Commencement 2017

Adena Friedman (MBA ‘93), CEO of Nasdaq, delivers remarks to Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management's Class of 2017.

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May 12, 2017

Vanderbilt Owen Commencement 2017Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management celebrated Commencement Day ceremonies for its Class of 2017 today. Gathered in the Vanderbilt Student Recreation Center, 221 students received their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree; 48 earned a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree; 47 were awarded a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree; 47 received an Executive MBA (EMBA) degree; and 14 were awarded a Master of Marketing (MMark) degree. Several students from the Master of Management in Health Care (MMHC) and the Executive MBA (EMBA) programs who graduated in 2016 also participated in the ceremony.

M. Eric Johnson, Ralph Owen Dean and Bruce D. Henderson Professor of Strategy, opened the day's ceremonies by saying, “This has been an amazing year at Owen, both inside and outside the classroom."

Dean Johnson & Adena FriedmanCommencement speaker Adena Friedman (MBA ‘93), CEO of Nasdaq, talked about the five skills she has found to be the most essential in her career, and she urged graduates to follow, “a path that leads you to a career you feel passionately about – and that will carry you through the many twists and turns that your life and your career will inevitably bring you.”

Watch the Commencement Address

Transcript: Commencement Address 2017  Transcript of Commencement Address

View Photos from Commencement Activities

View Photos from Awards Reception

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Awards and Recognition for Graduating Students

Aaron DornAaron Dorn, Founders Medalist

University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos awarded Aaron Dorn (MBA'17) the Founder's Medal for the Owen School in a morning ceremony at Memorial Gym. This award, originally endowed by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1877, is given to the MBA graduate who achieves the strongest record in personal, professional and academic performance.

Awards and Recognition for Faculty

Brian McCann Sarah Eaton (MBA '17), President of the Owen Student Government Association, presented the James A. Webb Excellence in Teaching Award to Brian McCann, Associate Professor of Strategic Management.

Mollie Saunders (EMBA '17) presented Professor McCann with the EMBA Faculty Teaching award.



Richard Willis, Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, announced the recipients of the Dean's Faculty Awards:

Jessica KennedyJessica Kennedy
Kennedy, Assistant Professor of Management, received the Dean's Research Productivity Award for her substantial recent work in the field of Organization Studies. She has been a faculty member at Owen since 2014 and has published numerous articles on power and status hierarchies, ethical behavior, and gender.

Karl HackenbrackKarl Hackenbrack
Hackenbrack, Associate Professor of Management, Associate Dean and Director of Accountancy, and Faculty Director of MAcc programs, received the Dean's Teaching Award. The focus of Hackenbrack’s scholarship is mandated corporate disclosure.


Craig LewisCraig Lewis
Lewis, the Madison S. Wigginton Professor of Finance, received the Dean's Impact Award. Lewis is a former Chief Economist of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His areas of expertise include financial market regulation, corporate finance, asset management, asset pricing, and financial accounting.


Other awards and recognition

At a ceremony held at Owen on Thursday, May 12, several students were recognized for their achievements:

  • Carrie Walker (MAcc ‘17) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Accountancy.

  • Arti Vula (MSF ‘17) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Science in Finance.

  • Kathryn Brassfield (Mmark ’17) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Marketing. 

  • Michael Foster (MBA '17) received the Matt Wigginton Leadership Award, awarded for outstanding performance in finance.

  • Sarah Eaton (MBA '17) was presented with the H. Igor Ansoff Award, which recognizes original and creative contributions to the school.

  • Leslie Parrish (MBA '17) and Jaime Rincon (MBA ’17) were awarded the Flournoy A. Coles Jr. Prize in recognition of international studies.

  • Michael Foster (MBA '17) was chosen to receive the Financial Executives Institute Award for outstanding academic performance in both accounting and finance.

  • Mollie Saunders (EMBA '17) received the Martin S. Geisel Leadership Award.

  • Jerry Buchanan (EMBA '17) received the EMBA Academic Award.

Twenty-five graduating students were presented with the Owen Service Award for outstanding effort and energy in leadership, community involvement and student life. They are:

  • Jess Bialas, MBA ‘17
  • Stephanie Verheyen, MMark ‘17
  • Matthew Brown, MBA ‘17     
  • Ralph Caputo, MSF ‘17
  • Caroline Collins, MBA ‘17
  • Nate Connolly, MBA ‘17
  • Chris Culver, MBA ‘17
  • Mike Foster, MBA ‘17     
  • Eddie Franklin, MAcc ‘17
  • Chemitra Clay-Glenn, MBA ‘17
  • Meredith Harding, MSF ‘17
  • Prince Huang, MBA ‘17
  • Julia Iyo, MBA ‘17
  • Kirsten Kelly, MBA ‘17
  • Brian Modisett, MBA ‘17
  • Taylor Moore, MBA ‘17
  • James Murray, MBA ‘17
  • Angie Nguyen, MBA ‘17
  • Leslie Parrish, MBA ‘17
  • Sid Raghuraman, MBA ‘17
  • Jay Romano, MBA ‘17
  • Harkirat Sareen, MBA ‘17
  • Joe Starnes, MBA ‘17        
  • Taylor Triana, MBA ‘17 
  • Kartik Varma, MBA ‘17

11 EMBA Students received Owen Honors:

  • Justin Belles (EMBA '17)
  • Jerry Buchanan (EMBA '17)
  • Michael Carlson (EMBA '17)
  • Andrea Gomirato (EMBA '17)
  • Laurel Graefe (EMBA '17)
  • Rachel Kippenbrock (EMBA '17)
  • Mollie Saunders (EMBA '17)
  • DeWayne Todd (EMBA '17)
  • Grant Todd (EMBA '17)
  • Jeremy Wilkinson (EMBA '17)
  • David Wood (EMBA '17)

Commencement 2017

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management is ranked as a top institution by BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times and Forbes. For more information about Owen, visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.