Craig Ahrens didn’t necessarily need to return to school to advance in his job, but he had always felt the pull to add to the associate degree in marketing he’d earned years ago back in 1987.
“I am a student of business and will always be working on my continuous improvement,” Ahrens said.
Already a district manager for Lennox Industries, it was his mentor, Mike Hart, vice president of residential sales, who pushed him to return.
“It did not take long for him to get me thinking about going back to school for my own growth,” Ahrens said. “He is the reason that I did it, and I had no idea that I would be trying so hard to achieve the most that I could.”
Ahrens looked at other universities, but none provided the personal touch that Baker did.
“I met with Lisa Hood, who was so knowledgeable about the programs I decided to move forward with Baker,” he said. “Throughout my time at Baker University the professors have been great; however, I cannot leave out my counselor Carol Reed. She, with no question, has been extremely supportive. I am not quite sure what I am going to do without her after I graduate.”
During the fall semester, Ahrens was inducted into the Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society. It carries a special meaning for Ahrens, who credits his father for his interest in the business world. Ahrens’s father was the chairman of marketing at Madison College in Wisconsin, where Ahrens earned his associate degree in marketing.
“He was so proud of me when I decided to go back to school and he unfortunately passed away in 2015,” Ahrens said. “So, I guess you could say that it means a lot to me because my academic achievements are not just for me, they are for my father as well. As I was being inducted into Sigma Beta Delta, the only thing I could keep thinking about was him.”
Ahrens will graduate with his Bachelor of Business Leadership in December and has already been using what he’s learned in the classroom on the job.
“One example could be what I learned from Professor Cary Valentine in his Building Organizational Climates class,” Ahrens said. “We give [our employees] responsibility to encourage ownership, then the team supports each other to add power and trust. Then the team has intrinsic motivation where they do their work because they want to.”
Ahrens has used his expanding business knowledge to assist other managers as well.
“I have been able to help some of my other managers and coworkers build their teams,” Ahrens said. “Not too long ago, I presented this to our leadership because our team was sticking out, and we took the District of the Year award for 2017.”
It has been personally rewarding for Ahrens to watch his team use his knowledge to reach its full potential.
“I care very much about giving back to my team and helping them grow,” said Ahrens. “Recently, two of my best people were promoted and it is a great feeling when you are changing other people’s lives for the better.”
Mike Hart, Ahrens’s mentor, is in awe of where his education has taken him.
“[Craig] worked incredibly hard and it’s great to see what he’s accomplished,” Hart said.
Ahrens credits his wife, Sandy, and children for his academic success.
“If someone would have told me I would be a 4.0 student at a highly accredited university years ago, I would have never believed it,” he said.