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Lisa Pikkila and Charles Garris

Lisa Piikkila, owner and creative director of Coalesce Inc., a strategic marketing and design firm based in Appleton, is among the graduates in UW Oshkosh’s first EMBA cohort. She said coming to the conclusion of the intense program is exciting and even a little bit sad.

“There were some weeks that were just a lot, but you do find balance within it,” Piikkila said. “ I got a lot of inspiration every Saturday.”

During her time in the program, Piikkila said she brought many of the teachings from the program into her company; notably, she rewrote the employee manual for Coalesce using a lot of the knowledge she’d acquired in her classes. She said she also became a more well-rounded business professional, which was helpful to her because she previously had such a creative-focused background.

“I am really going to miss the exposure to so much information—it’s so much more than you get in everyday life,” she said. “And, you learn as much in the program as you do from the other people in your cohort; I will miss them, too.”

Charles Garris, who is the vice president of product development and engineering for the Appleton-based CMD Corporation, is also among the graduates in the first cohort. At first, Garris was not sure of the value he would get out of traveling through an MBA program in a cohort style, but he said he grew to really appreciate the style of learning.

“Before I went into the program, I was interested in better understanding business. I had heard that going into a program like this was a way to meet local leaders and improve my business and social network, but that was not really a driver for me,” Garris said. “I thought that being in engineering and product development that most people I’d interact with would have such a different role, that it couldn’t add a lot to me professionally. Now, having gone through the program, having traveled together, and having reflected on many things together— the cohort was one of the most valuable parts of the program. I grossly underestimated how valuable that would be.”