National Alumni Society MemberName: Susan J. Pretnar
Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): MBA - 1988
Hometown: St. Charles, Missouri
Current town: Hoover, Alabama
Current employer and job: President, KeySys Health, LLC
What is your favorite UAB memory? I think it was actually marching at graduation to receive my MBA. It took me 5 years to complete, as I was juggling full time work, along with managing an active family. I did not have a chance to attend my undergraduate graduation, so it was a very special moment.
How has UAB impacted your life? Since my undergraduate degree was in English, I was not exposed to basic business courses like marketing, financial and cost accounting and statistics. My MBA course of study provided a great foundation for understanding many of the functions needed to manage a business myself.
What made you choose your current profession? While I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate English courses, my options upon graduation were limited. I was already active in the business world while working on my BA, and a great advisor recommended that I pursue an MBA to strengthen my business sense. Happily, my employer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, provided tuition reimbursement and support for the pursuit of my MBA. Basically, I continued down a path I was already on.
What lessons has your professional life taught you? In business, you really cannot succeed by yourself. Even if you are a one man shop, building relationships with vendors and customers is critical. If you are managing a large organization, it is important to surround yourself with people who will challenge your own thinking and the status quo, are open minded themselves, and who love their jobs.
What would you do if you were given more time in each day? I would read more. I keep adding book reviews and reading recommendations to a file folder in my desk at home, so it will take me years to even make a dent.
What invention have you seen in your lifetime that you believe has been the most important? There are three really. First is the Internet: it has revolutionized not only business but every aspect of our lives. Second is the smartphone: in just 5 years, dozens of competitors have entered the market, and millions of people adopted this rapidly evolving technology. And finally, the mapping of the human genome, which may yield the most phenomenal changes in personal health and healthcare in our lifetimes.
If you could have 3 wishes, what would they be? My grandchildren will be carefree and loving and truly enjoy their lives; I will remain healthy and thrive in old age; and, our country will never be at war again. But, these are only my first 3 wishes!
If you could go back to any age…which age and why? I think I would go back to my early college days so I could start at the 1st page of the course catalog and just keep taking any classes that seemed interesting without the pressure of having to make a good grade, or having to settle on a major.
If you had the power to solve one, and only one, problem in the world…what would it be and why? Poverty. I wonder each time I see a homeless person or children who obviously do not have proper clothing and seem hungry, how in the world that could end. Each of them must have a story that would move each of us to action, but as a rule, we don’t try to understand how they come to be in that circumstance. In spite of donating to many causes and giving a handout occasionally, I feel that my efforts are in vain. Perhaps knowing these people individually would obligate me beyond my capacity to give, or indeed, to change their lives, so I choose anonymous gifts to ease my conscience.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? I wish I were musically gifted.
What trait(s) do you most value in your friends? Honesty.
Who would you want to portray you in a film about your life? My life is definitely not exciting enough to attract a film offer!
What is your motto? Work like you don’t need money, love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like no one’s watching. I just read another quote that I may have to adopt, however, from an interview with an actor in the new movie Quartet - ‘don’t die until your dead’.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? When I left home for college at 18, my mom and dad told me not to do anything that I wouldn’t be proud to tell them about. That was in the late 60’s, so you know they had a lot on their minds about what the word ‘anything’ would cover. I still think of those words often, even now. To be sure, my 17-year-old grandson will also hear those words from me when he gets ready to go to college!
If you could start a charity or non-profit organization, what would it be and why? I think it would be something around education. Instilling a lifelong interest in learning would be the goal. It would give people who have not had the kind of opportunities I’ve had, the money, time or mentoring they need, to learn about something they have a passion for, but never had the wherewithal to explore.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? I am planning to go back to Europe for an extended period (at least a month or two) each year after I retire (again). My sister and I travel together often and have promised ourselves a leisurely visit to the countries we visit. There are many countries I would love to visit, and our first extended stay will be in either Italy or France. I enjoy seeing the very old cities and how people live in other cultures. Too often my visits are short and I only get a taste of how other people live. I’m anxious to be able to stay much longer in one spot.
What is something you are proud of and why? At age 51, taking a job transfer 1000 miles away from my family, succeeding at the new position, and adjusting to living alone. It would be easy to just withdraw altogether when you are suddenly single, but I feel like I adjusted well and thoroughly enjoyed the sojourn to another city and state.
What is the last book you read? AFTER-SHOCK The Next Economy and America’s Future by Robert B. Reich. I was also reading Leaving Long Island…and Other Departures by Fern Kupfer (an Iowa State University professor and author) at the same time. Not sure which one I finished first. I’m usually reading a fiction and a non-fiction work at the same time, or at least 2 very different books…not sure why, just always seem to have a couple of books going.
Student Alumni Society MemberName: Bhavna Krishna
Graduation Year: 2015
Hometown: Madison, Alabama
Why did you choose to attend UAB? I chose UAB for several reasons: the wonderful community feel, the honors program I was accepted into, and all the opportunities the School of Business and Birmingham as a whole had to offer.
Who is the best professor that you have had at UAB so far and why? While I have had many excellent professors from my business courses to the wide variety of seminars I have taken in my honors seminars, I think the best professor I have had thus far at UAB would have to be Dr. Mike Sloane, the director of the University Honors Program. Dr. Sloane (or Mike, as he likes us to call him) really puts his heart and soul into everything that relates to his students. He builds a great curriculum every year for the interdisciplinary program, and he writes the best recommendation letters possible!
What is your favorite UAB memory? I think my freshman homecoming experience was probably a defining moment for me as it was the first time I felt a strong sense of community, from all the greek support and UAB patrons that I was surrounded by. It truly reinforced my reasoning for attending UAB and I could not have felt more at home.
What is your current state of mind? I feel beyond fortunate and blessed to have received such great opportunities and I am extremely motivated, anxious, and excited for new experiences that will hopefully come my way.
What do you do for fun? I think everything that I do on a regular basis is fun! Whether it’s working or being involved on campus, I keep myself busy and I love doing it! Attending basketball games for Ambassadors or being a part of intramurals cheering on the sidelines really keep my love for UAB blazin’.
Who are your heroes in real life? I think my heroes in real life are some of my friends around me who do it all: maintain excellent grades, keep up amazing involvement, volunteer at places they love, achieve huge career goals, some, while working full time to support themselves and lead a balanced life all at the same time. And they also somehow find time to take care of me!
If you were given more time in each day, what would you do? If given more time, I would love to go back to dancing. I have danced since I was 4 years old, and ever since I have come to college, I just have not been able to make time for it. That, as well as learning new languages. I love getting to know and understand new cultures and learning languages would help in my dreams of being to travel around the world.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I think my superpower would definitely be time travel. I would love to go back in time and meet with great thinkers of different times and gain some real insight into their perspectives on life. Also, I think being able to meet my grandfather, who helped start up a school in his hometown and eventually became the headmaster of the entire school, would be a huge blessing. I have heard so much of him and all the amazing things he has done for his community, and being able to meet him and thank him for a beautiful life would a wonderful personal experience for me.
What is the best invention of your lifetime and why? I think inventions that have helped with communication are absolutely amazing; whether it be smart phones or the internet, it enables me to be in contact with my friends and family from across the world and make the distance between us extremely insignificant.
What are your future goals? Right now as a sophomore, although I enjoy Marketing, I love learning something new everyday about what opportunities business has to offer. Working in Career and Professional Development Services in the School of Business has really opened my eyes up to the options I have and I hope to test and sample a few of these during summer internships before making a decision with my career.
What would be your ultimate dream job? My dream job would be in International Business. As a child, I grew up in India for three years on my own as my parents stayed here in Alabama. Although it was a bit of a struggle at first, I think the experience I gained from my stay was invaluable. One lesson that this experience taught me was that, in the end we are all humans. Cultural barriers should not be what holds you back from communicating well with another person. Even in business, getting past cultural and language barriers is the only way to establish trust and have successful international relations. I believe I would enjoy doing this everyday, learning about new people and new cultures and making connections with them on a business front.
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be? Probably Kate Middleton. The princess life couldn’t be too bad, could it? While it is a high stress position, being poised and well spoken, maintaining well national and international relations, and taking care of kids, all while looking extremely fabulous would be something fun to do just for a week.
If you had a theme song, what would it be? Jason Mraz “Unfold”
If you had the power to solve one, and only one, problem in the world…what would it be and why? I feel that the issue of violence, especially in underdeveloped countries, is something that is often overlooked but in the long run has a huge and lasting impact on that nation. Being able to educate people on basic human rights and also to ensure a level of safety and security to each family would be something that would remedy many problems that countries are facing.
What’s the best advice you ever received? “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.”
If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be? “Tremendous strides, small victories (for a 5”1 girl)”