MBA/EMBA Alumni Review Weekend

They came from far and near, MBA and EMBA alumni, to gather with college faculty and current and prospective students, to refresh their knowledge about what is happening in graduate management education today, and to reconnect with the College of Commerce. In all, on a crisp, sunny weekend at the end of January, more than fifty alumni of the two MBA programs gathered at the Radisson Hotel in Champaign for the first of what will become an annual event. Kudos to the MBA and EMBA programs and the Commerce Alumni Association, whose determination and hard work made this event a great success.

The prize for "traveling the furthest to attend the weekend" went to Jamin Estep (MBA '95), who works for Procter & Gamble in Spokane, Washington. Steve Lucas (MBA '62) from Monsey, New York, was a close second. But Lucas clearly won the prize for "oldest degree." Other out of staters came from Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio. Mike McKnight (EMBA '89), the city manager for Peoria, said the weekend came at the optimum time for him. "After ten years, I was ready for a little refresher course."

The focus of the weekend was on upgrading skills and keeping abreast of new developments in graduate business education. Participants had a choice of attending four of eight faculty-led sessions: "Learning Organizations;" "New Directions in Professional Training: Video over the Internet;" "Currency Crises, Currency Boards, and the IMF: A Primer on International Economic Turmoil;" "Derivatives and Risk Management;" "Investment under Uncertainty;" and "Technology Commercialization." mbaalumni.jpg (15825 bytes) Clarifying a point after a faculty presentation.

Business administration professor Brian Wansink's keynote address on "Revitalizing Tired Brands" highlighted the research done in his Brand Lab. (For more on his research.) At the lunch session, Dean Howard Thomas gave a brief "state of the college" report, and Paul Magelli provided highlights of the Office for the Study of Business Issues activities (see for a related story).

In addition to the life-long-learning sessions, there were plenty of opportunities to network, socialize, and attend a men's basketball game, where the team put on a heart-stopping show, losing to Ohio State in the final seconds.


This brief report on just one session provides an idea of what was offered at the seminar.
"The international exchange market, like the stock market, can't be predicted," quipped award-winning economics professor, Larry DeBrock, in his session "Currency Crises, Currency Boards, and the IMF". But with hindsight, we can at least understand how we got where we are, and that may suggest future actions.

Exchange rates were more stable before the spread of globalization exerted conflicting pressures between domestic monetary policy and international capital demands. This seminar focused on what happened in Southeast Asia during the last decade to cause what we now call the Asian Crisis. The size and magnitude of the crisis in real terms is huge, arguably worse than the Great Depression in America.

Throughout the early and mid '90s, the currencies of many of the "Asian Tiger" countries were overvalued and exchange rates were kept artificially high by government intervention in exchange-rate markets. This put strong negative pressure on their balance of trade. It also attracted considerable foreign capital in the form of investment.

As their economies slowed in the late '90s, these countries were faced with a dilemma. To keep exchange rates high, they had to practice restrictive domestic monetary policy that exacerbated the slowdowns in the economy. And, the balance of trade problems were making it harder to maintain exchange rate interventions. When these countries were unable to support their currencies at the artificially high level, the resulting devaluation caused a severe shock to their economies. In the wake of these problems, foreign investors became nervous. Foreign capital disappeared almost overnight, aided by modern technology that permits very fast capital flows. Overcommitted domestic banks began failing at an alarming rate.

Serious currency crises plague these nations. While the IMF has offered assistance, its "bailout" requires a restrictive monetary policy that will maintain the high interest rates needed to attract foreign investors. But, these same high interest rates are stifling the attempts to revive these economies.


Black History Month Celebration — Commerce Style


Titled "Images of the Present: Networking and Utilizing Your Resources," the day-long event featured panel discussions, networking, and social activities, including a tour of the African Galleries at the Krannert Art Museum. There were two panel discussions, both facilitated by Camille Chang Gilmore, director of MBA Student Services. The first, "Passing the Torch: Leaving a Legacy," focused on the Commerce community and how, like a family, we must work together to help each other network, use resources, and gain educational access. All students need mentoring, and alumni, as beneficiaries of the system, have the responsibility to nurture those who come after them, by providing encouragement and sharing expertise. There is a special need to provide more role models in academia and, therefore, faculty should make a special effort to encourage outstanding students to pursue a doctoral degree and teaching career. Carol Motley, William Qualls, Cynthia Turner, and Jerome Williams were the panelists. Williams is on the Penn State faculty, the other three are at Illinois.

The conversation was intense between alums and faculty.
The second panel, "Reflections of the Past: Survival and Perseverance," focused on what it takes to be successful in corporate America. The panelists, alumni Glenn Sigler (Tirone Corporation) and Joan Trimuel (Arthur Andersen) and accountancy faculty Cynthia Turner, discussed the trials and tribulations they have experienced in the course of their careers.

The seminar served several purposes: to bring alumni up to date on college activities, to provide networking opportunities for students, and to be a part of the celebrations for Black History Month. In his opening remarks, Dean Howard Thomas talked about the importance of an event like this and the many constituencies it served.

Sponsored by the National Association of Black Accountants, the African American Business Society, the MBA Program, and the College of Commerce and Business Administration, we hope to make this an annual occasion. Tamara Allen, president of NABA, and Stacy Simmons, president of AABS, deserve special commendation for the role they played in making this event happen.


A Homecoming Tale


Eighty-eight years ago, Illinois was the place where it all came back home. Then, last fall, the university became the place where it all changed. Our Homecoming King and Queen are no more. But — long live the Homecoming Court!

"By being involved in different activities, I have developed a real school pride."

Karissa Bischoff

The administration's decision this year — and perhaps for all the years to come — to forego the crowning of a royal couple captured the attention of the New York Times, which dispatched a photographer and reporter to cover the celebration that has been a part of the Illinois Homecoming tradition since 1910. The Times did some digging into the origins of Homecoming and discovered another break with tradition — "bragging rights" to the original Homecoming actually belong to Baylor, which held the first Homecoming one year earlier than Illinois.

Twenty undergraduates were chosen to represent the Illinois student body as Homecoming Court. Three Commerce students were among the twenty that enjoyed the honor: Karissa Bischoff (senior, accountancy), Hamish de Freitas (senior, accountancy), and Alexis Hannekan (senior, marketing). All three are involved and enthusiastic students and high academic achievers.

The Homecoming court included three Commerce students — Hamish de Freitas (back left), Karissa Bischoff (seated, third from left), and Alexis Hannekan (seated, fourth from right).
"Without a doubt it was one of the best experiences I've had since attending the University of Illinois."

Hamish de Freitas

"It was like winning a scholarship. It's one of the biggest honors I've ever received."

Alexis Hannekan


Also honored in the Homecoming festivities was the multi-faceted Art Wyatt. Esteemed faculty member, accomplished alumnus, generous donor, and tireless supporter of the college — no wonder Wyatt was invited to be an Illini Comeback guest. Extended in conjunction with Illini Comeback Weekend (an event run by the Student Alumni Association concurrent with Homecoming), this honor acknowledges five extraordinary alumni, who serve as representatives for all alumni returning to campus for Homecoming. An adjunct professor of accountancy at Commerce, Wyatt is a retired Arthur Andersen partner, noted for a distinguished career including singular achievement in the establishment of international accounting standards. He holds B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in accountancy from Commerce. Last fall, he was named to the Accountancy Hall of Fame.