Growing up in a 1960’s working-class home on the south side of Racine, Wis., my first lessons in the world of commerce started like so many in my generation: delivering newspapers! I didn’t realize it then – but I know it now – it introduced me to some basic principles of the business world.
At the time, I saw only the fortunes of my hard work. Like the purple, 10-speed Schwinn bike and the black high-top Converse All-Star sneakers I was able to purchase. Or the countless baseball cards I bought that helped me follow the Cubs in their unsuccessful quest to return a pennant to Wrigley Field.
But that experience also taught me valuable lessons in cash flow, customer service and the sales process. For instance, if you don’t collect the receivables you won’t have any cash. Some customers accepted their paper on the porch while others demanded door delivery. Motivation is an important key to sales – one such contest won me a trip to a dude ranch. And, maybe my favorite lesson, don’t ever underestimate the importance of empowerment, training and quality control because if your substitute doesn’t deliver at a high standard, weekly tips could easily vanish.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my time as a paper boy helped to lay a foundation for a lifetime career in business.
Much of my 33-year business career was spent at S.C. Johnson & Son where I enjoyed various roles in finance, marketing and brand management, information technology, product supply, manufacturing and executive administration, most recently serving as chief administration officer. I’ve visited more than 40 countries, made friends on nearly every continent and lived in Germany, England and Switzerland.
As I look back, I feel blessed to have found business as a vocation. Business is so many things – it is people, it’s about making things happen, it’s about knowing how to adapt to change – but more than anything, business is about learning.
And so begins the next phase in my business career – the ultimate adventure in learning!
A Trail of Amazing Women
In my short time at Alverno I have met many amazing women, each representing a unique aspect of business. Laurie Winters ’12, for example, integrated her love of art with a career at the Milwaukee Art Museum and most recently started on her own personal business venture. Moving from art to food, Citlali Mendieta-Ramos ’10 and Stacy Zielenski ’12 are two examples of women who used their culinary passion and business knowledge to start their own restaurants. Brenda Chavez Bohmann ‘92 leads a family-owned and operated HVAC and plumbing business.
Of course, it’s not just about running your own business. Donna Bembenek ’11 is using her skills to benefit the YMCA of Milwaukee. Cathy Dowdell ‘91 develops and markets products at
S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Rose Spang ’62 helps families improve their long-term financial security as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual.
This is just the start of a long list of strong Alverno women. With every new meeting, I’m lucky enough to learn about their challenges, opportunities and successes. And while every story is unique, all have chased goals that have allowed them to deliver dreams for their families, give back to society and achieve personal fulfillment and growth. In fact, nearly all will share that their Alverno experience has enriched their personal and professional journey.
The Next Step Toward Our Future
This message was reinforced with feedback received in the strategic planning process the School of Business pursued over the past semester. As part of our environmental scan we fielded surveys with current students and alumnae. About nine out of 10 rated their Alverno business coursework as good or excellent. About eight out of 10 alums would recommend Alverno to a friend.
Here are just some of the verbatim comments we received:
“Alverno gave me the stepping stone to become someone I did not know that I had within me. I was given courage and guidance to become a strong woman. I was also able to discover that I had a voice and a bright future ahead of me.”
“You are a whole new person when the journey here ends. It’s worth the money, stress & tears!”
“Alverno is where I found myself and I was able to grow into a successful woman.”
“I love Alverno College!”
These outcomes are no accident. They are the result of a dedicated faculty deeply committed to student learning. They are the result of a dedicated staff that provides an environment filled with developmental opportunities and support. They are the result of volunteer assessors who provide their time and talent in the external assessments of Alverno’s eight abilities. They are the result of dedicated donors and alumnae who provide gifts of treasure for our annual fund and capital needs. And yet, while we are reassured that our past efforts have made a real difference, we know we must adapt and change for learning to continue.
The world of business has been changing at an accelerated rate with technology, globalization and demographics as just a few of the forces driving new approaches and practices. In response to these changes we know we must also change … and continue to learn. With this, I look forward to working with the entire community as we build on our rich tradition and create the next chapter in our learning journey. I am excited and privileged to join the Alverno journey because I love to learn!