Advice to MBA grads dished out 'Disney style'

From Pocahontas to Eeyore, life lessons derived from some of The Walt Disney Company’s most popular characters highlighted a Friday Commencement address by Duke Regional Hospital President Kathleen Galbraith to the newest graduates of Elon’s MBA program.


Knowledge and wisdom can be found in the most unusual of places, such as animated movies intended for children but with life-affirming themes recognized by adults. It’s the simple messages, delivered in unassuming ways, that can resonate the most – even for powerful business executives.

Just ask Kathleen “Katie” Galbraith G’07.

Eight years after graduating from Elon’s MBA program, the current president of Duke Regional Hospital returned to campus Friday evening for a lively Commencement address to 55 students graduating from the Master of Business Administration program in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

Galbraith joked in Whitley Auditorium that at her age, she hardly feels old enough to impart much wisdom, but she finds powerful meaning in everyday occurences. One such object that gives her daily inspiration is a paperweight she received last year from her sister inscribed with a quote from Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

It was in that spirit that she cited five other Disney characters or song lyrics that offered life advice in both professional and family life.

Katie Galbraith G'07, president of Duke Regional Hospital
Rapunzel: “Venture outside your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it.” Whether aiming for a promotion or trying something new, Galbraith said, graduates should take risks. Risks are what led her to her position with Duke Regional Hospital, and they set up a powerful choice by allowing people to stay comfortable, or challenge themselves to grow.

Merida, from the movie “Brave”: “You control your destiny. You don’t need magic to do it. And there are no magical shortcuts to solving your problems.” Galbraith said she was surrounded by people willing to let her take risks without fear of failure and that she was the beneficiary of being in the right place, at the right time, more than once. However, no one made decisions for her. She took ownership of those choices.

Pocahontas: “You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.” Diversity matters. If you surround yourself with people who think and look like you, you may get lots of agreement and nodding heads, but at what cost? A lack of diversity diminishes innovation.

Timon, Pumbaa and Simba from “The Lion King”: “Hakuna matata!” The phrase may be Swahili for “no worries,” but it also reminds her “not to sweat the little stuff” and to lead by example. Be accessible to loved ones without being glued to a phone, Galbraith said. Try not to worry if your house doesn’t look perfect, and take quality time away from work. Time away makes people better spouses, parents and leaders.

Eeyore: “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Galbraith asked graduates to ask how they wanted to be known at the end of their lives. She wants to be remembered for how she treats those around her. All leaders have an incredible responsibility and are “nothing on our own,” she said. Treat others with respect and dignity.

Galbraith also praised her graduate school alma mater for the bonds she maintains with her classmates and professors. She called on the graduates seated before her to commit to continue supporting each other and to stay connected.

“Eight years later, I can tell you I’m so incredibly proud to be an Elon MBA alum,” she said. “Elon is a special place. It’s unique not because of the academics … but because of the relationships. The relationships among students, faculty and staff. There is such a sense of community that I fell every time I come onto this campus that you just don’t get anyplace else.”

Galbraith, who became president of Duke Regional Hospital in 2014, has held various posts there since 2001, from marketing and business development to hospital operations.  In addition to her work at Duke Regional, Galbraith served as the president of the board of directors of Lincoln Community Health Center from 2010-2013.

Galbraith was the public relations manager for Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center prior to joining Duke Regional, and has also worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and an MBA degree from Elon University.

Amy L. Milslagle G'15
Galbraith also is a member of the American Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

The Commencement program featured remarks as well from Amy L. Milslagle, selected by peers to speak on behalf of the class. Milslagle quoted at length “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss.”

Milslagle pointed out that Suess’ first book was rejected 27 times before it found a publisher, and that smaller failures are often found on the longer road to achieving dreams.

“Today is the first day of a journey that will inevitably take you through hills and valleys,” said Milslagle, who shared her story of experiencing three layoffs in three years before excelling in her current role with Lenovo. “Life will happen, but failure does not have to define you. It can give you the strength and motivation to define what life can become.”

Degrees conferred by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert at the Commencement program were presented by Elon Provost Steven House, with Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, and Professor Bill Burpitt, associate dean for graduate and executive programs, awarding the diplomas.

Elon President Leo M. Lambert
In his charge to graduates to conclude the evening, Lambert quoted the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who said “character is destiny.”

“As we have seen too often of late in every sphere of public life—government, business, religion, entertainment, sports—bright, accomplished people can create a world of chaos and harm when they are no longer guided by their ethical and spiritual bearings,” Lambert said, asking graduates to use their new knowledge in a manner reflected in the university motto of “Numen Lumen,” Latin for “spiritual light” and “intellectual light.”

“As alumni of Elon University and among the most highly educated people on this planet, I charge you to carry one light into the world with you—Numen and Lumen—fused, and inseparable. Knowledge and character, fused. Shining intellect and strong ethical and moral codes, seamlessly connected. Intellectual and spiritual light for a world crying out for your leadership.

“Long live Elon!”

Candidates for the Master of Business Administration in the Class of 2015:

Kara Adams
Dawn Marie Anderson
Daniel Jerry Bates
Byron Lee Bellman
James Courtney Campbell
Scott Olen Christopherson
John David Clark, Jr.
Matthew Landon Clark
John Patrick Clougherty
Teresa Ann Conner-Kerr
Margaret Elizabeth Gabriel Cooley
Aaron Michael Day
Melissa Ann Deaton
Grant Christian De Roo
Katharine Rebecca Ford
Derek James Foy
Christopher William Franchi
Lindsay Campora Frazier
Joshua Miles Glessner
Brent Parker Hampton
William Frantz Herr III
Stephen Henri Hill
Juanita Jarvis Hopkins
Jonathan Gray Hunter
Jaronda Michelle Ingram
Shekar R. Jakati
Adam Jared Kindley
Sriyesh Krishnan
Olufemi Arthur Lamikanra
Amber Miche Lavinder
Tristan Newman Long
Lowry Simone Lovell
Matthew James McGovern
Jonathan Howard Lewis Miller
Amy Lee Milslagle
Elena Gonchikovna Musty
Katie Irene Nelson
Jessica Cole Odom
Brian Claude Piantadosi
Julie Anne Prouty
Joseph Anthony Rachkoskie
Mary Louise Pombo Reed
Kim Feng Satterfield
Bryan Henry Scherich
Howard Michael Simon
Jeremy Wayne Teetor
Jessica Lynn Townsend
Terrence Ainsworth Turner
Michael Andres Varela
Eric Steven Vidana
Zongyao Wang
Ursula Denise Warren
John Stuart Watlington
Allen Charles Witherspoon
Li Wu