Diverse MBAs increasingly break the stereotype at graduate schools

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Vernon Rowland, left, and Pleasant Radford Jr., recent MBA grads of the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas, brought different life and backgrounds to the program.

Photo: Neal ST. Anthony • Star Tribune,

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As America diversifies, so are its business ranks and MBA classes.

Meet Vernon Rowland and Pleasant Radford Jr., recent MBA graduates of the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas.

Both in their 30s, the two men also brought different life and work backgrounds to the program. They are accomplished, humble guys who say they benefited from their grad school experience.

“I knew something about health and health care but I needed to learn the language of business,” said Radford, 31, a Chicago native who spent two years before business school in the Peace Corps, working in basic health, nutrition, sexual and maternal health in rural Nicaragua. “I came here because the Twin Cities has a strong health care perspective.”

Before the Peace Corps, Radford worked for urban nonprofits in a public health program allied with the University of Chicago Medical Center.

“The St. Thomas program taught me about how to conduct business and do it ethically,” said Radford, who joins UnitedHealth Group as a leadership trainee in July.

Rowland, 36, once a homeless kid, graduated from DeLaSalle High School and Bethel College and is the married father of two children. He has worked as a security guard, IT technician and fledgling entrepreneur. He’s joining Boom Labs, the IT consulting business.

“It wasn’t just the academics, but the dynamics of group work in business school that was meaningful,” Rowland said. “It was inspired learning, and about personal development.”

Chris Puto, dean of the UST business school, said the UST “Outreach Scholars” program meets the demands of recruiters increasingly seeking graduates of varying backgrounds and life experiences.

“We are delighted with the success of the UST program and the positive effect it has had on all of our students,” Puto said. These scholarships are valuable. The full-time St. Thomas MBA tab is $63,600.

And if you show up at local graduate programs, particularly at schools such as St. Mary’s University and Augsburg, you will see more and more female and minority students.

Century-old Toro rings bullish bell

CEO Mike Hoffman of the Toro Co. rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday to herald the company’s 100th anniversary this summer.

The Bloomington-based manufacturer got its start in 1914 building engines for the Bull Tractor Company, a maker of small farm tractors. Toro’s first plant was in St. Paul.

In 1918, Toro built a power fairway roller for the Minneapolis Golf Club, beginning its long history of innovative products for the golf and turf industries. In 1919 Toro was approached by the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis to build the first motorized fairway mower for the golf industry and in 1938 it designed its first power mower specifically for the residential market.

The big celebration is on July 10. A website filled with historical information and images is at www.toro.com/100

Patrick Kennedy

Schuler Shoes fits in Anniversary

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