MBA Couple Named BSB Graduate Students of the Year

In 2004, the husband and wife team of Kevin and Joanna San Diego embarked on a journey to earn their MBA degrees. They took pre-requisite business courses in preparation for submitting applications to Bay Area universities, however, life happened and the MBA plans had to be put on hold.

Sixteen years and three children later, Kevin and Joanna received their coveted MBA degrees – while also being named the 2020 Barowsky School of Business “Outstanding Graduate Business Students” – during Dominican University of California’s virtual graduation celebration last month.

Kevin, who earned an undergraduate degree in biology from UC Santa Cruz, works in the computer and network security industry as Senior Director of Product Management for Proofpoint, Inc. in San Francisco. Joanna, who received an undergraduate degree in marketing from Florida State University, works in the Benefits Consulting field as an Assistant Vice President at Gallagher Benefits Services Northern California.

For Joanna and Kevin, earning an MBA was both a personal goal and a good business decision.

Kevin’s position has him working closely with senior leadership and cross-organizational product teams. He knew that gaining a deeper understanding of international economics and business management would provide valuable skills as he worked with teams both in the United States and overseas. Joanna frequently responds to RFPs while working with public and private sector clients on employee benefits program design and benchmarking analysis. She was keen to enhance skills critical to building her consulting skillset while also accelerating her career.

The Dominican MBA program is designed to accommodate the busy lives of working professionals. Students can either pursue a full-time one-year program or a part-time two-year program. Part-time classes are offered on Tuesday evenings or all day on Saturday. Full-time classes are on both Tuesday evenings and Saturdays. 
Kevin and Joanna, who live close to the Dominican campus in San Rafael, enrolled in the MBA program in 2018.

They selected the part-time route in order to best balance their studies with busy careers and a demanding family life.

 “The coursework was certainly challenging, and we did not have a lot of spare time with high-pressure jobs and three young kids,” Joanna says. “Perhaps we were naïve not knowing how much time we had to invest in studying – reading, writing case studies and doing homework. But the MBA program was a positive experience, and one that will definitely open doors for us and help us to think more strategically.”

Kevin found working on case studies in Dr. Rajeev Sooreea’s Global Business to be particularly valuable. Dr. Sooreea employs the Harvard Business School Case Method to engage his MBA students in exercises focused on how to approach and manage cross-cultural interactions in global business, with coursework focused on foreign direct investment, emerging markets entry strategy, international trade, and international economic policy.

 Kevin’s team was assigned the task of identifying a business to start in the Republic of Mauritius and detailing why  – from both trade and economic perspectives – the company was a good fit.

 “The process was fascinating – I definitely gained a broader background in how to tackle problems and approach strategic planning when working with international teams,” Kevin says.

 One of the highlights for Joanna was a strategic planning course taught by Dr. Thomas Cavanagh, which allowed students the opportunity to serve as consultants to a local business.

 “It was a great learning experience for us to review a local business’s real-world business problems and help structure a plan to help the business better achieve its goals,” she recalls.

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Joanna’s team project paired MBA students with a scientist who was launching a company focused on lighting technology for Alzheimer's patient treatment. The client already had worked to develop many prototypes in the academic arena, but this was his first foray into building a company and selling his own product.

“It was daunting at first – thinking about all of the things that had to be taken into consideration – but the client was very happy with our approach, our strategy for how to approach the market with his product, and our work providing goal-setting guidance for both himself and the organization,” Joanna says.

Enrolling in the MBA program also proved an unexpected bonus to the parents of Juliana, Gabriella, and Francesca, ages 8, 10, and 14.

“We have always talked with our girls about how important it is to study and work hard,” Joanna says. “It has been great for them to see their parents being interested in learning, studying hard, and excelling in the classroom.”

“The girls were troopers – very patient with us,” Kevin adds. “Last summer they were invited to come to class for a few hours. They sat in the back drawing and reading. It was a fun experience for them – being on campus and coming to class. They are really glad that we are done!”

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