Academics

McIntire-Made Professionals Highlight M.S. in Commerce’s Leadership Speaker Series

Alumni collaboration provides students with an important window on the most pressing issues in global business, notes M.S. in Commerce Director Ira Harris, who designed the series.

Ira Harris (Photo by Tom Cogill)

McIntire’s innovative M.S. in Commerce Program continues to adapt and create new learning opportunities for graduate students.

This year, in light of the many changes affecting the fall semester, there have been continued modifications instituted across programs University-wide. However, Professor Ira Harris has seized the moment to take full advantage of the online learning environment by creating the Leadership Speaker Series.

Harris, the Director of the program, says that although M.S. in Commerce courses regularly host alumni professionals who share their knowledge with students on pertinent business topics, this initiative offers a different and more structured approach to applying that insight.

“We have long used guest speakers in the program, but this year’s initiative is an effort to formalize the offering. Applied business education is at the heart of McIntire’s approach, and the two most prominent means of accomplishing this is through providing hands-on practice with leading-edge analytical tools and consistently integrating marketplace examples into our intense class discussions.”

Alumni joining students represent a wide range of industries and expertise. Some of those comprising the Leadership Speaker Series include U.S. Pipe President Vik Bhatia (McIntire ’98), Hella Cocktail Company Co-Founder Jomaree Pinkard (McIntire ’01), McKinsey Senior Partner Steve Reis (McIntire ’03, Law ’08), as well as CoderPad CEO Amanda Richardson (McIntire ’01) and Honeywell Director of Smart Cities, Verticals and Strategic Accounts Dina Tamimi (McIntire ’99). A session focused on the path to executive positions will feature former COO and current Board Member of Apple Hospitality REIT Inc. Krissy Gathright (McIntire ‘94), Jeffries & Company Inc. Vice President and CFO Teri Gendron (McIntire ’91), and Deb Wetherby (McIntire ’80), Owner of Wetherby Asset Management.

Harris, who recently won the UVA Excellence in Education Abroad Award, has experience quickly replacing components of the program; he and his colleagues were challenged to make swift adjustments responding to travel bans stemming from COVID-19 that occurred in the spring of 2020. He believes that continued alumni collaboration provides students with an important window on the most pressing issues in global business.

“Inviting the practitioners’ perspective into the classroom is another powerful complement to our curriculum design. This interaction with our successful alums keeps our business theory content grounded in everyday business practices, and importantly, advances our goal of producing market-ready graduates,” Harris says.

In addition to students of the M.S. in Commerce Program, M.S. in Accounting students will be participating in select sessions throughout the fall 2020 semester.

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