Dawn Gary-Tryba MBA ’11 has worked in the life insurance industry for more than 20 years. As vice president of Training & Implementation with AXA Equitable, she is responsible for designing, implementing and managing the company’s Learning and Development platform in support of more than 6,000 financial advisors and 250 senior managers across the U.S.

Education is a big part of her work. Tryba and her virtual team implement a blended learning model of classroom, virtual and self-paced curriculum. She helped build and currently manages advanced education and company-specific accreditation programs offered through Harvard University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. When Tryba decided to pursue an executive MBA, she viewed it as an investment in her professional development. She looked to Alverno College.

“I chose Alverno over other programs because of the curriculum, location and the liberal approach to learning. The flexibility of the Weekend College program and scheduling courses were a good fit with my busy travel schedule.” Tryba lives in Wisconsin but her company’s headquarters are in New York City and she averages four days of travel a week, all while managing her remote team.

With her experience in building curriculum for adult learners, Tryba knew an MBA program would be different from what she had experienced in her undergraduate work, but Alverno was beyond what she imagined. “I didn’t expect everything I ended up receiving from the program. The Alverno MBA program far exceeded my expectations. The curriculum, faculty expertise, classroom interaction and impact on my professional growth were amazing. I received so much more than a degree and each step of the way was exciting. When I finally settled down and rolled up my sleeves, I was excited by how much things changed for me.”

Known to some as “Triple A” because of her hyper-intensive personality and professional drive, it was at Alverno where, for the first time, Tryba experienced something close to failure. “I used to be a procrastinator and in my first semester I waited to submit a project until the end of the semester. I did not take advantage of the ‘check-points’ offered by my instructor and my project didn’t meet criteria. Had this been a traditional grade-based program, I would have failed. However, the instructor helped me regroup and my classmates offered constructive feedback on areas for improvement. I pulled it together, redid the project and was able to apply the information learned throughout the semester into my final assignment. I never wanted to be in that situation again, so I put processes in place to ensure I would complete remaining courses and the MBA program.”

Tryba increased her organization and project management systems so she could balance the workload with her personal and professional life. She incorporated specific study times and did her homework wherever she could – often on planes where she could focus.

Tryba especially liked that Alverno’s MBA program brought in real-life experiences and gave her an education that she could use in her career. Throughout her MBA work, faculty encouraged her to reach out and network through her company. Whatever the topic or subject, Tryba would seek the person in her organization with that responsibility, and then would begin a dialogue to understand better concepts and theories. She combined the knowledge she gained to amplify her leadership abilities. That initiative opened many doors for her, fostered new relationships and helped her to receive a promotion while going through the MBA program. It was validation the company believed in her abilities and served as confirmation that the investment in an Alverno MBA was the right decision.

“I was in the corporate world for a long time before beginning my MBA. The ‘real life’ experience was necessary to my development, and once I pieced that together with the Alverno education, everything fit,” Tryba said.

Tryba has also incorporated many of Alverno’s learning styles with her company’s accreditation programs and in her professional mindset. “Before I earned my MBA, our company programs included long lectures and quick transitions from concept to concept. Now, we incorporate case studies, peer-to-peer interaction and analysis in the curriculum. I know from my Alverno experience how beneficial workshops and teamwork are to enhancing the learning process.”

Tryba believes each student has the ability to control his or her own development and success in the Alverno MBA. “It has to come from within. You must have the drive, motivation and ambition to be part of the learning process. You have to want to do it for yourself. Then you can have the confidence to lead, manage and succeed in an organization or in life.”

About the Program: Experiential Learning Leads to Transformational Changes

You won’t find stodgy curriculum, boring lectures or theoretical textbook lessons without real application in the Alverno Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Instead, you’ll find diverse business professionals enjoying managed enrollment, experiencing individualized teaching and participating in assessment methods. It’s a curriculum developed with business leaders for a distinctive outcome-focused approach designed to sharpen and enhance abilities to lead, manage, create and compete.

Patricia Jensen ’71, associate dean of the MBA program, returned to Alverno to teach in 1979 when the Weekend College program was new. She worked with Mary Diez on the design and teaching of several of the Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) classes, and she shared her experience with William McEachern, inaugural program director, to launch the MBA program in 2006.

“When Alverno developed the MBA program, we conducted a feasibility study in the business community. As faculty, we brought our varied experiences in business and our knowledge of adult education and experiential learning. The coursework builds and develops processes, relationship and resources,” Jensen notes.

The faculty’s goal is to challenge and support each student’s learning and development. New MBA students are like most new Alverno students – at first, they find the experiential learning, assessment and feedback processes to be challenging. “Students quickly learn to appreciate they’re not competing with each other for grades, though, but rather assisting each other to develop their unique capabilities. The dynamic environment is highly collaborative.”

The MBA program integrates five-core competences reflecting the heart of management practice. Jensen says, “Our faculty continues to review and adapt curriculum and coursework to keep up with the ever-changing business environment.” The innovative and integrated coursework is application focused where students bring their work challenges to the classroom and apply their classroom learning at work. Students hone their business and financial acumen by building upon a knowledge base and skill capability that helps them with evolving challenges and securing opportunities. Many students develop from initially focusing on their own careers to understanding how they can lead and create long-term value for organizations.

MBA students begin their coursework with an intensive class, MGT600 Integrated Management. They integrate their prior learning and business experience with case studies and projects to make that connection between knowing and doing – the right tools and skills for success in the program. Students often refer to the MBA program as being “transformational” in their lives. They graduate more self-aware and self-confident of how they contribute to their organizations or communities.

“People choose Alverno because they want to be fully engaged in their learning. The experiential learning is representative of their actual work environment, with collaborative learning, team work and outcomes,” said Jensen. The MBA program continues to attract strong female and male students who are serious about taking their careers and professions to the next level. Ultimately, the students are in charge of their own development. When a student makes a commitment to the program, to the school and to his or her own personal growth, then it reflects how the program is adding value. Students learn how to make the program work for them.