Business Administration at Aquinas College

Alumni Profiles

Dan Diederich

Alumni Dan Diederich has found much success after graduating with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing from Aquinas College in May of 2019. He is currently the Business Lines Manager at TDA Insurance & Financial in Walled Lake, Michigan.  His parents own an independent insurance agency, and Dan hopes to one day take over the family business with the help of his brother.

Dan’s experiences at Aquinas College provided him with many opportunities to enhance his skills which aided in his career after graduation.  He took on many leadership roles during his time as a Saint, including captain of the Men’s Lacrosse team, President of the Association of Student Athletes (ASA), and President of the Leadership Development Program (LDP).  

“These roles taught me a lot about leadership, working with teams, and giving back to the community by service.” 

He also had the opportunity to take on an internship at Highland Group, a business owned by another Alumni, Scott Crowley.  This internship allowed Dan to see how a business was run from a perspective other than his parents’. He was also elected to be part of Aquinas College’s Alumni Association Leadership Council (AALC), and is currently the youngest member on the council. Dan claims the mentorship he’s received through the AALC has provided him with a lot of guidance in the early stages of his professional career.

Dan expressed the importance of getting involved and meeting as many people as possible along the way. Connections are essential when searching for jobs and internships. He believes college is the perfect time for growth. “College is a time to be vulnerable and learn who you are and who you want to be. Don't be afraid to try no things, step outside your comfort zone, or make a mistake, that is what college is for, to learn about yourself!”

Aquinas College played a key role in Dan’s growth. His time here taught him teamwork, especially within such a close-knit community.  “Being able to get different groups of teams to work together to capitalize on win-win is something that Aquinas taught me,” Dan said. He also admires the ability of Aquinas students to work together for the common good of the college community.

In his free time, Dan stays active by playing lots of sports, such as golf, basketball, softball, volleyball, and of course lacrosse. He also enjoys fishing and being outdoors. Dan is also very active in the Novi and Lakes Area of Commerce Young Professional Groups. 

Sidney Veneklase

Sidney Veneklase is a recent Aquinas College Alumni, graduating in May 2019 with a dual major in Business and Communication and a minor in Political Science. She recently transitioned from her role as an intern with the Ancillary team at Steelcase to a full-time position, now holding the title of Communications Specialist.  

In this role she manages content for an online application called Marketplace.  This is an app that allows dealers, designers, sales representatives, and customers to save and plan projects using Steelecase’s Ancillary Portfolio. In her position, Sidney helps facilitate uploading content, maintains positive relationships with company partners, and curates their site to provide the most user-friendly experience. 

From her personal experience, Sidney emphasized the importance of pursuing internships early on. She noted that whether paid or unpaid, internships are a valuable tool that allow one to network and can lead to many other great opportunities.

“Interning, volunteering, and getting experience in the field is one of the most effective tools I’ve found for networking. Nothing helps you connect with the people that will help advance your career better than working alongside them.” 

From the welcoming instructors to classroom dialogue, Sidney attributes much of her success to her undergraduate experiences at Aquinas. “Aquinas helped me understand what it means to be part of community, how to be a team player, and ways to always act with compassion and generosity. Working at a large company requires openness and eagerness, two characteristics that my undergraduate experience helped shape.”

While at Aquinas, she worked an on-campus job in the Media Center which allowed her to connect with the Communications Department for a short internship the summer after her sophomore year. “My combination of work, organizational involvement, and academic performance helped communicate to hiring managers that I apply myself both in and out of the classroom,” she said. 

Sidney started her Ancillary internship with Steelecase the summer after her junior year.  The Ancillary internship was full-time over the summer and 20 hours a week during the semester.  Sidney managed to enhance her management skills and work ethic during that semester, as she was also taking 18 credits at the time. 

Outside of work, Sidney enjoys activities that engage her creative muscles, such as reading, writing, drawing, and painting. Her current passion project is filling up an art journal with thought out pieces. Prioritizing friendships is very important to Sidney as well.  She stated that connecting with other people and nurturing healthy, supportive and loving relationships is one of her favorite things to do. 

Craig Welch IV

As a transfer student, Craig Welch IV decided to finish his college education at Aquinas where he could find a friendly welcoming community, and business successful professors. He graduated from Aquinas in 2016 with a degree in Business Administration.

“If you take in interest in other people's lives and do everything you can do to help them, you'll likely benefit from your selflessness, bu even if you don't, you'll at least become a better person.”

Craig now works as a financial advisoras part of The Smits Welch Group at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management specializing in working with C-level executives and senior level managers. Outside of work, Craig serves on four non-profit boards. He currently sites the Metro Health University of Michigan Foundation Board of Directors, the I Understand Board of Directors, Steelcase Class B-Shareholders Council, and the Aquinas Alumni Business Association. He help created the Aquinas Alumni Business Association, Craig now serves as president of the association and the goal of the group is to provide Aquinas business leaders a platform to get better connected with fellow alumni. The Business Association meets once a month on the Aquinas Campus where business professionals, alumni and current students, can network with each other, have a coffee, and listen to a new speaker each month. Craig expressed that he left the school with more than just a degree. He felt that graduating from Aquinas was practical and helped him in real life business scenarios.

Jacob Bedi

Aquinas offered the life balance that Jacob was searching for in a college. It gave him the opportunity to receive a good education while also playing the sport he loved. Jacob Bedi graduated from Aquinas College in 2017 with a Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. Aquinas really helped him with communication skills and a lot of real-life business skills as well. Jacob felt right at home when starting work. If he could describe Aquinas in one word, it would be reputable, especially in the business world. Aquinas’ professors were invested in his education. He felt the true care and respect that a small campus had to offer. In his sophomore year, Jacob did an internship with Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. This began to show him what insurance companies were all about, and Jacob loved it. He formed a wide network of colleagues that he is still in touch with today. Jacob was also a member of the men’s soccer team during his four years at Aquinas. After graduation and before going to his first interview, Jacob utilized the help of Aquinas’ Advantage Center to help review his resume. He now works as a financial advisor at New York Life Insurance Company.

Patryk Biel

Patryk Biel is a legal compliance officer at ManpowerGroup Corporation after graduating from Aquinas with a business administration and communications degree. Aquinas college gave Patryk the confidence needed to secure the first job he applied for. During his interview with ManpowerGroup he felt, “calm and confident,” and felt respected by the company for recognizing his degree from Aquinas and it being such a reputable school. Aquinas College helped him create relationships with his professors and he really liked the catholic environment and community. Along with that Aquinas was close to home and to his family. He felt very welcomed by the close-knit environment found at Aquinas. The faculty members at Aquinas gave Patryk the tools and support he needed to balance a healthy academic, athletic, and religious life. Patryk was a member of the men’s soccer team and was captained the team for two years. As a captain he created so many friendships that will last a lifetime. During his senior year Patryk’s favorite moment was when the Aquinas Soccer team was trailing three to nil against the University of Northern Ohio. (UNOH) The team made an amazing comeback to achieve victory during the homecoming matchup with the help of his penalty kick goal. 

Dedication, Determination, and The Drive: AQ Alumni takes on the NBA 

Ambitious Alumni, Kyle Kwaske, graduated from Aquinas College in 2016 with a degree in Business Administration and Sport Management with a concentration in Marketing.  From his start at Aquinas, Kyle was determined to pursue a career in the Sport Industry.  In order to stand out to future potential employers, Kyle set a goal to obtain at least five jobs and/or internships in the Sport Industry by the time he graduated.  With the help of his natural drive and hard work ethic, he accomplished this goal.

“I would attribute a lot of the blessings I’ve received from getting out there and doing internships.  At the end of the day it’s all about experience and who knows who you are.”

Kyle’s first internship began the summer before his junior year working with the Houston Texans NFL Team.  After gaining experience with the Texans, Kyle landed not one, but two internships his junior year at Aquinas.  The first internship was with the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame, ending the first semester of his junior year.  The second internship was with an NBA minor league system called the Grand Rapids Drive, lasting the entire school year.  In between his junior and senior year, he interned at Global Partnerships through the NBA.  Kyle continued his involvement with the NBA throughout his senior year, returning to the Grand Rapids Drive, this time working a full time paid internship. 

Kyle credits a lot of his recent success to his time working with the Grand Rapids Drive.  Through his experience with the Drive, he was able to meet many amazing people, two of which worked for the NBA.  Through these connections, Kyle was informed of the NBA Associate Program, the entry level position that leads to working with the NBA post-graduation.  After applying and undergoing rigorous interviewing the winter of his senior year, Kyle earned a spot in the NBA Associate Program.  With this success, he moved to New York City, New York in August 2016 and started working in his current position September of that same year.  

The NBA Associate Program position is a two-year long job in which participants rotate four times in six-month periods working in various departments within the NBA.  Through this program, Kyle has been able to meet and work with many great people, immensely expanding his network.  He is nearing the end of his two-year duration in the Associate Program and will be permanently placed into a department September of 2018.  Once in his new position, Kyle is sure to continue cultivating the skills he has gained from his past internships, thereby further growing in the success he has had working with the NBA. 

Alumni Takes His AQ Education to IBM

To say that Aquinas alumni Eric Berki is a high achiever is an understatement. Graduating in 2017 with his dual degree in Business Administration and Communications and a lot of hard work, Eric was able to land the job of a lifetime straight out of school. Eric, by title, is a Watson Customer Engagement Portfolio Specialist working at IBM in Chicago, Illinois. In shorter terms, he meets with customers to help them find the best artificial intelligence programs for their business’ needs.

“My passion is propelling corporations in the industrial market, and assisting them to reach new heights through the ideal artificial intelligence marketing, supply chain, and eCommerce solutions.”

Eric originally came to Aquinas because of his ability to be a member of the baseball team, and also he was aware and attracted by Aquinas’ quality business department. Throughout his college experience, Berki put his time to use and obtained four different internships that allowed him to find his way to the successful job he has currently.

His first internship was with the Grand Rapids Griffins during his sophomore year, in which he was a game night intern that ran multiple different booths throughout the stadium. The summer of his sophomore year, Eric worked on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour which he spent a lot of the time traveling around and working long hours, but ended up making the original connection to get him into the IBM world. The spring of his junior year he worked on the marketing side of things with Ingalls Pictures, and thanks to the early networking connection, the summer after his junior year he worked as a sales intern at IBM. This final internship solidified a relationship with the company giving him the opportunity to continue his career after college.

Eric is currently loving his career, and has been employed at IBM since his Graduation in May of 2017. He travels to many different, exciting cities including Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and Houston, and is able to work while enjoying many different experiences across the nation. Although Eric’s success mainly came from his strong work ethic and passion, he relayed that Aquinas was a helpful tool. “The professors at Aquinas are all extremely willing to help with connections, not only in Grand Rapids, but personal as well,” Berki stated.  Along with great professors, he was very grateful for the Executive Business Mentoring Program, a program in which students meet biweekly with Grand Rapids CEO’s, helping with his networking as well.

Photo of an alumni

Alum Finds Success at Google Headquarters

Ankita Bhatia, a double major in Sports Management and Business, has had great success upon graduation. A transfer from Eastern Michigan University, 

Bhatia graduated from Aquinas in 2015. She then went on to work with the Detroit Pistons in an internship involving sales, marketing, finances, and Human Resources. 

Bhatia's internship with the Pistons gave her the opportunity to work with Google. She began in Michigan, but was quickly transferred to Google Headquarters in California, where she has been for 12 months. During her time there, Bhatia has been the recipient of the New Business Associate Award for Q1 2016. 'After winning that award, I realized that I was really passionate about what I was doing, and spending time which ultimately resulted in a lot of success.'

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Alumni Profile: Michael Gagnon
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