Devon Beste, MBA ‘14

Devon Beste recently accepted a position as a Commodities Trader at Cargill, the U.S.’s largest privately held corporation providing food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. Prior to this role, he was an Operations Consultant at Pine River Capital Management where he worked in conjunction with directors and other analysts to assist in ongoing production and workflow improvement efforts, as well as with prime brokers and counter parties to ensure the proper and timely execution of various financial instrument movements.

Devon earned his MBA in 2014 from Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management and currently lives in the greater Minneapolis- St. Paul area. He served four years in the United States Marine Corps stationed in Twentynine Palms, California, and was deployed to Iraq twice.

Devon says that he chose Pepperdine Graziadio for the convenience of the MBAJ and the Yellow Ribbon Program for military veterans. He says that Pepperdine Graziadio instilled in him an entrepreneurial mindset that he now brings to his job every day, and that the personal growth he achieved during his program was immeasurable.

Samanaz Kapadia, MBA ’10

Samanaz Kapadia, a Senior Manager at FOX Sports, says she wanted to get an MBA since she was 12 when she first understood the value of higher education. She knew having an MBA would help her move up the corporate ladder and it was important to her to go to a school that reflected her values. Helping veterans further their education and re-enter the workplace is a cause that she’s passionate about and she loves that the Graziadio School supports those who have worked tirelessly to protect our freedoms.

Samanaz will be participating in a Graziadio event called Industry Insights from Entertainment, Media, and Technology on October 19. She says she loves helping students who want to work in the entertainment industry and she’s looking forward to sharing her experience with students who want to pursue a similar career. She plans to talk about her programming and commercial administration work at FOX Sports as well as her philanthropic endeavors. Samanaz received her BA in Business Administration from California State University-Fullerton in 2005 and her MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in 2010.

John Adrian, MBA ’00

John Adrian is the Senior Vice President of Sales for Americas, Europe, Middle East and African markets at Franklin Fueling Systems, a global leader in the petroleum equipment market. He has worked in the retail petroleum industry for 27 years and is currently responsible for managing sales teams all over the world. John started his career at ARCO Products Company in California, where his father worked for 33 years.

John says that prior to getting his MBA he only had a high level understanding of business. He says that getting his MBA at Pepperdine Graziadio was a game changer as it opened up a whole new world for him. He learned about finance, and most importantly how to think strategically. After earning his MBA John’s credibility and confidence increased and he was considered a real candidate for upward mobility. John says his MBA has helped him enormously in his career trajectory and was a huge part of his success in moving to a senior level position at Franklin Fueling Systems.

He and his wife recently moved from Long Beach, CA to Madison, WI where Franklin Fueling Systems is headquartered. John has a BA in Business Administration from Point Loma University and earned his Executive MBA from the Graziadio School in 2000.

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.