Education with purpose. Innovative programs. Knowledge that is significant today and tomorrow. These are a few phrases commonly used to describe DeGroote School of Business. Mitchell Fasken, a 2021 Master of Business Administration (Co-op) graduate and recipient of his graduating class’ MBA Co-op Individual Achievement Award, chooses just one word: Community. It’s a theme that permeated and enriched his DeGroote MBA experience in various ways — and continues to play a role today.
My fondest MBA memory wouldn’t just be a one-time event,” says Fasken. “Rather, it’s the small things that take place during the program, such as grabbing lunch with friends in between classes at the Ron Joyce Centre, or getting to know my colleagues as we collaborated on projects and assignments. Those small interactions were all part of a greater MBA experience that led to the strengthening of our school community and the creation of lifelong friendships.”
The MBA with Co-op experience at DeGroote
Canada’s largest and oldest co-op program, this version of DeGroote’s MBA is a unique opportunity for students to enhance their resumes by integrating classroom education with up to 12 months of paid work experience. That means building a professional network plays a major role in students’ educational journey. For Fasken, who previously completed an undergraduate business degree with a specialization in consumer behaviour, it was an appealing combination.
“I felt the co-op program would provide me a great way to gain knowledge and an overall learning experience of what it is like in the real world,” he says of his decision process. “I also chose DeGroote for the culture and atmosphere. After talking to MBA graduates and listening to how much they learned and how much fun they had in the program, it really made it easy to pick DeGroote!”
Finding and building community with colleagues
In the MBA, Fasken took advantage of program staples such as interactive classroom experiences and a focus on business essentials through modern integrated cases and discussion of current market topics. He also looked to extracurriculars to foster the sense of community he was seeking. Tapping into his family’s entrepreneurial background (his father and grandfather are both entrepreneurs), Fasken became president of DeGroote’s Entrepreneurship Club.
“One thing COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have taught me is just how valuable our communities are to the support and well-being of individuals,” he says. “I am grateful that I had the opportunity to develop such great friendships and connections from the MBA program.”
Those same friendships resulted in coveted public recognition. In 2020, Fasken’s peers recognized him as the recipient of the Class of 2021 MBA Co-op Individual Achievement Award. To be acknowledged in this way, says Fasken, meant more to him than any other award or achievement. It also layered an unexpected dynamic into his MBA experience.
I think it added a lot of perspective for me in that I had never really understood the impact I have had on our school community, which is a special feeling,” he says. “The thing I would say about my classmates is just what an amazing, strong and united community we are all a part of. I am so honoured to have been able to be a part of it and develop amazing friendships and connections that I know will last a lifetime.”
Integrating technology into communities
Today, Fasken’s theme of community continues in a different way. He, quite literally, helps to keep cities out of the dark with his role at StressCrete Group — North America’s longest-operating manufacturer of spun concrete poles. While Fasken recently became a Smart Infrastructure Sales Representative, his StressCrete career began during his first MBA co-op term.
“I ended up working on a project to find a way to design and market StressCrete’s concrete and metal light pole products to hold 5G small cell equipment, effectively making streetlight poles into miniature cell towers,” says Fasken, who was hired as a Smart Pole Product Coordinator when he graduated before moving into his current role this January. “This has proven to be successful, as we are now working with most of the major cellular carriers and cellular tower companies in North America. As we continue to grow and innovate, we are finding ways to integrate other smart technology, such as electric vehicle chargers, into our existing pole products. My education provided me with a framework of skills to be successful and trusted in my role.”