MBA for Professionals program celebrates commencement

by Jennifer H. Bush,

  • Graduate being hooded
  • MBA-P graduating class of 2018/19
  • Graduates wait on stage to receive their diplomas
  •  Oregon Symphony President and CEO Scott Showalter speaks to the graduates
  • Graduates stand in procession
  • Stage in Hudson Hall with graduating class seated
  • The dean, president, chaplain, provost and commencement speaker

University recognized the accomplishments of 53 graduates of the Salem and Portland cohorts in a ceremony on Saturday.

Willamette University Atkinson Graduate School of Management celebrated the accomplishments of 53 graduates of the MBA for Professionals program at a commencement ceremony on Jan. 26 in Hudson Hall.

Nineteen students graduated with Atkinson honors, which signifies a cumulative grade point average of 3.8 or higher in all course work. Of that group, 11 also received Beta Gamma Sigma honors, which is an international society recognizing outstanding academic accomplishments of students enrolled in business programs accredited by the Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Commencement speaker Scott Showalter, president and CEO of the the Oregon Symphony and honorary Beta Gamma Sigma inductee, urged the graduates to seek work that matters and to take risks that create opportunity.

Last spring, Showalter took the biggest risk of his career. In an attempt to make the symphony more relevant in today’s world, he led the commission of a a 50-minute orchestral work on the subject of deep poverty in America. At the premiere, some patrons stormed out of the performance. Showalter worried that major benefactors might pull their funding.

Instead, the symphony received a flood of support. “Months later, prominent arts organizations across the U.S. are programming our commission,” Showalter  said, “as they seek to connect on a deeper level with their own communities.”

During Showalter’s five years of leadership, the symphony’s ticket sales and donations have increased to record levels. The symphony’s budget has grown proportionally more than any other orchestra in the country. Showalter and his team have extended programs for the underserved, been nominated for Grammys and increased their broadcast reach by 16 million people. He was able to lead his team and reach these achievements by listening to his gut instinct, testing assumptions, brokering partnerships and taking risks.

“I didn’t plan to work in the arts,” Showalter said, “and I certainly didn’t plan to push the boundaries of art.” He urged the MBA-P graduates to accept meaningful work and take risks that have the potential to change society for the better.

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Waller Hall on a sunny autumn day with orange-yellow tree in foreground