MBA Spotlight: Katie Bennett

Our MBA students come from a variety of backgrounds. Katie Bennett, who graduated with a degree in Psychology with a minor in Statistics, decided it was necessary to get her MBA when she got the position of Procurement Manager for Rogers Electric. She said that her “undergraduate background was not centered on business at all, and attending UNG’s MBA program has really helped me bridge that gap.”

At Rogers Electric, Katie was asked to develop the department by putting standard operating procedures in place and working with the IT department to develop a user-interface that corresponded with the needs of the new procurement department. Katie is currently managing a team of 9 people, but this number will increase as the department grows.

Now that Katie is in a business oriented career, she stated that “I wanted to make sure that I had the skills sets and knowledge necessary to become a leading professional in her field.” She said that “UNG was an obvious pick for me because of the location. Additionally, UNG’s tuition was much more reasonably priced than that of many other MBA programs offered in the area.”

In the five classes she has taken so far, Katie has had the opportunity to really get to know the MBA program staff and her classmates. She is very impressed with the welcoming and inclusive environment that the MBA program provides. Coming into the program, Katie was a bit anxious that she would be lost or fall behind because she did not have an educational business background; however, she quickly realized there are several students in the same situation as her. She mentioned that, “the professors always stay mindful that the cohort is made up of such a diverse group of people, which she feels positively impacts the group.”

The MBA has already started to help Katie in her career. Classes like Leadership, Motivation, and Operations Management have added great value to her existing skill set. These courses have allowed her to “analyze operations from a different angle.”

Katie is excited to continue her MBA journey to find out what she is passionate about. “I anticipate that these experiences within the MBA program will help me formulate a clearer goal regarding what I would like to accomplish in the future.” For now, Katie thoroughly enjoys managing a team, so she is focused on strengthening her leadership skills through the MBA program.

Cottrell MBA Spotlight: Vinay Kumar

by Evie Somogyi, marketing intern and senior marketing student, Mike Cottrell College of Business

Getting your MBA is very beneficial — even after years of experience. As manager of an IT development team at General Motors, Vinay Kumar decided to get his MBA after 18 years in the field. Throughout his career, Vinay worked across multiple geographies, roles, and functions. As Vinay’s career progressed into managerial roles, he found that, “although I had been exposed to broad perspectives and paradigms that helped to strengthen my management skills, I still felt that he was missing a stamp of academia from his career resume.”

In his current management role at General Motors, Vinay’s team supports GM’s Customer Relationship Management Systems for GM business teams, GM dealers, as well as external third-party CRM providers. GM’s CRM systems allows GM to run targeted promotions and GM dealers to review customers’ vehicle service history before they show up for service. As a result, they provide better customer service by knowing their customers.

Vinay chose the Cottrell MBA for a number of reasons. Vinay said that, “UNG provided me so the perfect opportunity to access an accredited school — in close proximity — with a flexible class schedule to fit my busy life.” After talking to alumni, attending orientation, and going through the curriculum, Vinay knew that he had found a “hidden gem in North Georgia.” To top it off, “GM provides a strong employee development program that offers tuition support — which made it an opportune time to enrich my education.”

 Vinay’s first two semesters have proved that he made the best decision by choosing the Cottrell MBA. He said that, “the overall experience has been very rewarding, both academically and for broader professional networking.” His classes have given him a different perspective and he has found that, “the MBA academic content is practical and teaches skills and concepts that you can implement right away.” Vinay used his leadership course as an example when describing how beneficial his courses have been. He said the course, “was not just a conceptual discussion about what a good leader should be, but rather an active encouragement to find the leader in yourself.”

Though he is only through his first few semesters, Vinay has already gained knowledge from his courses that he can implement simultaneously into his current role as IT manager. He said that, ”project management and leadership courses have direct application to what I do on day-to-day basis at work. The leadership course in particular helped me identify my specific traits and behaviors which I am able to channel through my leadership style.” As someone in the technology field, Vinay is planning to pursue the Specialization in Technology Leadership.

Vinay views his MBA journey as a “holistic experience” that has encompassed strong academic values, personal growth, and networking opportunities. He has enjoyed being able to network with students from a variety of different backgrounds. With the opportunity to work on group projects, Vinay has gotten to hear new perspectives. Furthermore, he has been able, “to learn about other people’s domains, the challenges they face, and how they solve them.”

Going forward, Vinay has made it his priority to apply everything that he has learned to his current role. He would also like to carry forward the networking connections that he has gained through the program, and give back to the UNG local community as opportunities arise.

For more information on the Cottrell MBA, visit

Cottrell MBA Spotlight: James Welch

In the Cottrell MBA program, we have working professionals that come from a variety of companies, including James Welch, Master Data Lead at The Coca-Cola Company.

James is currently a contract employee in charge of coordinating data loads with the Coke One North America team to ensure that all data is accurately loaded in SAP. He also works with bottlers to understand their data requirements. Furthermore, he creates cross company project plans and ensures that project milestones are complete and in alignment with the master transition plan.

James decided to pursue an MBA for both personal and professional development. When asked why he chose UNG, he replied, “as a busy working professional, who is still seeking a classroom environment, the Cottrell MBA was a perfect fit. The campus is within twenty minutes of my home, and classes are held twice a week, minimizing the days I take away from my home life.” James also knew several of the past graduates and he witnessed the value that the MBA added to their career.

Thus far, James has had a very positive experience with the Cottrell MBA program. His professors have been very good at taking the material and applying it in real world settings. He has gained a lot of value from group projects that “apply skill sets in real world situations.” He is also finding a new perspective when it comes to courses like accounting, which he thought to be fairly dry as an undergraduate. His professor, Dr. Best, was great at getting his accounting class engaged in the material.

When we asked James how he has been able to utilize what he has learned so far, a particular class stood out to him: Leadership. While taking Dr. Walker’s class, James was able to take away many new skills and insights on how to engage with different people. He has used his new skills “to build on his relationships and strengthen his ability to motivate across different company teams.” He now has an increased understanding of their “different motivations as well as the objectives they are operating under.”

In addition to the classroom experience, Welch is thankful for the networking opportunities he’s found through the Cottrell MBA. Beyond just the various networking opportunities available through the MBA, James has built new relationships with his classmates, providing different viewpoints, and networking with the College’s professors. Dr. Ruben Boling, director of the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is helping him develop his personal brand.

After graduation, James hopes to continue to grow his career. In the short term, he is seeking a position as a planning manager or a supply chain manager. In the long term, he hopes to continue his education and potentially teach at the collegiate level one day. James believes that his “MBA will help to continue to open new doors.”

MBA Capstone Leads to Board Nomination

The Cottrell MBA provides a great deal of opportunity for students to extend their knowledge of business and to network with business leaders in the regional community. Last week, we talked with Patrick Higingbotham, 2014 Cottrell MBA grad and financial coordinator at Wilson Orthodontics in Gainesville, GA about his experience in the Cottrell MBA and his recent nomination to the Gateway Domestic Violence Center board.

Why did you want to pursue your MBA?

I wanted professional development opportunities and I wanted to offer my employer more than just what I was able to do without my MBA.

Tell us about your capstone project.

Our initial task was to explore the feasibility of expanding thrift store operations and adding a third location for Gateway Domestic Violence Center in Gainesville. We approached the project by first examining existing financials and currently operating stores seeking opportunities for improvement. We also reviewed academic literature that specifically looked at not-for-profit store profitability as well as visited successful thrift stores looking for best practices.

My role in that effort was to assist in examining the key metrics for each of their existing stores to see if we could “do more with less” and improve profitability with minimal capital expenses.

After your presentation, did Gateway Domestic Violence Center implement your recommendations and if so, were they successful?

Yes, they did. I don’t have specific details on the success but the feedback we received is that upon implementation of several of our suggestions, one of the thrift stores saw a “significant increase in daily sales” starting with the first day the store re-opened for business. The results were so significant that a small group of board members have created a sub-committee to establish a plan to implement our recommended changes at the other thrift store.

That’s great! So, after graduation, how were you invited to be on their board of directors?

The director of Gateway Domestic Violence Center reached out to me personally to let me know how successful they had been in implementing our recommendations and I was offered a position on Gateway’s Board of Directors and accepted in December 2014.

So, now that it’s 2015, has your MBA already been beneficial to you and your career?

Yes. I found the program to be beneficial, rewarding, and challenging. It was beneficial to me on a personal level. Without the Cottrell MBA, I most likely would have never been approached to serve on Gateway’s board. It has opened doors for many opportunities beyond those that are available on a linear career path. It has helped me broaden my horizons as well as given me the ability to sharpen my focus on smaller, seemingly mundane details that make large impacts when examined more closely.

For more information on the Cottrell MBA, visit our website or register for an upcoming information session.

The Capstone Experience

In early September, students in the 2015 Cottrell MBA cohort met together with representatives from four local businesses to begin the Capstone Experience, a consulting project. The cohort is divided into teams and each team acts as a consultant for one of the local businesses, or clients, and the task for each team differs according to the needs of the client. During the initial meeting, the teams were introduced to their client and also a mentor – a local business person who provides guidance and direction for the team members as they set out to define the scope of their project and take the steps towards their final presentation in the spring. One group of consultants, Team Phoenix, reflected on their experience thus far.

“We were all nervous with anticipation of meeting our Capstone client as we weren’t sure who or what to expect. Our mentor was perfectly matched for our project and as she started to throw out questions and direct the conversation, we immediately felt at ease. While we did get the gist of what the overall project will entail, we still have a lot to iron out to even accomplish our first assignment! But we were able to accomplish initial introductions and questions and even setup a time to tour their facility which should point us in the right direction. At this point the initial apprehension has subsided and been replaced with upcoming due dates, commitments, and meetings. We are really looking forward to diving into the Capstone and learning more about applying the techniques and lessons we’ve learned thus far in our courses.”

Now that the kick-off event has passed, each team has begun to develop the overall plan and scope for their project. This will include preparing for their mid-term presentations coming up in January. Along the way, mentors and faculty teaching in the Cottrell MBA program will continue to monitor progress, share wisdom and guidance when necessary, and continue to support each team in their endeavors.