Poets&Quants “Best & Brightest” honored 100 graduates of the Executive MBA (EMBA) Class of 2019 from business schools around the country. In the past, the publication has selected one or two graduating SMU Cox EMBAs to be honored. In May 2019, for the first time ever, three SMU Cox EMBAs were highlighted. Poets&Quants will announce Class of 2020 honorees this summer.

Amy Byalick, EMBA ’19, works as a director of technology business management values and insights for PepsiCo’s global IT organization. This mother of two stays busy with work, family and community, yet somehow found time to earn an MBA as well. While in the Cox EMBA program, Byalick participated in PepsiCo’s Leader of Managers program, an inaugural 16-week program that invited 30 individuals to work through the virtual curriculum and then make a site visit to conduct a business simulation at the PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, New York. “I applied much of what I learned in my EMBA Marketing and Business Finance classes during the business simulation,” Byalick says. “In fact, my group of four took first place in the business simulation, out of 30 participants. The experience was amazing. It has been one of the many highlights of my professional achievement since beginning the SMU Cox EMBA program.”

Tu Dao, EMBA ’19, has been described by Assistant Dean Tom Perkowski as “one of the most entrepreneurial MBA candidates ever to graduate from the Cox EMBA program.” Dao founded a successful anesthesia group and became a managing partner in a wellness center franchise. While in the EMBA program, he got involved in a number of startup concepts with fellow classmates, including Crystal Clearwater Resources and Global Oil and Gas Resources. His biggest takeaway as an EMBA student? “You must cultivate trust within your team. I now focus on organizational behaviors and cultures that bring out the best in our company.” In addition to raising his family, Dao now serves on several boards and is general/managing partner of Texas Tea LLC.

Rika Kari, EMBA ’19, chose SMU Cox after speaking with mentors and other executives at his firm. The executive director for financial planning and analytics at Health Care Service Corporation successfully balanced the EMBA program, family and work to earn a perfect 4.0 GPA, never wavering once throughout the entire program, according to program directors. Kari says he was challenged in and out of the classroom and learned more than he ever imagined he would. He immediately applied what he learned about work style, leadership and marketing strategy to his business life. Through it all, he told Poets&Quants, he considered his wife the true hero: “At eight months pregnant, she was chasing a 3-year-old around and playing with her while I was reading a book on the couch. She grew and birthed a human while I was at networking happy hours. She’s an inspiration to me, and I constantly reminded myself whenever it got tough that if she could be that amazing, I could finish that 20-page strategic management paper.”