2016 Best EMBAs: Joshua Sanborn, Michigan State (Broad)

Joshua Sanborn Michigan State

Joshua Andrew Sanborn

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

The “go-to” guy in the program … The “epitome of excellence”

Age: 30

Location: Berkley, Michigan

Family Members: Meghan (wife), Mac (son), Taylin (foster daughter), Tessa (foster daughter), Baby Sanborn (arriving June 2016), Monty (wiener dog)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Michigan State University, BA in Finance

Where are you currently working? Ilitch Holdings Inc. — manager of Ilitch Charities, which is an NPO where I implement numerous charitable initiatives supported by the Ilitch-owned companies including the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, and Little Caesars Pizza. I routinely collaborate with senior executive management across the companies to identify strategic goals to further our nonprofit’s position as a community leader in the city of Detroit.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • Selected as commencement speaker for MSU EMBA Class of 2016 (proudest academic achievement given my family’s extensive history with the university) and helped lead the 2016 Class Gift Campaign
  • Lead small-group Bible study and actively involved in Kensington Community Church
  • Volunteered for 14 separate political campaigns
  • Co-founder of a nonprofit charitable organization, The Noble Cause
  • Coordinate extensive community volunteerism for Ilitch companies’ colleagues during and after business hours
  • Ability to maintain humility, because while I rarely feel awkward in most circumstances, I still find it tough to humbly discuss personal achievements

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Maintaining my commitment to small-group leadership through my church was something that was extremely important to me during this program. While my hours of sleep generally decreased welcoming new children into our home, I held onto my faith and helped foster the faith of others. It would have been much simpler to put this role aside during the program, but I am extremely proud of the example that I’ve hopefully set for my children that their personal Christian faith always needs to be the priority.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I recently served in an interim director’s role with the Detroit Red Wings for nearly 18 months during this program, while dually maintaining my current position within Ilitch Charities. Not only has my role has allowed me to seamless rotate between many for-profit businesses, but I’ve also been able to help develop a number of the fundraising methods currently used by our professional sports franchises (namely moving toward The District Detroit development). I am also proud that practically every professional role I have had thus far has been personally created for me, which has afforded me the opportunity to help develop a philanthropic industry that desperately needs innovative and strategic thinkers. I like to consider myself a bit of a trailblazer that somehow still exists in a world where everything seems to already have been invented and developed.

Who is your favorite professor? Gerry McNamara — he challenged the inherent way that I think and my decision-making processes. He spoke to us like peers and clearly had a great deal of knowledge and personal experience related to the material, which made him that much more inspiring and believable.

Favorite MBA Courses? Strategic Management, Legal Environment of Business, Ethics and Entrepreneurship.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I’m a Spartan at heart and it’s something I’ve always dreamed of achieving. This program would bring immense honor to my family, help progress my career, and create a sense of pride that wasn’t matched by any other option. With that said, I made sure to research all other EMBA programs and lean on many recent graduates I knew personally for feedback to make sure the commitment was worth it, to which their response was a resounding “Yes!” I also had an extremely honest discussion with the executive director of the program, which gave me the final motivation to join.

What did you enjoy most about business school? My team. The collaborative environment was incredible and not easily replicated in any other circumstance. I enjoyed building a core network of individuals that I will always have a connection to, personally and professionally. Seeing the aspirations and dreams of others start to materialize, no matter what stage in the careers, was also inspiring. I always had this calming sense throughout the program that whatever business venture I attempt in the future, these people would somehow be involved. This sense created the confidence and motivation I needed to keep moving forward.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? How much my fellow students, staff, and leadership in the program actually wanted me to succeed. I fully recognize the program ranking component tied to my future successes, but everyone in our class still genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I never got the sense that there was a “cut-throat” mentality anywhere. It was extremely challenging and competitive, but not to the point of ever feeling discouraged by others in the program.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Get your company’s leadership and your family involved from day one. Apply concepts directly to work projects, and consistently explain to your family/children/spouse why you’re doing what you’re doing. You also need to come to the realization that everyone in this program is balancing an incredible amount of external demands, so have some empathy for each other, as the program was designed specifically for people who desire balance in their lives. If you’re ever discouraged, you can always think of my example as I made it through the program before the age of 30 (with my sanity) working two jobs with three kids under four years old at home, and another one on the way … and there were many of my fellow students with much more challenging circumstances!

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Be prepared for the commitment, but also be open with your team on the need to balance personal and professional demands. There will be times when they’ll need to lean on you as much as you need to lean on them. Also, recognize the importance of connecting with your peers in other programs, as the source of many great ideas can come from those discussions. And finally, get involved in as many networking opportunities as possible early on, so you are able to easily stay connected after graduation.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I saw areas in my company that needed improvement, I knew this degree would help me get to the next level, and I stopped thinking that I wasn’t ready or experienced enough to get it done.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Heavily regretting the last two years. I am confident I’d still be passionate in my career, but would not have the tools necessary to truly achieve my long-term goals. I would also be greatly missing all the relationships I’ve gained in this program.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Difficult question. Rather than singling someone out, or googling “greatest entrepreneurs,” I admire any executive or entrepreneur who displays selflessness, sacrifices, and seeks out opportunities to develop others. If pressed, the most impactful group of leaders in my life are public officials who have maintained their personal ethics through intense public scrutiny.

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to be the greatest community leader in the history of the city of Detroit, and I want to elevate corporate community responsibility to unprecedented levels. I also hope to have at least partial ownership in a number of different bars/restaurants among other business ventures in my life, often playing the role of guest bartender.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? (And why?) Not a cliché …To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for giving me the wisdom and awareness to succeed. To my wife, Meghan. She carried me through, complained way less than I did (though I know it was hard on her), and displayed the patience required at home in our rather hectic lives for me to be successful in this program. I do also thank my children for giving me the motivation to set an example for what they will one day hopefully achieve. And sincerest thanks to the members of my team, the Troy staff and the 50 years of MSU EMBA alumni who set the bar extremely high before me.

Fun fact about yourself: I married my high school sweetheart. Also, my family has been in politics and/or public office for more than 100 years, which has developed an extremely thick skin that makes me borderline impossible to offend on a personal level.

Favorite book: The Bible

Favorite movie: Tommy Boy (with The Sandlot a close second)

Favorite musical performer: Impossible to determine, so I will go with the entire 80s decade.

Favorite television show: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (“Breaking Bad,” “Seinfeld” and “Modern Family” tied for second)

Favorite vacation spot: Up North (Michiganders will know what I’m talking about)

Hobbies? Avid sport, music, movie, animal, and craft beer enthusiast. Big fan of fresh cut grass in the spring/summer and love every activity associated with the autumn season. I also really love checking out dive bars with trivia nights, and have had some of the most incredible discussions in my life at those locations

What made Joshua such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“At the beginning of the program for the Class of ’16, Joshua stood out as a motivator, leader, get the job done, bleeds ‘Green and White’ kind of guy. His ability to key in on class discussions, embrace new material and respect and admire … not only the staff and professors, but also his classmates made Joshua a stand-out among his peers. Joshua was always the ‘go-to’ guy in the program when you wanted something done.As he mentioned in the above nomination form, he was extremely instrumental in getting his classmates to participate in the Class Gift Campaign … giving back to the university. Because of Joshua’s professionalism, kindness, and enthusiasm, he was chosen the class speaker at the commencement ceremony … a very prestigious honor. As you read his words, you find Joshua’s love of faith, family, career and university something to greatly admire.

“At this time I respectfully submit to Poets&Quants Joshua Sanborn as the ‘epitome of excellence’ in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business Executive MBA Class of 2016. Thank you!”

Denise M Doyle

Program Coordinator

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business — Executive MBA/Troy



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