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Simon MBA follows his principles as a leader who benefits society

May 12, 2021
2021 commencement: Rochester graduate Keenan Heyward“I came to business school with the belief that I would find a position that allowed me to get up in the morning and, in some small way, benefit society,”says Keenan Heyward, who graduates this spring with an MBA from Rochester. (Courtesy of Keenan Heyward)

Keenan Heyward says Rochester’s business school helped hone his ideas about professional and community leadership.

When looking for a business school, Keenan Heyward was certain of one thing; he wanted a big institution with a lot of people. That was until he paid a visit to the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.

“When I came for my campus visit, I met a tight-knit community where the staff knows everybody,” says Heyward. “I realized this was actually what I wanted.”

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Visit the Class of 2021 site for details about this year’s Commencement ceremonies and for a downloadable toolkit of materials to share your support on social media.

Two years after starting on his MBA, as he prepares to receive his during commencement ceremonies in May, Heyward can say that the reality of Simon lived up to his expectations.

“I’m coming out of Simon much more confident in academic areas where I felt good and in academic areas where I needed work,” says Heyward. “But most importantly, I learned how to lead.”

The course that had the greatest influence on Heyward was advanced marketing strategies, taught by Mitchell Lovett, an associate professor of marketing. Working in groups of six, the students competed against each other while running simulated companies, with real-life challenges and crises thrown their way throughout the course. Heyward says the experience taught him to use his entire skill set.

And Heyward will get to put those skills to work immediately as senior specialist on Merck Pharmaceuticals’ global vaccine strategy team. In that role, Heyward will help Merck identify and develop solutions to some of the illnesses that will affect the world in the coming five or 10 years.

His new job will give Heyward the opportunity to fulfill one of his principles. “I came to business school with the belief that I would find a position that allowed me to get up in the morning and, in some small way, benefit society.”

Heyward didn’t simply learn about leadership in his classes at Simon; he learned about it in his many activities at Rochester, which included being vice president of events for the Black Student Alliance at Simon and chief operating officer for the Simon School Venture Fund, as well as doing volunteer work in the community, where he taught sixth grade students about entrepreneurship—all of which put additional demands on his time.

“One of the things I learned at Simon is how to be efficient and disciplined,” says Heyward. “If you hire an MBA, you expect that person to be the next leader of your company. It’s important that leaders understand how to effectively apply their talents.”

Heyward already knows what he’ll miss most when he leaves Rochester with his MBA in hand—it will be the family he developed at Simon. “There’s no doubt that my classmates will be lifelong friends. When looking around a room—even a Zoom room—I think these are some of the most incredible individuals I’ve ever met. This is a once-in-a-lifetime group of people to be around.”

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