KU MBA students learn leadership firsthand from top business executives

KU School of Business
Jul 8 · 3 min read

Full-time MBA students at the University of Kansas School of Business got a glimpse into careers in the C-suite thanks to a speaker series introduced over the 2018–19 academic year.

Top business executives who graduated from the KU School of Business delivered presentations to MBA students each month as part of “Conversations in the C-Suite.”

Jim Corbett speaks to first-year MBA students at orientation on Aug. 17, 2018, at Capitol Federal Hall.

James “Jim” Corbett kicked off the series during the school’s MBA student orientation in August 2018 and was this year’s featured speaker for the series. Corbett, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from KU in 1980, is CEO of CathWorks Ltd., an Israel-based company that develops digital health care products. He returned to campus in November 2018 and again to close the series in April 2019.

Other speakers this year included:

  • James “Jim” Schwartz, chairman of NPC International Inc., the world’s largest Pizza Hut franchisee. Schwartz earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from KU in 1984.
  • Craig Levra, president of outdoor gear retailer Gear Coop LLC and principal at SafeRock Inc., an analytics and strategy firm that serves global and regional companies in North America and Europe. He earned his MBA from KU in 1984.
  • Tom Bené, chairman, president and CEO of Sysco Corp., who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from KU in 1984.
  • James “Jim” Peters, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Whirlpool Corp., who graduated from KU in 1992 with bachelor’s degrees in accounting and psychology.
From left: Jim Schwartz, Craig Levra, Tom Bené and Jim Peters

Corbett worked with Dee Steinle, executive director of MBA and MSB programs, and associate professor Melissa Birch, who teaches the MBA program’s BUS 801 course, to develop the series. Each presentation centered on the topic of how to adapt to and take the lead in a changing global business environment.

MBA students said that the speakers in the series reinforced topics and ideas they had been learning in their courses.

“What I found most eye-opening about Mr. Peters’ presentation was the fact that many of the concepts he mentioned were all concepts we have learned and discussed in our MBA classes at great length,” said MBA student Danilo Meulener.

MBA student Emily Skiles noted that the series helped her envision how she can carry her own skills forward in her career.

KU School of Business

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Stories about the students, alumni, faculty and staff of the University of Kansas School of Business.