A Decade Later, MBA Alums Look Back at Program as ‘Transformational Force’

Oct. 30, 2019

Eller Evening MBA reunion 2019

Michael Alcala ’09 MBA, Jamie Barmach ’09 MBA and Lisa Macafee ’94 BSBA (Marketing) ’09 MBA

Ten years ago, a group that had been strangers just 18 months prior collectively earned their MBAs from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. Since then, their friendships have strengthened and their lives transformed—both professionally and personally.

“It was serendipitous,” says Michael Alcala of how well his 2009 MBA cohort gelled. “We have such a strong, diverse group.”

Alcala, who works in the pharmaceutical industry and also holds a bachelor’s degree from the UA College of Science, says—aside from the solid friendships he formed—the quality of the MBA program was a “transformational force” in his career. Since graduating, he’s moved from medical sales to a management role in his field—a feat he attributes, in part, to his Eller degree.

“I was expected to complete the same workload as a full-time MBA at the University,” Alcala says of what was then a part-time, evening program based in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It gave me the confidence to have high-level business discussions, provide solutions and know how to execute them. I think we all exited the program with complete confidence in our futures.”

For Lisa Macafee, that confidence came through learning skills she could use immediately at her job, then as a human resources executive, and later apply to new opportunities.  She currently teaches a university-level course in training and organizational development.

“If I had not gotten my MBA, I wouldn’t be able to teach,” says Macafee, who also holds bachelor’s degrees in sociology and marketing from the University. “The program opened doors for me and helped me see things from a different perspective. During undergraduate classes, you learn everything philosophically, but in my MBA classes I could see how our discussions applied to my job. I could see my education paying off.”

Alumnus Jamie Barmach, an independent IT consultant, experienced a personal payoff from the program. While he notes the knowledge he gained helped him feel secure enough to launch his own business, he also credits his MBA tribe for helping him lose about 180 pounds—a journey that began in 2015 after he agreed to join former classmates on a 200-mile Ragnar relay race.


Eller Evening MBA alumni at their 2019 reunion.
Eller Evening Phoenix MBA 2009 alumni at their 10-year anniversary.

“I started changing my diet and running, and it totally transformed me,” Barmach says. “That camaraderie and encouragement was really big for me—I had these people that cared for my well-being.”

The bond the alumni formed a decade ago is renewed at informal get-togethers throughout the year, and at reunions they organize annually—usually every August. In fall 2019, Alcala, Macafee and Barmach were among more than a dozen from their cohort that convened for the group’s 10-year celebration at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa in Tucson.

The alumni agree they enjoy catching up with one another, and also spreading the word about the program.

“I was just in an Uber with somebody and he said he was thinking about getting an MBA,” Alcala says. “I told him about the quality of education I got and the assurance I gained at Eller. It’s such a great experience—and you feel like you’re family.”

Learn more about the Eller Evening MBAoffered in Phoenix and Tucson, designed to be a transformational force for working professionals.