Steven Donley will not be attending Northern Michigan University’s Dec. 15 commencement to receive his MBA, only so that two graduating seniors he supervises at the local Best Buy can enjoy the morning off to participate in the ceremony. Upon hearing about his generous and unselfish gesture, NMU administrators decided to bring graduation to him at the store on Thursday. They surprised Donley by setting up an NMU backdrop, outfitting him in a cap and gown, conducting a master’s hooding ceremony and presenting him with a diploma.
"I wasn't expecting this at all," Donley said. "It makes me feel pretty special that they would go to this effort, but that's the kind of support you get from Northern. I'm so glad I made the choice to enroll there."
The store was an appropriate makeshift location for the festivities. When Donley presented his MBA portfolio to the NMU College of Business, it included a proposed marketing plan for Best Buy.
“At that point in time, I was just looking to learn more about my employer and see how I might advance in my career,” said Donley, who is a front-end supervisor overseeing customer service functions. “My plan focused mainly on the Best Buy corporate website and how it could be improved to be more competitive. For example, recommending other accessories to customers shopping online for TVs. I shared my plan with my supervisor and general manager, then told corporate about it and was invited to Best Buy headquarters last August to meet with the CEO and other executives.”
Donley’s colleagues helped to maintain the surprise. He was in a back room at the store when NMU President Fritz Erickson, College of Business Interim Dean Carol Johnson and Professor Gary Brunswick arrived in their academic regalia. Donley emerged from the room in response to a ruse request for customer assistance and was pleasantly surprised to discover the real reason he was summoned.
With his newly minted MBA, Donley plans to continue working at the local Best Buy. He has held his position for a short time and said there is room for further professional growth and development. At some point, Donley said he would like to pursue a career opportunity with corporate headquarters in Minnesota.