2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Tammy Hannah, Michigan State (Broad)

Tammy Hannah

Michigan State University, Eli Broad College of Business

Age: 42

“A devoted wife, mother, executive, and disability advocate who’s determined to enjoy a fulfilling life.”

Hometown: East Lansing, MI

Family Members: Eric Hannah (husband), Avery Hannah (10-year-old daughter), Callie Hannah (8-year-old daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy playing foosball (a lot!) and I could play it for hours straight if time allowed. I enjoy the fun time with friends/family and the competitiveness involved in a good challenge.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy, Saginaw Valley State University

Where are you currently working? President and CEO at Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • Brain Injury Association of Michigan – Vice-Chairperson on the Board of Directors (Incoming Chair June 2020)
  • Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault – Executive Committee Member and Board of Director
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities International – Administrative and Program Surveyor for Medical Rehabilitation programs
  • Disability Network Capital Area – Vice-Chairperson on the Board of Directors
  • Athena Award Nominee (2017 and 2018)
  • Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center Awards
    • 2015 – Business Operations Award
    • 2006 – Madhav Kulkarni Award of Clinical Excellence
    • 2004 – Employee of the Year Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? When I entered business school, I knew my plate was already full in parenting two small children and running a fast-growing 130+ employee operation. I recognized the 20-month commitment to a rigorous schedule and challenging academia would impact my usual routines and extracurricular activities. With the support of my family, I am most proud of my ability to maintain my level of involvement on the nonprofit boards in which I serve. Serving the community through my volunteer work on local nonprofit boards is fulfilling to me. While time was limited and difficult to find, the advocacy work toward important causes was rewarding and provided balance for me amongst other commitments.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my early career promotion to executive leadership after four years of graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy. I was promoted at a time the organization needed strong leadership and direction. It became invigorating, exciting, and rewarding to help an organization meet so many needs in the community while carrying out its mission. My experiences so early in my career has served as a strong foundation to my success as a leader. My passion is rooted in positively impacting others through my leadership which has given me opportunities to learn, grow, and challenge myself and others.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? There are numerous reasons that led me to select MSU’s executive MBA program. The program’s strong reputation, the proximity to my home and work, the high recommendations from friends who are program alumni, and being a life-long Spartan fan are top reasons. Yet, the primary reason for selecting this program was the concentration on integrated management. My 20-year career success has been rooted in applying a collaborative approach and recognizing the power of teamwork, creativity, innovation, and leveraging diversity. MSU’s executive MBA program understands how integrated management is critical to business success. The academic structure, professors, and course assignments all emphasized the importance of bringing various skillsets together and learning how to work as a team so great outcomes can be achieved.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? When I applied for business school, I was confident that I would possess many new skills and have a stronger understanding of business tools/concepts upon graduation. What I did not plan on (and what I ended up enjoying most) is the life-long friendships and memories that were created. My cohort became very connected with one another, which served as a significant source of support throughout the experience.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained during my MBA is there are very minimal black and white routes to getting to the end result. Meaning, we learned various concepts and applications in each course. Some of those concepts and applications contradicted others. At first, the contradictions were frustrating, but then I realized that each concept or application is a tool. You can arrive to the same strategic decision despite taking different routes (or applying different concepts). An MBA does not give you the recipe for running a business or being a successful executive. An MBA does provide you with many tools to apply based on the given situation. The more I applied the concepts learned in the classroom setting to my place of employment, the more I recognized the importance of knowing the various tools available and using them as it makes sense to the given situation.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I knew juggling full-time work, a young family, and a challenging academic program was going to be difficult for me and my family. At the start of the juggling act (the start of the program), I recognized the need to identify rubber versus glass balls in the air. The rubber balls could be dropped, if necessary, as they would eventually bounce back up without issue. The glass balls were a different story. These were the balls (decisions, activities, opportunities, etc.) that were fragile and I had to avoid dropping them as there wouldn’t be another chance to add them back into the juggling act later.

Despite making this distinction to help lift the pressure, I fell into a trap of my own where I didn’t want any of the balls to be dropped – not at home, work, or school. The pressure was building up as I tried to be all do all without easing up on my commitments where possible. One Saturday evening after I came home from a full day at school, I was sitting at the dinner table with my family. I was stressed and sharing details about a challenging work situation that occurred before Friday’s class. I shared how my morning class was so overwhelming and I didn’t think I’d be able to grasp the material. I went on to express how sorry I was to both of my daughters’ for missing their soccer games that day because of my schooling. I’ll never forget my 10-year-old daughter (8 years old at the time), reaching her hand across the dinner table to hold my hand, looking me in the eyes, and saying “Mommy, you are doing a good job. We will have more soccer games! This won’t be forever”. It was at that moment when it struck me that I needed to breathe, be present, and be kind to myself. I reminded myself of my end goal and how the temporary chaos was just that…temporary. Not every ball in the air as part of the juggling act is fragile.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is it’ll be more difficult the older you get. I did not find this to be accurate. As one of the older individuals in my program’s cohort, I felt my years of experience helped me to readily apply concepts to life examples. I found myself engaged at a deeper level in classroom discussions because of the relevant application to current and past workplace experiences. Learning is lifelong and age does not matter!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Mary Schug-Barnhardt. When I met Mary at the start of the program, she had a toddler and was three months pregnant. I was continuously impressed with her intelligence, confidence, and leadership amongst the cohort, her career success, grit, resilience, and the fact that her juggling act included welcoming a baby into her life after six months into the program. It takes a strong woman to accomplish everything she did throughout the program. I am thankful to have met Mary and to have established a lifelong friendship with her.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… my daughters reached an age where they could understand the reason I had school commitments AND when my company was growing at a pace that needed me to have broader business skills, tools, and best practices to successfully navigate its upcoming obstacles and opportunities.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?

I will continue to be a servant leader in a nonprofit organization where I’ll challenge myself and the status quo to best fulfill the mission and impact the greater whole. My MBA experience has provided me with a more sophisticated and strategic approach to business.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as an authentic, team oriented, hardworking, compassionate,  and helpful peer who cared about their success as much as my own.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I want to enjoy an international travel experience with my family to Italy. Returning to Maui with my husband where we were engaged.

What made Tammy such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“It is my pleasure to recommend Tammy Hannah for Best & Brightest. Over the course of her 20-month academic journey, Tammy has been a true collaborator with her Executive MBA cohort. Her genuine and thoughtful approach to team dynamics has yielded her the highest respect from her classmates. Furthermore, Tammy’s experience as an executive-level manager is demonstrated in her excellent results in the classroom.”

Kara Tripi
Assistant Director – Broad Executive MBA


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