The Fortune 500

by Tonya Wells and April Schoen

Southeast has a proud history as a teachers’ college. While we’re happy to be known as a premier place to start your education career, our 2015 enrollment shows students are hoping to venture beyond the classrooms to the boardrooms*, so to speak, at double the rate, working for some of the largest brands around the globe. Here are just a few.

Rick_Mangrum-2015_3RCRichard Mangrum / Walmart Stores Inc.

Vice Pres., Merchandising

Bentonville, AR


Tell us about your job: VP of merchandising leads a team to develop and execute merchandise strategy and merchandise assortment to fulfill the company’s mission to help customers save money and live better. Essentially I am responsible to recruit, train and develop a buying team that fulfills the company’s strategy in the United States and around the world.

What are the things you like most: I love the uniqueness and challenge of it. We have the opportunity to impact the lives of customers in all 50 states and around the world. I also love the people development aspect of the job. It is a great pleasure to hire, develop and watch an associate succeed in their career. Retailing is a people business.

What was your major at Southeast: Communications and Business.

Was this your goal: My initial goal was a position in a successful company where I could develop and implement leadership skills. I have been fortunate to walk that path. I started as a trainee after graduation and worked my way up to vice president.

How did Southeast prepare you for your career: Southeast gave me great preparation for my career path. Tom Harte was my lead speech professor. His teaching and mentoring on communication have helped me every day of my career. You can know some of the answers, but if you can’t communicate them effectively, you will not succeed.

What do you remember most about your time at Southeast: I fondly remember my SEMO years. My wife and I met on the steps of the Baptist Student Center and were married right after graduation. Southeast gave me a great start, and I recommend it whenever I have the opportunity.

Erin_Huente-editErin Hente / Thrivent Financial

Business Development Consultant

Minneapolis, MN


Tell us about your job:  A part of my role is spent as a consultant for our Thrivent Financial Representatives. I mentor/support them and their staff on development of their practice and execution of their business plans. I also lead the strategy work for our office professional development program, which is a program designed to support our field reps with the onboarding of the new support staff they hire into their practices.

What are the things you like most: Helping our field reps identify opportunities to be more successful and grow their practices gives me great joy. If they succeed, I’ve succeeded.

What was your major at Southeast:  BSBA Finance

Was this your goal:  When I was wrapping up my senior year of college, I was working as a teller for Bank of America. It was in that position I became the go-to person for advice when my colleagues and friends had questions about various financial matters that came up in their lives. As I started exploring careers, I was dead set on NOT going into a sales role; however, little did I know that the sales role was more of an advisory role where I could help people accomplish their financial goals by understanding where they were on their financial journey and helping them fill the gaps with product solutions.

How did Southeast prepare you for your career:  Southeast really broadened my horizons and allowed me to explore all aspects of finance from small business studies to insurance planning to the arts and sciences. With all of that knowledge, I was better able to understand the careers and interests of my clients as well as have more insightful conversations with them. Ethics in this industry is also key, and I felt SEMO was on top of its game when it comes to building an ethical foundation to launch our careers.

What do you remember most about your time at Southeast: Working in teams and my relationships with my instructors were my most memorable times. My instructors became mentors for me as I launched into the next phase beyond graduation, and teamwork was a very important aspect of some of the classes I took. It made me realize we each had our unique skill sets to get the work done, and each member of the team played a critical part in that, just as it is today in my career. You can’t be an expert at everything, and we must leverage the skills, talents and culture of our colleagues to grow throughout our careers as well as an organization.

Renee_Terry copy-editRenee Terry / The Boeing Co.

Facilities Project Administrator

St. Louis, MO


Tell us about your job: My job as a facilities project administrator is to receive, validate and log customer requests for facilities services. This includes construction projects, office and lab rearrangements, people moves and asset acquisition. I meet with customers on a regular basis to evaluate their requests, provide tactical plans and define requirements that identify the design requirements. Then I obtain formal designs and coordinate with affected parties to create work packages that provide documentation and costs relative to project implementation services.

What are the things you like most: What I like most about my job is the team setting. Nothing I work on is redundant or boring since each project has its own requirements. It is amazing to see the designs I create on the computer eventually come to life once construction is complete.

What was your major at Southeast: Interior design, architecture minor

Was this your goal: Yes, commercial design has always been my favorite, and I knew I wanted to eventually be a project manager. I never imagined working for a company as large and successful as Boeing, but it has definitely been a blessing to work here right out of college. Not many people my age can say they are working their dream job from the start!

How did Southeast prepare you for your career: One way that SEMO prepared me for my professional career was learning how to communicate in a large corporate environment. I work with people from diverse backgrounds and SEMO taught me this through classes, student life activities and playing softball.

Prange, MarkÑ10/31/11ÑEmerson Electric Co.

Mark Prange / Emerson

Director, Program Management Office

St. Louis, MO


Tell us about your job: In my role as the IT Program Management Officer, my team has led the implementation of tens of thousands of users into an Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning platform. Additionally, my team is missioned to continuously improve the speed, flexibility and value of enterprise IT services and the quality of changes into those services for more effective business enablement.

What are the things you like most: Executing with all of the great talent across Emerson leaves me with a great sense of pride for all those involved and the company.

What was your major at Southeast: B.S. in computer science with a minor in accounting.

Was this your goal: My goals change as I progress through my career. I started out wanting to be the IT developer that everyone wanted to count on. I then wanted to assemble systems into business architectures rather than lines of code into programs. Leading project teams through these implementations taught me the “how” for implementations, rather than just the “what.” With my exposure to the business functions from within IT, business processes and how a business was run became a passion. Currently, implementing IT programs and providing IT services in a more efficient and predictable fashion provides flexibility for my company to do business in a more efficient, flexible and strategic fashion.

How did Southeast prepare you for your career: I had fantastic professors who not only taught me how to develop programs and book financial transactions but also how to turn abstract thought into bigger ideas and applications.

lori-thurman1_2015-editLori Thurman / Microsoft

Senior Supportability Program Manager

Redmond, WA


Tell us about your job: I am a customer and partner advocate. I use my industry experience to address issues that may cause sales blockers, adoption blockers or deployment blockers for our Enterprise customers related to Windows Security features. For example, a corporation is considering deploying Windows 10, but finds that their hardware is incompatible with a security feature that was part of the reason that they were choosing to upgrade. I work with the Windows product team, marketing and our sales organization to address the problem and work on ways to keep this from happening with other customers.

What was your major at Southeast: B.S. in psychology

Was this your goal: I have always loved technology but did not think about computer science as a career until a few years after graduating from SEMO. It was a male-dominated field, and I allowed stereotypes to block me from considering it in college. It is a regret; however, I find that my major has benefited me in surprising and unexpected ways.  I actually got a role as a mental health case worker that was well aligned to my degree. I found the role interesting, but not quite satisfying. I moved on to the Missouri Department of Health focused on educating and engaging with local health departments on sexually transmitted disease which, once more, played well with my degree. Then, I received a life changing call from my brother to consider moving to Dallas, Texas, and working with him at his company that was a Microsoft Solution Provider. I took the leap. After working there for a few months, we thought it would be great if I could get a vendor role at Microsoft to learn more. We joked I would never get hired by Microsoft full time, but what a great experience. I accepted a year contract to work in customer support and services at Microsoft and was hired fulltime six months later. That was 18 years ago. Not bad for a Midwestern girl with a psychology degree.

What do you remember most about your time at Southeast: It is probably not surprising that what I remember most are my friends and the silliness that we got ourselves into in a place that made us feel safe enough to go head long into all the adventures that we could think up. Though I think I will keep most of those to myself, I will say that we once “sledded down” Cardiac Hill on a piece of cardboard just a tiny bit tipsy and lived to tell the tale!

*College enrollment as reported by University Institutional Research 2015/16 Fact Book for Fall 2015.


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