2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Leslie Zeaman, Purdue University (Daniels)

Leslie Zeaman

Purdue University, Daniels School of Business

Age: 44

“Driven, trustworthy professional that’s willing to take on new challenges and who excels at execution.”

Hometown: Assumption, IL

Family Members: Husband, Andrew; Daughter, Ryanne (18); Son, Braden (16)

Fun fact about yourself: Today I live on a farm outside of Maroa, IL. When I’m not working (and now that school is done!) I spend some of my spare time helping my husband attend farmers markets to sell our strawberries, pumpkins, sweet corn, etc.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Millikin University, Bachelor of Science in Accounting

Where are you currently working? ADM, General Manager GreenWise Lactic LLC, a joint venture between ADM and LG Chem to produce lactic acid

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Beta Gamma Sigma, IMM 2022 Graduation Student Class Responder

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being invited to join Beta Gamma Sigma at the completion of my program, which meant that I finished in the top 20% of my class. I was able to achieve this recognition despite stepping away from the program for a period of time for personal reasons. Then with encouragement from those at Purdue and my cohort, I ended up rejoining the program and spent Christmas break in 2021 getting caught up and back on track. I graduated from the program with my original cohort.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had the opportunity to take a short-term assignment in Hamburg, Germany. I spent part of 2014 traveling between Germany and the US. While my kids were on summer break from school, I took them to Germany with me for 10 weeks and we spent the weekends enjoying Hamburg and other cities across the region.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Filip Caeldries. Filip taught strategy in the most compelling way with many practical approaches.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? With working at a large global company, I was really intrigued by the international aspect of the program from the background of the professors to the four international trips while most programs take one international trip. (We ended up taking three international trips instead of four due to COVID. However, I’m appreciative of Purdue/TIAS working to make those three trips happen considering the challenges of traveling during COVID.) The format of the program (8-10 weeks of online work each semester followed by two weeks of class in person) worked better for my family and career than a weekend program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The concept of integrative negotiations and how important it is to keep the relationship in mind with someone that you will have an ongoing partnership with. At the end of the program, I accepted a new role at my company leading a joint venture. Many times since I graduated, I’ve reflected on this concept as I’ve worked through various items with our joint venture partner as that relationship is very important to me as we’ll be in a partnership for many years to come.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I took a week vacation with my family during the program. I juggled work and school commitments during that time with my family by scheduling meetings and doing homework in the mornings while everyone else slept in. My kids are teenagers, so they like to sleep most of the morning especially on vacation! We had a long car drive so I also used that time in the car to do homework, primarily reading.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Talk to your family, your manager, and coworkers before class begins about the time commitment that school will require and how you plan to prioritize your commitments to them while you’re in the program. Then follow through and carve out time for those in your life. Make sure you’re really present in those moments and not always consumed with school.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Finding the time for homework seems nearly impossible. While it is daunting, it’s possible. Everyone finds what works for them through trial and error, and you just figure it out.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had opened up with those in my cohort earlier on and not taken some things quite so seriously.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jolene Betterly. I was a single mom for many years, which is why I didn’t consider getting my MBA sooner. Jolene didn’t let that stop her and she did great in the program and was a really great teammate and friend.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? With over 20 years of work experience, I was interested in a program that focused on the most important topics and moved at a faster pace. I only considered programs that spent some time meeting in-person. Some aspects of the program, such as team-building exercises, collaboration, sharing experiences and getting to know one another, can’t fully be replicated online.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? All my prior work experience has been in Accounting and Finance. I recently took a job as a business leader. I’m not sure going forward if I’ll stay on the business/commercial track or if I’ll go back to finance. I have been fortunate to have many interesting opportunities come my way throughout my career; I’m excited to see what the future holds!

What made Leslie such an invaluable member of the Class of 2023?

“Each year, there is one student that stands above the rest in pursuit of their Executive MBA. Not only in their quest of higher education, but in showing they are an indisputable leader. For the Krannert School of Management, Global Executive MBA-IMM 2022 program, this student is Leslie Zeaman.

Leslie leads without pushing, is someone that shares ideas, knowledge, and perspective without being opinionated, and truly listens, all of which enables her to share honest feedback and solutions.

Although Leslie is petite, mild mannered, and very soft-spoken, Leslie’s enthusiasm, positive attitude, and infinite encouragement drove everyone to do their personal best. She is a true role model. Not only did she get to know every one of her peers on a personal level, she embodied the true meaning of a friend, earning her the respect and admiration of her entire class.

It was a great pleasure working alongside Leslie, I know she will continue to lead and grow!”

Karen Poore
Senior Program Manager
Krannert Executive Education Global Program-IMM-EMBA
Purdue University


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