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Student Experiences

Thinking Like Leaders

Reducing the compensation of a CEO by half is not an easy decision. But for board members with shareholders to consider, tough decisions like these are sometimes necessary.

Corporate boards of directors deal with situations like this all the time. Students, on the other hand, do not. But in MBA 623, Corporate Governance, grad students get the chance to practice making high-level decisions under the tutelage of professionals who’ve been there in real life.

“It was helpful to go through the process and think like a leader, think like an executive,” says Kirk Snider, who took the course before graduating in April with his MBA. “It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.”

Accounting professor Steve Albrecht used his extensive experience to develop the course. He has served on nine boards of directors, including those of SkyWest Airlines, Red Hat Inc., Cypress Semiconductor, SunPower Corporation, and the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. Albrecht taught the course up until his retirement in April. Rich Herlin, National Advisory Council member and retired Deloitte partner, is taking over the class beginning this fall semester and will be using Albrecht’s curriculum and text. Students say the professors’ backgrounds in the business world make the class particularly informative.

“We would look at the theoretical side, but then Professor Albrecht would talk about his actual experience with the situation,” Snider says. “He could tell us about the outcomes and whether they were right or wrong from his perspective. It gave a depth that you don’t often get with classes.”

Students work through decisions such as how and when to issue stock, when to sell a corporation, and how to finance acquisitions. The class also incorporates subjects that students have learned throughout their academic careers—including finance, strategy, marketing, and supply chain management—to form a full picture of running a corporation.

Herlin says he enjoyed collaborating with Albrecht to take over the course and hopes his teaching will have a positive impact on students as they enter the business world.

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In MBA 623, students get an exclusive look into decisions usually reserved for those in the boardroom.
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“As a result of my exposure to boards, I’m sharing some of my experiences and insight, as well as some well-known examples of how people may have unintentionally gone wrong,” Herlin says.

During his time at Deloitte, Herlin worked with clients such as Dow Chemical Company, Abbott Laboratories, Orbitz Worldwide, and Comcast Corporation. Dealing with the audit committees of so many boards has given him a unique perspective on what it takes to run a company ethically and efficiently. Herlin also serves on the board of the nonprofit Rising Star Outreach and plans on using the knowledge he has gained there to discuss the differences between for-profit and nonprofit boards.

As for Snider, he is hoping to someday be nominated to sit on a corporate board. In the meantime, he recently entered the workforce in a consulting position in Salt Lake City.

“As a young professional who wants to be successful, it’s always good to hear about that type of experience and apply it to my career,” he says. “I would love to work in a board setting. After taking the class, I can understand the path to get there and the challenges that come with it.”

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Article written by Angela Marler