'The Next Lecture' attracts more than 50 Penn State Smeal Executive MBA alums

Marketing professor Ralph Oliva makes a point during the inaugural "The Next Lecture," a series of dinners and lectures designed for Penn State Smeal Executive MBA alumni to reconnect with the program and network with other graduates. Credit: By Andy Elder / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Marketing professor Ralph Oliva furiously wrote answers on a large easel as fast as the audience members could shout them out. For many in the room, the recent session at the former ACE Conference Center (now the Chubb Hotel & Conference Center), located just outside of Philadelphia in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, was like a trip back in time.

Instead of current students in the Philadelphia-based Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program, Oliva was reconnecting with an amphitheater full of program alumni and several prospective students as part of a new series: "The Next Lecture."

“Our goal with 'The Next Lecture' concept is to reconnect with Smeal EMBA alumni and bring them back together to network and hear once again from some of our most popular faculty,” said Jason Stieg, managing director of the Smeal Executive MBA Program. “Just because you’ve graduated, that doesn’t mean the learning and benefits of being part of this community should stop.”

As a way to reflect on lessons from his popular integrated market communications course, Oliva’s "Next Lecture" appearance in early January featured a series of quiz questions that rewarded correct answers with prizes.

One question elicited a familiar Oliva maxim from the audience — “Focus like a freakin’ laser!” — which invoked knowing laughter. As the lecture continued, Oliva opened the lid of a red toolbox and pulled out a hammer to illustrate a point.

“Search your feelings, Luke. You know this to be true,” Oliva intoned in his best Darth Vader voice.

As the evening wore on, the gathering settled into the familiar rhythms of an actual class session — Oliva related the latest in marketing trends, students waited to be called on with hands in the air, and all involved laughed at familiar jokes or shared real-life business experiences from the careers they’ve continued since graduating.

“Without a doubt, it was worth it. It was like I stole a credit from Penn State,” said 2015 Smeal Executive MBA graduate Brian Harvey, a recruiting operations manager for Genesis HealthCare and Genesis Rehab Services.

Oliva’s presentation was the first in a series of six "Next Lecture" sessions:

Feb. 5Glen Kreiner, associate professor of management and organization

Feb. 19Terry Harrison, professor of supply chain and information systems

April 1Sajay Samuel, clinical professor of accounting

May 6Dennis Sheehan, The Virginia and Louis Benzak Professor of Finance

June 3Vilmos Misangyi, associate professor of management and organization

“It was well worth it. I’ll be here for all of them,” said Angela Jones, a 2015 graduate who is a project manager in health care information technology. “The knowledge you gain from other people, not just the professor, is well worth it. The program is phenomenal.”

As the name, “The Next Lecture” suggests, the night evoked strong memories of time spent in class.

“I loved the marketing class with Ralph when I was in the program. He is unbelievable. His energy and content is so direct and powerful. It rekindled all the thoughts I had when I was here almost 10 years ago,” said Christopher O’Donovan, a 2007 grad who now works for Shire Pharmaceuticals.

“I’ll be back for all of the other ones. I think the outreach is great because the most valuable thing that this program has is the alumni network.”

For more information, or to register for any or all of “The Next Lectures,” email Visit the website for more information on the Smeal Executive MBA Program.

Last Updated February 12, 2016