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Owen Forward Highlights Alumni Business Leaders

by Feb. 25, 2021, 3:25 PM

The Vanderbilt community was invited to hear unique insights and discussions with business leaders and innovators at Owen Forward, a weeklong virtual celebration of Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. Held Nov. 9–13, the series featured Owen alumni, faculty and students presenting on topics including managing through crises, social enterprise, entrepreneurship and more.

Attendees were also given a behind-the-scenes preview of the extensive renovation and expansion of Owen’s Management Hall. The project is made possible in part by the generous support of 20 sets of donors—known as the Owen Century Partners—who have committed more than $13 million toward building upgrades and enhancements.

Several alumni shared their business experiences and advice during Owen Forward, including Cindy Kent, MBA’99, executive vice president and president of senior living, Brookdale Senior Living Inc. Kent discussed how her organization solidified its position as a trusted industry partner when the pandemic began, as others turned to it for guidance on ways to keep residents safe. Geoff Walker, MBA’94, CEO and president, KidKraft, explored the importance of cultivating a culture of risk and disruption to drive innovation in the toy industry.

Paul Jacobson, MBA’97, who recently joined General Motors as executive vice president and CFO after many years with Delta Air Lines, underscored the importance of adhering to brand values and promises in times of upheaval. Peter Jueptner, MBA’89, president EMEA, Estee Lauder Companies Europe Inc., emphasized the importance of setting the tone for one’s team while managing through a crisis.

“You need to lead with strength, compassion and empathy,” he says. “You have to always lead with a smile.”

Owen Forward culminated in a keynote address by Adena Friedman, MBA’93, CEO of Nasdaq, on the future of capitalism, which she described as “the best model to maximize the human potential.” Friedman highlighted Nasdaq’s drive to promote “inclusive capitalism,” which aims to provide people with equal access to opportunities, in part by improving early education and addressing issues of systemic racial injustice and inequality.

Friedman also noted that while she believes there are several ways it could be improved upon, “the construct of capitalism is foundational to the success of this country, and frankly, to the global economy today.”
Recordings of select events from Owen Forward are available at vu.edu/owenforward.

—MORGAN KROLL

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