Back to School: Alums Reconnect Through Free Class Audits

At Crummer, the bond between past and present is not just a notion; it’s a vibrant reality. We are passionate about our alums being lifelong learners, and we’re thrilled to delve into a truly special tradition—alumni returning to audit classes at no cost. Picture this: seasoned professionals, once students themselves, stepping back into the familiar halls of academia, eager to engage, learn, and contribute once again. 

A group of seven alums returned for our Family Business in the 21st Century course taught by Mike Kazazis 07MBA and Dr. Kyle Meyer ’00MBA, Executive-in-Residence for Accounting. In this article, we will hear from three of them, sharing their insights into why they came back and the value of continuing their education.  

Auditing a class offers alums a unique opportunity to deepen their expertise in specific areas, refine their skill sets, or stay abreast of the latest industry trends without the pressure of grades or academic obligations. Ultimately, the decision to return reflects a shared commitment to personal and professional growth, as well as a profound appreciation for the transformative power of education.  

“I’ve always been an avid learner and had looked forward to auditing classes even before I graduated,” said Melinda Green 06MBA, co-founder of Emissary of Deals and founder of Fiat Lux Rentals. “I came back to Crummer because I value my connection with the school, am confident of the high-quality instruction I will receive, and appreciate that one of the many value-adds provided to alumni is tuition/fee waiver for auditors.” 

For Julia Smith 07MBA, the managing director at Letting Property Management LLC, it was all about the right time and the right place in her career: “As I looked toward this year and the future of our family business I had so many questions. As I was pondering how to answer the what ifs and hows, I found this class and I am so happy to be here.” 

shail derashiShail Derashi 11MBA (pictured) had fond memories of the faculty’s dedication to the students and the structure of the courses. “With the advancement in technology and a change in the way businesses run, especially after COVID, I felt the need to update my learnings, and I saw no better place than Crummer to do that. 

Returning to the classroom can be a nostalgic experience, absorbing the sights and sounds that echoed through the halls from years prior. Melinda would agree: “Returning feels like coming home after an extended absence. The familiarity of the environment creates a warm, welcoming, and comfortable atmosphere, fostering an unspoken camaraderie among students, alumni, faculty, and staff. There’s a sense of belonging and mutual acceptance. 

Shail also feels like she is back at home, and she is enjoying it. To be able to walk the same halls, and fill the same seats that I did, is as exciting as it is nostalgic. It is said that we retain something better when we have fun learning it. Auditing a class at Crummer is one such experience.” 

For Julia, she’s been interested in connecting with the newer students around her. It’s fun to sit and not only have fun memories pop up but also listen to the current students thought trains.Connecting with students who are earlier in their MBA journeys can expose alums to new and different ways of thinking.  

The Family Business class has always been a particular favorite for many students. “The knowledge pool from the industry that this class pulls is outstanding. Hearing firsthand from top leaders and professionals is a humbling, enriching, and motivational experience. This class has definitely provided me with takeaways that are often reserved for the board members of an organization,” Shail said. 

Melinda agrees about the nature of the speakers: “Something that stands out to me is the remarkable quality of our guest speakers. Their generosity in sharing profound insights and expertise on the intricate dynamics of family business is truly admirable. With only 3% of family businesses making it to the fourth generation, it is astounding that some of our speakers come from companies in that exclusive group.” 

family business
Andrea Massey-Farrell

Different speakers had varying impacts on the alums based on what their backgrounds were. For Julia, Andrea Massey-Farrell ’98 of Massey Services was particularly impactful. She’s the president and CEO of the Harvey and Carol Massey Foundation. “For me Andrea Massey has been a standout speaker in that she has a unique take on the family business and how she contributes. As a family they have such a clear path and vision for the future and look back to the past with great reverence of their humble beginnings.” 

Christina Hollerbach, CEO of Hollerbach’s German Restaurant, was poignant for Shail. “Self-compassion is one of the most critical and valuable takeaways that I gathered from her talk. The chaos of managing multiple roles in a business can be a harsh experience if there isn’t self-compassion. The application of this learning cannot just boost efficiency but is also a very welcome and very refreshing change in perspective that business owners often overlook or give less consideration to—the priority of self.” 

David Duda and Robert Finfrock

Melinda related to Allen Finfrock ’97MBA CEO of FINFROCK: “Allen Finfrock’s presentation reminded me of my grandfather who became a hotelier and real estate investor. Finfrock’s hotel work interested and resonated with me the most, and I am excited to see how the new Universal hotels turn out. Allen’s emphasis that family members need to work in all departments (I have done every job at our company including housekeeping and maintenance), the continued work presence of his father in his 80s (my grandfather was regularly at work before 6am until he died), and his assertion that if you are not failing in a small way, you are not pushing enough, all rang true.” 

Melinda, Christina, and Julia are all finding their class auditing experience nostalgic yet valuable, gaining new insights from the faculty, the various guest speakers, and the content of the Family Business course. Any alum can audit a class for free for life. More details can be found on our website.