Alumni achievements

Aqua America benefits from investment in EMBA
Villanova University

What do four members of Aqua America, Inc.’s senior leadership team have in common? They all completed the Villanova Executive MBA—and it’s not by chance. As President and CEO Christopher Franklin (’02 EMBA) explains: “One of the most important decisions a CEO can make is hiring the right people around him.” This led Franklin to seek out leaders who embodied the same values that the Villanova EMBA Program fosters—integrity, a tireless work ethic, and teamwork.

In 2000, Franklin joined the first-ever EMBA class at Villanova, deciding to enroll because of Villanova’s reputation for academic rigor, its unmatched facilities, and the values of the school.


“Having been out of school for some time, it was refreshing to be back in the stream of learning and current thought, and it was transformational to be able to immediately apply my knowledge at work the very next day,” says Franklin, who graduated from West Chester University in 1987.  But perhaps the biggest benefits of the program were the social activities and networking opportunities—it was through this EMBA Program where he met fellow student Rick Fox (’02 EMBA).

Fox, now EVP and COO of Aqua America, enrolled in the same EBMA class when he and his family moved to Philadelphia in 2000. He worked in the chemical manufacturing industry for 17 years and wanted to become better connected in his new city with the hopes of changing careers. He liked the ‘start-up’ quality of the then newly offered EMBA Program, and he points to the EMBA Program for giving him the confidence to branch out into other industries.

He and Franklin quickly became friends and, after graduating, Franklin offered him a job as the vice president of customer operations. Reflecting on his time in the program, Fox says, “It was like a two-year interview with Chris.”

Throughout the years, Franklin and Fox relied on their EMBA experience to think differently about their business at Aqua America, the second largest U.S.-based, publicly traded water and wastewater utility company that serves nearly three million people in eight states. Their newly acquired business education encouraged them to look at their business in an innovative way—to focus more on metrics and measurement as well as their mission.

“There is no margin for error at Aqua America,” says Franklin. “Twenty-four hours a day, we have a tremendous responsibility to provide a basic need that people put into their bodies. So, we needed to hire and elevate our employees who are devoted to our core mission.”
As a senior leadership team, Franklin and Fox felt it was important to expose others at Aqua America to the Villanova EMBA experience. They selected Kim Joyce and Brian Dingerdissen, who both were familiar with Villanova from their undergraduate days.

Joyce (‘11 EMBA), who serves as regulatory counsel and director of public and legislative affairs, expressed interest in taking an accounting class to refresh her core business skills. But the senior management team had bigger plans for her and thought she would be an excellent candidate for the EMBA Program. 

“I love to learn and there was a comfort level of going back to Villanova,” says Joyce. “The EMBA cohort is such an intimate and impressive group, and I learned just as much from my classmates as I did from the faculty.”

As part of her capstone project, Joyce traveled to Nicaragua to evaluate water resources in rural communities—an experience that would prepare her well for her future role at Aqua America. Joyce currently oversees communications, community relations, and the company’s charitable trust in addition to leading a team with responsibilities for all regulatory and legislative policy at the federal and state levels.

After graduating with a degree in finance from Villanova in 2005, Dingerdissen applied for a job at Aqua America with the help of Mike Pagano, Robert J. and Mary Ellen Darretta Endowed Chair in Finance.

“Brian has been a trusted advisor to my team for nearly a decade,” explains Franklin. “His counsel has played an important role in many of the decisions we’ve made, which made him the perfect candidate for the EMBA Program.”

Recently appointed chief of staff for Franklin, Dingerdissen (’13 EMBA) ensures that the company’s vision and core values—including an increased emphasis on people—are fully integrated throughout the organization and maintains a personal connection with each department throughout the company.

“My favorite part of the EMBA experience is the systems-thinking approach that encourages leaders to think broadly and strategically—outside their individual specialty or role,” says Dingerdissen. “It allowed me to get a high-level, broad-base of skills that I brought back to work every day and will continue to use as I advance throughout my career.”

Dingerdissen enjoyed his EMBA experience so much that he currently serves on the board of directors of the Villanova Executive MBA Alumni organization.

These four alumni also share another important characteristic: Giving back to the community.

“Each of us took away a strong sense of service from our time at Villanova because it is so deeply ingrained in the course work and the community,” says Franklin. “At Aqua America, we endeavor to match our management team with a civic association or community group for board service so we can help make a difference in the areas where we do business.”

He noted that they encourage each of the 1,700 employees at Aqua America to share in the company’s values and make an impact. Fox put it best, saying: “I spent most of my career at a large chemical company and never knew if what I did made a difference. At Aqua America, I can see the difference I make each day, and I applaud Chris for supporting each of us as we aim for this goal.”


EMBA alumni raise funds to support medics

INSEAD alumni are working to support those at the frontlines of COVID-19.

Alumni of the INSEAD MBA, Global Executive MBA and Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA (TIEMBA) brought together a global network to raise funds and support frontline medics in need. The initiative began with a few MBA alumni.

In January 2020, when the outbreak started in China, two alumni raised 490,000 RMB and sourced medical supplies globally to help healthcare workers in China in their battle against COVID-19.


On March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak became severe in Italy, and two Italian alumni initiated fund-raising efforts to support hospitals in Northern Italy.

INSEAD National Alumni Associations and TIEMBA chapters endorsed the efforts. A team of 20 INSEAD and TIEMBA alumni from Europe to China joined the Project Green for Impact, which raised EUR 62,361 from 403 donors as of April 6. The funds are used to purchase and donate medical materials.

Project Green for Impact by INSEAD alumni will continue the fund-raising efforts, increasing the overall target to EUR 100,000. The additional funds would allow Green for Impact to buy approximately 35,000 masks and 2,900 Tyvek suits or 50 non-invasive ventilators.


EMBA alumnus leads development of COVID-19 test

Headed by CEO and EMBA alumnus Christian Clevenger, Integrity Laboratories is distributing a test for people possibly infected by the coronavirus.

The test uses real-time polymerase chain reaction – a sophisticated technology that makes copies of a specific RNA region in vitro and converts it to DNA – to perform rapid testing and identification of COVID-19, says Clevenger. The FDA issued Integrity Laboratories an Emergency Use Authorization to begin testing on March 16, 2020.

“During these uncertain times, Integrity Laboratories finds itself humbly focused on using our expertise and state-of-the-art technology to serve the needs of our community,” says Clevenger, who received his EMBA from the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business in 2012.


The technology can deliver testing results within six to eight hours from receipt of a specimen in the laboratory. Since receiving the emergency authorization, Clevenger says his company solely focused on meeting the needs of heroic individuals serving communities from the front lines.

“These are our first responders and the healthcare providers working to extinguish this worldwide pandemic,” he says. “Equally important, our senior citizens, who are the most vulnerable of our community, have been triaged to the top of our priority list.”

Founded in 2011 in Knoxville, Integrity Laboratories provides a range of comprehensive, cutting-edge clinical laboratory testing. The company is now dedicated to producing the COVID-19 tests to help address the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are honored to be part of the solution by being fully committed and present for our community over the coming weeks,” Clevenger says. “The state of Tennessee has a rich history of demonstrating strong resolve in times like these. Our people are resilient and never shy away from a challenge. These traits will allow our state and our nation to prevail during these unprecedented challenges.”


EMBA graduate helps reduce infant mortality rates in Guyana

Guyana has one of the Western world’s highest infant mortality rates but thanks to Dr. Narendra Singh (EMBA 2017), former chief of staff at Toronto’s (Canada) Humber River Regional Hospital and pediatric physician, those numbers are in decline.

Singh moved to Canada from Guyana when he was a teenager but never severed ties to his home country. He wanted to bring lasting change that would improve Guyana’s access to basic prenatal care. Instead of volunteering his services as a pediatrician on a short-term basis, he envisioned a sustainable and comprehensive program to improve the state of infant mortality called Guyana Help the Children.

“The foundation for any sustainable program has to be education,” says Singh. So, in partnership with the local government, he created a residency program at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) that brought state-of-the-art technology to the country and a hybrid model blending in-person education with volunteer doctors and a virtual classroom where Singh and other faculty members provide instruction from anywhere in the world.


“Before we started this program, Guyana had only two pediatricians,” he says. “To date, we have trained over 10 pediatricians and over 50 nurses, which is a lot for a country of only 750,000 people. Early individuals that we trained are now becoming the educators, so we are close to it becoming a self-sufficient program.”

To date, the infant mortality rate has dropped more than 40 percent at GPHC in Guyana and has saved the lives of more than 150 babies annually. For his contribution to the welfare of Guyanese people, Singh received one of Canada’s highest honors, the Meritorious Service Decoration (Civil Division), by His Excellency, the Governor General, the Right Honorable David Johnston.

After completing his Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program, jointly offered by the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University, U.S.) and the Schulich School of Business (York University, Canada), Singh is looking to use the financial, administrative, and managerial skills that he gained from his EMBA Program to take the same model for a high-impact, non-profit campaign to other at-risk countries throughout the world.


Kennesaw State University student appointed chief of staff

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appointed Kennesaw State University EMBA student Carmen Chubb chief of staff for the city of Atlanta.

Chubb previously served as deputy commissioner for housing at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. During her 25-year tenure with the state, Chubb led all statewide programs and resources for affordable housing. The housing group includes 250 professional staff members, with more than $275 million in program resources, and a $30 million operating budget. Chubb joined Georgia Housing and Finance Authority (GHFA) in 1990 as an accounting manager, before the agency merged with the Department of Community Affairs in 1996.

“Carmen Chubb has had an exemplary career in public service and will bring a strong track record of leadership to City Hall,” says Bottoms. “I also look forward to the housing insight and expertise that she will offer the administration, as we work toward our vision for One Atlanta.”


As chief of staff, Chubb will serve as one of the highest-ranking advisors to the mayor, overseeing key city functions, top personnel, policy, and legislative matters.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve the city that raised me, especially in the administration of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms,” said Chubb. “I am excited to work with Mayor Bottoms and her administration to execute the goals for Atlanta to be a more affordable, resilient, and equitable city.” Less...