Love School of Business graduate students urged to embrace life’s ‘wow’ moments

The inaugural cohort of Master of Science in Accounting students and the newest classes of Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Management students received their diplomas during a May 23 ceremony in Whitley Auditorium.  

For Petar Tomic ’18, continuing his education at Elon as part of the university’s first Master of Science in Accounting class was a no-brainer. Originally from Belgrade, Serbia, Tomic moved to the United States in 2014 to play tennis and study psychology at Auburn University. But he wanted a personal connection with a more intimate learning environment, a place that would allow him to focus equally on academic opportunities.

That led him to Elon his junior year. In addition to joining the tennis team, he developed an interest in accounting thanks to dedicated professors who showed him his proclivity for working with numbers could lead to a rewarding career path.

“Elon really nurtures success, and that’s part of the reason I stayed,” Tomic said. “I wanted to be in that same environment with the same professors. And it was kind of cool to be one of the very first people admitted into the (master’s in accounting) program.” Next, Tomic will combine his passions for tennis and accounting as an accounting analyst at a tennis club in Hilton Head, South Carolina. One day he hopes to move to New York and open his own club.

​Tomic’s story is just one example of the hard work and dedication of the four Master of Science in Accounting graduates, five Master of Science in Management graduates and 42 Master of Business Administration graduates who received their diplomas May 23.

>> See photos from the graduation ceremony 

MBA student Jackie Morse, whose peers selected her to speak on behalf of the class, marveled at the accomplishments of her “exceptionally talented, motivated and driven” classmates, many of whom experienced major personal and professional achievements like establishing a career or starting a family while completing their studies. Morse herself has three children, the youngest of whom was born at the end of fall semester.

“Laura Vanderkam, a notable writer, author and speaker on the topics of work-life balance, career development and productivity, did her research on ‘really busy people’ and found that time is actually highly elastic. She discovered that time will actually stretch to accommodate what we choose to put in it,” Morse said. “Each and every one of us is proof of that. Completing this demanding yet enriching program was important to each of us for one reason or another and we made the time.” 

Joanne McCallie, head coach of the Duke University women’s basketball team, kicked off her keynote address by acknowledging the sacrifices the graduates and their loved ones made to reach this milestone. Speaking at this year’s Commencement was particularly meaningful for McCallie because her daughter Maddie was among the 2019 MBA graduates.

McCallie shared six key lessons with the graduates, a number she chose because it takes six victories to win a national title. She learned these lessons during her own experience as an MBA student at Auburn University and throughout her extensive coaching career, and she encouraged the class to consider them in everything that lies ahead beyond graduation.

As they embark on the next phase of their careers, McCallie urged the graduates to first and foremost surround themselves with great people. Choosing the right people to work with ultimately matters more than salary, location and other considerations, she said, citing her own decision to attend Auburn for graduate school. She knew she wanted to learn from the people there even though it meant moving from Chicago to rural Alabama.

Jackie Morse was selected by her peers to give this year's student address.
She also advised the class to not only prioritize the right network of people personally and professionally, but to truly cherish that human connection. “The only thing you will ever truly regret is how you spend your time,” McCallie said. “Spend it wisely – family, dear friends and relationships, and a commitment to people and challenges. Enjoy collaborating, and be healthy about your relationships.”

McCallie reminded the graduates that their voice matters regardless of their position or experience level, so they should always be willing to speak up and share ideas. She said having faith in yourself and your ability to cope with change and conflict is vitally important in the business world.

In addition to thinking deeply and working hard to be knowledgeable throughout their careers, McCallie also encouraged the students to feel deeply. “As I always tell my team, those things that hurt instruct,” she said. “Let them instruct you. There is a lot of hurt that we go through, and it’s part of growing. Keep going through the hurt and allow it to bring joy into your life.”

The graduates faced their share of challenges on the journey toward earning their master’s degrees, and McCallie underscored the importance of continuing to rise in the face of adversity. She shared a quote from Clemson University head football coach Dabo Swinney emphasizing that while adversity has the potential to destroy people, it can also define and develop them. It’s OK to be humbled, challenged and pushed outside your comfort zone, McCallie said, because it can ultimately empower you to be a more resilient and creative problem solver.

Joanne McCallie, head coach of the Duke University women's basketball team, delivered the keynote address.
Last but not least, McCallie reminded the class to celebrate all the “wow” moments that lie ahead of them in their careers and in their personal lives. “Celebrate that realization that you and all around you are changing for the better,” McCallie said. “Growth is clearly evident. Energy is renewed. Enormous possibilities exist for all of you. All you have to do is keep your heart in the action.”

In her charge to the class, President Connie Ledoux Book told the graduates that while they are about to enter a new chapter in their lives, they will forever remain connected to Elon. She challenged them to harness the knowledge they acquired during their Elon education to connect people in profound ways and to develop new enterprises and innovative ways of thinking.

“Elon’s values and traditions offer you guidance in every future challenge,” Book said. “Our values are posted in every classroom where you studied these past years. Let them be the guiding light in your personal and professional choices that you have ahead of you.”

Candidates for the Master of Business Administration degree

Osman Syed Ali

Robert Greg Amerson, Jr.

Justin Lee Amos

Rebecca Leigh Ashland

Lindsay Marie Atherton

Jamella Larese Banks

Thomas Gavin Bowie III

Victoria Van Vliet Brown

Sawyer Ellyn Butto

Katy Malone Coleman

Brielle Arianna Cornacchio

Dakota Allen Delk

Michael Anthony Drane II

John Hunter Fede

Chad Allen Ferguson

Meghan Partelow Fisher

Thomas J. Fitzgerald

Daniel Eduardo Garcia Rosales

Lindy Blankenship Hill

Morgan Morrisette Hood

Russell Lowell Hunter

Bradley William Knesel

Baxter Carr Knight

Madeline Clark McCallie

Jacqueline Anne Morse

Valerie A. Murrah

Tiffani Loreal Neal

Kara Lynn Nunnally

Ikenna Okankwu Nwokeji

Catherine MacIntyre O’Neill

Charles Anthony Perkins

Neal Port

LaTimethus Untwoneil Powell

Amna Rashid

Natacha Séverine Savioz

Melanie Ann Seidman

Thomas Alver Smith III

Michael Douglas Stretz, Jr.

Justin Everette Thompson

Viviana Vargas Vivanco

Joseph Michael Ward, Jr.

Ying Zhou

Candidates for the Master of Science in Accounting degree

Emma Christine Holderread

Ryan Joseph Madden

Andrew Warren Smith

Petar Tomic

Candidates for the Master of Science in Management degree

Sofija Anastasija Pitovski

Ross Daniel Rosati

Halley Anne Sickling

Ryan Allen Spaulding

Samuel Fitzpatrick Telman