By ELLIOT GROSSMAN
Of the Williams College of Business
Jennifer Bush has influenced a generation of business students.
As senior executive director for MBA programs at the Williams College of Business, Bush has overseen the education of more than 3,000 MBA students.
Many were students who pursued their degrees while raising children and working fulltime. Time after time, despite the major obstacles they faced, Bush found a way to help them succeed.
“Jennifer Bush has provided extraordinary care for our students for many years,” said Ali Malekzadeh, dean of the Williams College. “Numerous alumni have mentioned that without her support they would not have succeeded in completing their Xavier MBA program.”
Now, Bush is being recognized for her accomplishments. She has been promoted to assistant dean for graduate programs at the Williams College and honored as a finalist for the Athena Award, honoring professional women in Greater Cincinnati.
Bush oversees the process of admitting, enrolling and graduating MBA students. Her duties will not change but her new title recognizes her achievements and stature.
With Bush managing the 10-person MBA staff, MBA programs have reached new heights. Five years ago, none of the national rankings even mentioned the Williams College. Now, the college’s part-time MBA program is ranked 14th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Six years ago, the MBA programs had 750 students. Now, they have 1,050.
A key to Bush’s success is the way she deals with people. With technology taking over so many personal interactions, Bush is concerned about people having fewer personal contacts. So despite overseeing programs with more than 1,000 students, Bush regularly makes time for students in need.
"I like to think that by treating people humanely, I am making a difference in the world,” she said.
Bush, of Milford, sends cards and gifts to students when they have children. In return, students do something usually reserved for family members and friends, not for the head of MBA programs: They send her photos of their newborn children.
Student after student can tell stories about Bush advising them on their educational and career goals, solving a financial dilemma involving tuition or fixing a problem with class schedules.
Thomas Neal needed help figuring out how to pay his tuition when outsourcing caused him to lose his job and tuition reimbursement. Bush found him grant money, a graduate assistant job and other financial support. “She never made me feel like I had imposed on her time,” said Neal, who went on to receive his MBA in 2004.
Bush helped Jodi Supinski Koehler finish her MBA degree, a remarkable feat considering Koehler had to stop and start her studies several times. A few months after Koehler enrolled, she got multiple sclerosis. A year later, her parents were killed in a plane crash. Meanwhile, the curriculum and academic requirements changed.
Bush gave Koehler personal attention to deal with college policies that needed to be waived, including the one imposing a time limit for completing an MBA degree.
“Jen was always so positive about it,” said Koehler, who finished in 6 ½ years. “ ‘We’ll find a solution. This isn’t a machine. We’ll help you get through.’ ”
Bush is even good at telling potential students they didn’t get admitted into the MBA programs or telling students they’re being kicked out of it, said Ann Marie Whelan, the MBA program’s assistant director. Her counseling background helps soothe potentially difficult situations.
Andre Williams, a 2007 MBA graduate, said Bush “does her job better than anyone I’ve seen in my entire life.”
Bush knew that Andre’s mother, Darlene Williams of Hyde Park, had sacrificed so her son could be the first in their family to graduate from college. So when Ms. Williams’ 50th birthday approached at the same time as her son’s MBA graduation, Bush had a special diploma prepared, acknowledging his mother’s role in helping him through college.
It was the first time Williams had seen his mother cry.
“I think she wakes up every morning thinking about what impact she can have on a person’s life,” he said about Bush.
Bush, who joined the college 11 years ago as an enrollment specialist, pays particular attention to women’s needs:
- She organized Xavier’s Women’s MBA Association, knowing women still face challenges in the workplace.
- She pioneered job-sharing for mothers at Xavier so she could continue working while raising two children. Her efforts made it possible for other working mothers to do the same at Xavier.
- She coaches, counsels and mentors female students and alumni to help them achieve their goals.
Her first effort to form the Women’s MBA Association, in the 2004-2005 school year, failed. But she persisted. Her second effort is highly successful.
To make it work, Bush sought advice from a national Women’s MBA group, recruited a strong female faculty member, Accounting Chair Sandra Richtermeyer, to serve as the faculty advisor, sent student leaders to a national training conference and recruited alumni to support the group. Now, the association has about 150 members.
“She’s been like the anchor for the ship,” said Raghu Tadepalli, former dean of the Williams College Graduate School. “Jen really has a burning desire to further the careers of women.”
To raise two children while running the MBA programs, Bush initially needed to be involved in a job-sharing program, but none existed at Xavier. So after she became pregnant in 2001 for the first time, she became the first employee to suggest a job-sharing program. It became a model that other employees have followed.
Now, no one at the Williams College has to choose between motherhood and their job. Bush’s own staff has used her job-sharing model.
“I don’t think I would survive without it and I don’t think my family would survive without it,” assistant director Whelan said. “Words cannot describe how important that is to me.”
Had Bush not blazed the trail, Whelan said she would have had to choose between her family and career.
Bush said it’s nothing more than following the Jesuit principle: Cura personalis – Care for the whole person.
“I’m able to treat people with more respect and professionalism than they’re going to find in many places,” she said.
Elliot Grossman, who handles public relations for the Williams College of Business, can be reached at email@example.com or 513-240-9801.