Where are they now? Global engagement a priority for 2004 graduate Gbemi Disu

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December 1, 2017

Gbemi DisuGbemi Disu, a 2004 graduate of Barrett Honors College, has taken her talents global.

She currently works at the executive director for global strategy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. It’s a position she started earlier this year after a stint of almost two years in Asia as the chief operating officer of George Mason’s Korea campus, where she oversaw campus operations, marketing and enrollment. She also is a member of the GMU School of Business faculty and teaches Global Business to undergraduates.

Disu, who holds a bachelor’s degree with majors in economics and international business and a communications minor from the W.P. Carey School of Business, as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, feels her studies uniquely positioned her for the work she does now.

“I have always been passionate about being global and actually received a global perspective award as a student. Combining that interest with the business basics gave me the analytical skills and business acumen to navigate the complexities of working globally,” she said.

In addition to her global perspective, Disu relied on her own instincts and flexibility when transitioning into the workforce.

“I was ready to put all that I had learned into practical application. After spending many years surrounded by Type A go-getters who all wanted to aspire for greatness, it was interesting to meet people who found me to be too driven. So collaborating, influencing people without direct authority, and building professional relationships were all very helpful skills that I refined over the years,” she said.

Learning to navigate her organization’s political climate, understanding strategy and collaborating with co-workers also are important factors in Disu’s endeavors.

“We learn all the technical skills but one of the most challenging transitions was understanding the climate and being politically savvy without compromising values. It’s a lot harder than one thinks and I still don’t think I am an expert at it, but I certainly consider it a journey rather than a destination,” she explained. 

“Understanding strategy is important, but at the end of the day, people implement strategy so unless you have people rowing in the same direction as you are, you may not achieve your goals no matter how hard you work,” she added.

Although she has been around the world since she graduated, Disu still holds Barrett in high regard.

“I loved being part of the honors college. ASU is such a large institution that being a part of BHC was what made me feel like I had a smaller family within the bigger unit. It connected me with many of the lifelong friendships I have today with staff, students and faculty,” said.

The coursework, a diverse student body, collaborative spaces, and her involvement in extracurricular activities added to the quality of her undergraduate experience. She was active in student organizations, participated in internships and volunteered for causes and organizations she believed in.

“I loved the challenging classes and the opportunities to interact with a diverse range of students both in terms of their backgrounds, experiences and academic disciplines. We didn’t have the fancy residences when I was a student, but as a member of W.P. Carey we did have a dedicated lounge and advisers that became a haven for us to congregate and plan on how we would change the world in our own way,” she added.

 In 2015, Disu received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Barrett. It’s a designation she enthusiastically embraces.

“I was really honored to be selected and remain proudly a member of the community. I believe we are the gold standard for all honors colleges in the nation and get better every year!”

The nomination form closes Dec. 31! You can recognize their success by nominating them for the 2017 Barrett Alumni Awards here. Recipients will be recognized at a ceremony on April 12, 2018.

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