Monthly Archive for January, 2017

Alumni Success Story – Mohamad Abdulkader Agha ‘03

Chancellor Emeritus Donald W. Maine called it fate. Mohamad Abdulkader Agha ‘03 called it meant to be. Their serendipitous relationship is heartwarming. Learn more about Mohamad’s path to Davenport and his success as he lives and works in Dubai, leading the strategy team at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives foundation to improve 130 Million lives by 2025 through humanitarian and developmental work. Read more below.

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Nearly 6,000 miles from his home in Syria, Agha found a new place to call home in Grand Rapids in early 2001. His decision to come to America wasn’t easy. After losing his father at the age of 13 and his mother only nine years later, Agha found himself looking for guidance in his next step. Luckily, he has three older sisters who had his best interests in mind and encouraged him to gain a global perspective on life by pursuing his MBA in the United States.

His brother-in-law, who is a doctor in the Grand Rapids area, recommended that he check out Davenport because he heard that the class sizes were small and the professors used real-life experiences to teach the classes.

Agha recalled wondering why he should go to a school in a small city, when he could go to school in Los Angeles or New York City.  His brother-in-law’s advice was to go a place where he could have personal attention. Agha remembered his brother-in-law saying, “Don’t be a small fish in a big pond, be a big fish in a small pond.”

Agha started classes at Davenport in spring 2001 and in the summer he completed a graduate program at Georgetown University, then went back home to be with family. While he was home, the events that shook the world on September 11th occurred. Things were uncertain and he was unsure if he was going to return to Davenport.

“I got a phone call from Davenport,” said Agha. “The call was from my advisor.  She said, ‘Congrats, Mohamad! You have been awarded the international students’ scholarship this year. We look forward to your coming back to Davenport.’ And that call made me book my flight to come back.”

As his studies progressed, he continued to build relationships on campus. He got an invitation to speak at the international students’ luncheon because of his reputation for academic success and charismatic professionalism.

“I got up, I did my speech and after I was done, I was asked to join a table with the former president of Davenport University, Don Maine. I shook hands with him and we introduced ourselves to each other. I was sitting there, enjoying being next to the “big man on campus,” yet not really knowing who he was. Then, the former VP of Alumni & Development walked up and said, “Mohamad, that gentleman paid for your scholarship. Your scholarship is the Maine Family International Student Scholarship!”

From that moment, Agha and Maine clicked. Although there was a difference in age and experience, they became friends.

Maine recalled, “When I realized international students did not receive financial aid, I wanted to direct my donation to those international students who needed it, kids like Mohamad. It is the humanitarianism in me. I enjoy helping young global talents.”

As Agha’s career flourished, so did their friendship. “We used to have lunches that lasted two to three hours to discuss global affairs at a restaurant in East Grand Rapids. At that point in my life, I didn’t have a father. So guidance was either spontaneous, by observing others, or by Don giving me the time and mentoring me step by step.”

Agha consulted and updated Maine about every chapter of his life. After earning his MBA from Davenport, Agha worked at Ernst & Young. Next he was recruited by the United Nations. At the age of 30, he was the youngest director hired at the UN to manage the Private Sector Development Program. He led the UN Global Compact as a representative and secretary general to its Advisory Council for five years.

In 2012, Agha left the Middle East. He took a job at the World Logistics Council as the director of strategic partnerships to lead a global team which coordinated with organizations from 56 countries involving the top technology, finance, insurance and semi-government organizations.

Now, Agha and his wife, Rim, and baby twins (Abdulkader & Ayla), live and work in Dubai. He leads the strategy team at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives foundation to improve 130 Million lives by 2025 through humanitarian and developmental work.

“Here is a person whose country has collapsed,” said Maine. “He built a brand new global career. There are a lot of people who could not do that. He now has mastered the culture of the UAE and risen to the point of being entrusted to serve its global initiatives. He left Damascus to work in Geneva and Kuala Lumpur and then made his way back to the Middle East.”

What makes Agha’s relationship with Davenport so special is the personal attention he was given by Maine and the professors. He left Davenport with high academic knowledge and the culminating experience of all of the individuals who shared their experiences and knowledge with him.

“I am thankful for Don Maine because he filled a void in my life. Yes, his scholarship has made a huge difference in my life, but money could be replaced. What isn’t replaceable is his experience and later on his friendship and love that keeps growing. Thank you, Don Maine!”

Volunteer for BPA & DECA

Business Professionals of America (BPA) and DECA need your help!

  • On February 4, 150+ DECA students will meet to network, learn business strategies and showcase their skills at the weekend-long Career Development Conference. We are in need of industry leaders and professionals to judge these events, specifically we need an accounting event judge on February 4, 2017 from 7:45am-5:00pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. Interested? Please email Suzanne Gut.
  • On February 11, hundreds of students will gather at the W.A. Lettinga Campus for the Business Professionals of America State Leadership Conference. BPA needs more than 40 volunteer judges, graders and greeters to help at the conference. If you are interested in volunteering on February 11th, please contact Scott Gumieny.
  • On March 4 at the W.A. Lettinga Campus, middle school students will compete at the BPA State Leadership Conference. BPA is looking for volunteers to be judges, proctors and graders in the morning and early afternoon. If you are interested, please contact Dara Carr.

Alumni Success Story – Stacie James ’98

After landing a co-op position at Kellogg Company as a student just over 22 years ago, alumna Stacie James ‘98 worked her way up earning the position of Plant Finance Controller. Stacie has balanced the books, managed international finance relationships and now manages the finances for one of the largest cereal plants in “Cereal City USA.” Learn more about Stacie and how she grew into the position of controller below.

Tell us about yourself, Stacie.
I was born and raised in a small town in southwest Michigan called Union City. After high school, I attended Davenport College in Battle Creek. In my sophomore year at Davenport, the Dean, at the time, was teaching my accounting class. He approached my friend, Karen and I, to see if we were interested in a co-op position at Kellogg. While Karen took the job, I was hesitant given I was only in my second year of schooling, therefore I declined. It was three months later when she reached out to me, stating there was another opening.  Given her experience and satisfaction with the job, I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass by again.  That is where it all started. I took the student co-op position which lasted just over two years, then I got hired for full time during the latter part of my junior year.  I have worked at Kellogg for more than 22 years in multiple roles and now I am a Plant Finance Controller.

Why did you pick DU?
My parents encouraged me to go to college. I was a numbers person and was good at math, so I decided to try accounting. I got good grades and enjoyed it. Davenport’s staff was very friendly and I enjoyed the small classes.

You have been at Kellogg for over 22 years, can you tell us about how you have grown there – your promotions and jobs?
I started with simple work like balancing accounts and journal entries. A couple years later I was hired as an Account Reconciliation Assistant. After that, I was able to explore a few different roles. I was put in the Corporate Controller’s Group as a Staff Accountant. In this role, I had an attention-grabbing job – I prepared board books and executive summary books for the executive staff. I learned very quickly that formatting was very important – decimals, number of zeros, spacing, font. Next, I was promoted to Senior Financial Analyst for financial reporting. In this role, I was able to experience interactions with the international locations because I managed and administered the database to collect their financials. I made friends with people in Europe, Latin America and Asia. I learned how to listen very carefully to all the diverse accents for understanding and to make conversions with the different currencies. Next, I was promoted to Associate Manager of Corporate Financial Planning. Then, it was on to multiple Global Supply Chain Finance roles, where I’ve provided support for more than 10 years, focusing on the cost of goods sold, capital spending, overhead and management of the Operations P&L. All of my roles have prepared me for my position today.

In a nutshell, what do you do now?
Currently, I am the Plant Finance Controller. I serve as a member of the Senior Leadership Team, in addition to overseeing a high functioning finance group driven towards customer service in support of our operation’s team.  Continuous improvement and price efficiency is always top priority.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about honesty. I also believe you should always do your best and always look for ways to improve.

What do you do when you are not working?
I enjoy watching Tiger baseball, bowling, fishing and taking my 14 year old daughter, Payton, to the movies.