Karen Griego, MBA ’14

Karen Griego is the Senior Marketing Manager at Amazon where she manages the global merchandising and content team for Amazon Alexa skills. Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant, has skills which are 3rd party developed voice experiences that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device (such as the Echo).Previously, she was a Strategic Merchandising & Marketing Manager for Google Play. When she was at Pepperdine Graziadio, Karen was president of Challenge for Charity (C4C), a non-profit organization that draws on the talents, energy, and resources of MBA students to support the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club and the Children’s Lifesaving Foundation.

This spring she received a Golden Torch Award in recognition of her work as a mentor with the Pepperdine Career Network where she reviews students’ resumes, conducts mock interviews, and gives them feedback to help them advance in their careers. Karen says she loves helping students articulate the impact they’ve made and express how their ideas have benefited their company or organization. Karen lives in Seattle and received her BA from the University of Washington. She earned her MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in 2014.

Nobel Chang, MBA ’15

Nobel Chang has worked in the renewable energy industry for nine years, but he says it was at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School that he learned the process of building a business and expanding operations into international markets. Armed with his graduate business education and previous experience, Nobel co-founded Radiant Sky Energy, an international utility-scale solar development firm that has developed and sold over $100 million in project assets. Nobel serves as Co-founder and Managing Director of Radiant Sky Energy where he leads the charge on project and business development.

Nobel is also the Co-founder and CEO of Easy Streak, an online subscription platform that allows sports fans to compete in daily pick’em contests for various prizes. It was at Pepperdine Graziadio where Nobel met one of his business partners and co-founded the company. Easy Streak is different from other fantasy sports operators where sports enthusiasts choose their favorite teams to win and it is available in all 50 states.

Nobel says that he attributes his ability to start both Radiant Sky and Easy Streak to the experience and knowledge he gained at the Graziadio Business School. He says his courses at the Graziadio School gave him the springboard of analytical and technical skills that allowed him to hit the ground running and start his businesses. Nobel earned his MBA with a concentration in Digital Innovation and Information System from the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management in 2015.

Ben McFarland, MBA ’15

Ben says that he chose to pursue his MBA at Pepperdine Graziadio because of the school’s strong commitment to developing values-centered leaders. He believes that his experience and education at Pepperdine Graziadio is helping him live a purpose-driven life both personally and professionally.

At Pepperdine Graziadio, Ben gained tremendous technical, management and entrepreneurial skills. This training prepared him for the world of technology start-ups and has been the driving force of his success at CrowdStreet, which provides superior online investor acquisition and management solutions to commercial real estate firms. Having only been at the company for six months, Ben has been promoted to Business Development Leader and is spearheading growth initiatives.

At Pepperdine Graziadio, he was an entrepreneurship major and wrote his thesis project on the feasibility of a peer-to-business accounts receivable lending platform. Ben was the first Fellow at the Fred Sands Institute of Real Estate and was a founding staff member assisting in the formation of the Master of Science in Real Estate.

Ben graduated in 2008 from Whittier College and received his MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in 2015. Prior to graduate school, Ben worked as Field Representative to U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Executive Director for the Kern County Farm Bureau.

Elizabeth Vilardo, PKE’ 99

Elizabeth (“Lizz”) Vilardo, M.D. says that getting her MBA at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School was one of the best experiences she’s ever had in regard to personal growth and the student experience. Getting her MBA taught her to think more holistically and gave her a framework for dealing with business issues which have been invaluable throughout her career. She says it was fascinating working with other professionals who were in very different industries, but faced very similar business challenges.

Dr. Vilardo is an internal medicine physician who has held a series of leadership positions, including serving on the boards of Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and nine years on the board of Sutter Health. She became chief executive officer for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) in September 2015. She is the fourth CEO of PAMF since the organization was founded in 1930 and the first female CEO. She has been named a “Top Doc” by San Francisco Magazine four times.

Dr. Vilardo is an active community leader and has served on several boards of non-profit organizations, including Y Silicon Valley, Youth Outside, Women’s Achievement Network and Development Alliance (WANDA), and Healthier Kids. She was recently honored at the 9th annual George Awards where she was presented with the Waves of Service award. Dr. Vilardo received her M.D. degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned her Presidents and Key Executives MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in 1999.

James Conway, MBA ‘17

James Conway says the SEER program provides a great foundation by focusing on the social, ethical, environmental and financial aspects of operating a business, non-profit or government organization. He has been able to apply the quantitative analysis, strategy and marketing practices he learned in the SEER program to his current job as a Senior Sustainability Analyst with the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

James received a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He studied at the Jakarta International School, the American International School Dhaka Bangladesh, and Cairo America College in Egypt, and is fluent in French and Spanish and conversational in Italian and Bahasa Indonesian. He earned his MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School with a Socially Ethically and Environmentally Responsible Certificate on Earth Day – April 22, 2017.

Wayne Tolbert, MBA ’89

Wayne Tolbert recently received the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award at the 2017 Black Engineer of the Year awards STEM conference in Washington D.C. Recipients were honored for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) achievements and Wayne says that he hopes this recognition encourages youth, especially minorities, to pursue an education and career in a technical field.

Wayne is a principal systems engineer at Science Applications International Corporation where he performs cost estimating and risk analysis support for the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault vehicle survivability upgrade and the assault combat vehicle programs. He is also the program manager for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Cost & Economics. He received his bachelor of engineering from Clemson University via an Air Force ROTC scholarship. While serving as an officer in the military, he earned his MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. Wayne was awarded the Air Force Commendation and Achievement medals during his service

Wayne is very active in the local community and has been a mentor for Kids Hope USA and a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club of America. He also has served on the Board of Directors and as a pastoral staff member for various churches, directed men’s ministries, and led many youth and children’s group activities. Wayne spends much of his free time as a professional actor and a singer/songwriter. He has appeared on network television shows and his songs have aired on y radio stations across the country. Wayne has been married to his wife Misty for 18 years and they have two children.

Gigi Desai, MBA ’16


Gigi Desai has always been concerned about food waste which is a major problem in developed countries like the United States. As a nation, food waste costs us $165 million per year and costs her close to $800 per year. Recently, she won the Fast Pitch Competition at the 2017 SEER Symposium for developing the smart bag, a reusable, machine washable, fabric bag that is lined with a naturally occurring mineral that absorbs decay enhancing gas ultimately slowing down decaying process. The smart bag, which costs $9.99, extends the life of produce by four times, and saves consumers over $1,400 per year. She has done extensive product and market research, created a proof of concept and a prototype and if everything goes smoothly she is hoping that the smart bag will come to market this summer. She plans to initially sell the smart bag online and when she has generated enough revenue she will explore retail options.

Gigi says that not only reducing food waste good for the environment and consumers, there is a social responsibility component in which she will donate 0.5% of her sales to help local farmers and the food bank. This combination really embodies the SEER model and Pepperdine’s commitment to developing values-centered leaders.

Gigi resides in Santa Clarita, CA with her husband and son. She has a BS degree in Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara and a Master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine. Gigi earned her MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in August 2016.

 

Ronald Berryman, MBA ‘67

A. Ronald Berryman has had an accomplished career having held several management positions with major corporations, including the National Broadcasting Company, Computer Sciences Corporation, and Progress Investment Management Company, an institutional money management firm. He is a Certified Management Consultant and CEO of Berryman and Company.

Mr. Berryman earned his BS and MBA degrees from Pepperdine and he was the first African American to graduate from Pepperdine’s inaugural MBA program in 1967. He also graduated from the Wharton School executive program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Pepperdine University and at the University of Redlands. Currently, Mr. Berryman serves on the Board of Visitors of the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and the University Board at Pepperdine University.

He is passionate about mentoring minority and low-income students who desire to study at Pepperdine and is the founding chair of the Pepperdine University Black Alumni Council which offers scholarships, networking and mentoring opportunities for African American students and alumni. In addition, he and his wife Jacqueline created an endowed scholarship for African American students attending the Graziadio Business School. Mr. Berryman has received many honors and accolades for his community service work.

Beth Waitkus, MSOD ‘04

 In fall 2002, Beth Waitkus founded the Insight Garden Program (IGP), the only evidence-based rehabilitation program in California designed to transform prisoners through connection to nature. Over the past three years, IGP has grown from a stand-alone program at San Quentin Prison to eight facilities in Northern and Southern California, two Indiana prisons (including a juvenile facility) and a re-entry program in New York City. With this substantial growth, IGP will continue its national expansion with its robust curriculum and become a “re-entry bridge” for people leaving prison and returning to our communities.

Beth has won accolades for her prison work and was featured in the book Eco Amazons: 20 Women who are Transforming the World by Dorka Keehn and she is the recipient of the Hotchkiss School’s 2013 Community Service Award. Beth has also been featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.

As part of the MSOD program at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, Beth completed a master’s thesis entitled “The impact of a garden on the physical environment and social climate of a prison yard at San Quentin State Prison.” The thesis process was critical in reframing her thinking about systems change, resulting in drastic reduction in the cycle of incarceration. Beth graduated with a M.S. in Organization Development from the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management in 2004.

 

Chris Zorn, MSML ‘14


In 2015, Chris Zorn joined Kindred Healthcare for an Executive Fellowship and he and his family relocated to Chicago, IL for his new role. After completing his fellowship in August 2016, Chris was named Assistant Administrator of Kindred’s Chicago Northlake Hospital. In October 2016, there was a leadership change at Kindred’s Chicago Central Hospital and Chris was asked to serve as interim CEO during the CEO search process.

Chicago Central is a 94-bed transitional care hospital affiliated with Kindred Healthcare, the largest provider of diversified, post-acute care services in the United States. Chicago Central provides aggressive, specialized interdisciplinary care to medically complex patients who require extended recovery time. In his role as the interim CEO, Chris led the organization’s financial and operational performance and partnered with the clinical team to provide excellent care to patients and their families.

Chris says serving as Interim CEO was a tremendous opportunity and the amount of ‘hands-on’ experience he received was invaluable. He continues to serve as Assistant Administrator at Kindred’s Chicago Central Hospital. Chris earned his M.S. in Management and Leadership from the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management in 2014.