Izabela Vandeest Interview Part 1: CPA and Twice UT Alumna Finds Passion Offering White Glove Service for a World-class Educational Experience at Haslam College of Business Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain

Izabela Vandeest

Izabela Vandeest is proud to be the Program Manager for the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. As a University of Tennessee alum, it was only a matter of time before Izabela returned to her alma mater, first in a teaching capacity and then as part of the administration. Today, a huge part of Izabela’s role is assisting EMBA-GSC students, whose busy professional lives as senior supply chain leaders mean limited time for earning a degree. To provide EMBA-GSC students the opportunity to focus explicitly on learning and content, Izabela and the EMBA-GSC support staff offer white glove service to all who enroll in the program.

You went to the University of Tennessee for undergrad, then you graduated, earned your CPA and found your way back to the University of Tennessee. What aspects of the university have inspired you to build your career there?

I have always loved to learn and been an avid student. I am originally from Poland and moved to North Carolina with my parents when I was 14 years old. When we moved, I went to high school in the United States, learned English and picked up on how things are done culturally and academically in the US.

Then I went to the University of Tennessee, selected accounting as a major, and went through the undergraduate and the master's program.

I found myself immersed in the Haslam College of Business and everything that they're about -- learning, growing, being part of a community where you really get to know your faculty members -- so I always had a feeling that I would be back.

I think I knew I would return, one way or another whether that was to continue higher education through a Ph. D program or potentially a job opportunity. I had stayed close with many of the faculty after graduation, like our Associate Dean of Graduate Education, Dr. Bruce Behn. Dr. Behn actually asked me if I had interest in coming back to teach undergraduate accounting courses and help manage what was, at that time, the Master of Accountancy. And my immediate reaction was ‘I thought you’d never ask!’

How did you transition from Accounting to the EMBA-GSC, where you work today?

I taught for six years. While I was teaching, I also helped manage the Master of Accountancy; that’s where I realized that I have a true passion for higher education administration. The students with whom I was working -- they all wanted to be there and were all so dedicated to studying and growing themselves personally and professionally through education. Seeing how readily these students immersed themselves in the work and material -- it inspired me. Their passion was contagious and soon, their passion became my passion. When the opportunity arose to join the Graduate and Executive Education (GEE) Department in the Haslam College of Business, I was immediately intrigued. Soon, I leveraged my love of learning and passion for supporting adult learners into the position with EMBA-GSC.

Why do you think so many University of Tennessee alumni return to work, volunteer, and give back at the university?

We have a lot of career professionals return to teach or participate in some capacity. As a student and later on in my management roles, I realized that the faculty really has a great mix of professional academics and industry experts. We have faculty doing top research in the field and others who are alums that have years of professional experience. The returning alums don't just show you the foundation, they also really imbue the curriculum with applied learning through real world examples and problems.

For our executive program, students take actual problems, issues and cases from their desk at work, bring them into the EMBA-GSC program and try to solve them, often with assistance and insights from their carefully-selected peers and expert faculty. Even after graduation, the benefits of this supportive, tight-knit community continue as students are welcomed into our alumni network.

Ultimately, I believe that so many of our alums return to the University of Tennessee for many of the reasons they originally came, because they are driven to improve themselves, expanding upon their existing skills as they grow. Haslam is a place where people are inspired to change our world for the better, and for many that means growing first from a student into a professional and eventually, into a leader.

In the time you’ve worked with the EMBA-GSC program, how has the Haslam College of Business changed?

In my time with Haslam College as an employee, the various departments of the Haslam College of Business started a lot of collaborative thinking and joining forces with their professional partner organizations. Sometimes, graduate programs evolve from a specific major. For example, the supply chain management department has helped grow The Global Supply Chain Institute, which is a convergence of all these different companies from different industries who come together and build thought leadership and best practice on various supply chain topics. The result is a nurturing environment where growth is fostered and organizations can improve in real time.

What are some hurdles that the program has overcome and what are you most proud of?

One area where I can’t help but think ‘Wow, Haslam really does this so well,’ is supply chain. Our thought leadership and network of influential alums and industry connections is unmatched. For me, realizing the extent and reach around the world we have with not only in terms of our alumni, but also, in terms of corporate organizations that actively seek out and want to be part of the Global Supply Chain Institute is awe-inspiring. I'm extremely proud to be part of an organization that has such influence.

Our rankings speak volumes too. We are the #1 ranked EMBA program for relevancy, ranked #3 among public institutions and #4, globally, for empirical research publications. We’ve also been nationally recognized for program support; this is where my colleagues and I come in.

Another aspect of the program that makes me proud is its intimate size. There's a lot of executive programs out there where you're one of 200 students; that’s not the case here. We strive to keep the program small, between 15 and 20 students each year. This size creates a class that is large enough to provide the insights and perspectives of other industry executives seated next to you, but small enough to where you can make individual connections with your peers.

This is the first half of a two-part interview with Izabela Vandeest, Program Manager for the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. View the second half of the interview here.

An Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain from the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business can give you insights into the latest supply chain trends while simultaneously allowing you to strategize and solve real issues and obstacles your organization is facing. If you think the EMBA-GSC program could be the right fit for you, don’t wait. Apply here today.