network with more professionals than ever. FaM pushed me to get into the world and start talking and meeting with people.”

Cook felt she graduated as a more well-rounded person, leader, and professional. 

“I have more confidence in my plan for post-graduation than what I did before joining FaM. I am forever grateful and look forward to offering mentorship and support for the success of future FaM students.”

Gregory R. Martin, BSBA, Management

A New York native turned Colorado transplant, Gregory Martin spent many years in the hospitality industry and finally decided to return to school and pursue a degree at CU Denver Business School.

As a first-generation student, a FaM member, and Reisher Scholar, Martin touted a 3.7+ GPA and completion of FaM’s Inclusive Leadership Certificate (ILC) program. He relished his CU Denver experience. “It has brought so many supportive and amazing people into my life, and I’m very grateful to be graduating among so many amazing peers!”  

CU Denver Business School applauds the efforts and successes of these distinguished graduates and looks forward to the community impact they will have as Denver built, global ready alums. 


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