Griffith Business School has once again showcased our remarkable talent with the reveal of the recipients of the Outstanding Alumni Awards for 2019. From managing a global hotel empire, to transforming the Scandinavian loan industry, each of the winners represents the impressive heights that can be reached after graduating with a Griffith Business School degree.
In a year that produced a particularly strong and competitive cohort, four alumni have been chosen as the best and brightest of the remarkable field of graduates. The four individuals, Dr Jennifer Cronin, Dr Kerry Bodle, Sabrina Aripen and Jacob Hansen Karadumen will go on to represent the Business School at the University-wide Outstanding Alumni Awards Gala, to be held in September.
Outstanding Alumnus Award: Dr Jennifer Cronin
Hotel openings, cybersecurity and architectural blueprints are a few of the daily items on the agenda for Dr Jennifer Cronin, president of Wharf Hotels. Her 35 years of industry experience and intimate knowledge of hotel operations from her early career, help her to navigate the dynamic and complex nature of decision-making in her position.
For Dr Cronin, one of the many perks of operating in China’s booming 24/7 hotel sector is the fast pace and diversity, which has taken her to almost every corner of the globe.
Dr Cronin’s desire to pursue a career in Asia stemmed from a high school exchange she attended. She then went on to find a university degree that would facilitate her aspirations. “Australians were not doing Asian languages in a big way then,” she says. “Griffith’s School of Modern Asian Studies was the cutting-edge learning institute for Japanese language at the time.
Beginning her career as a room service waitress, Dr Cronin has worked her way through the business, learning all about hotel operations before becoming a sales manager at Conrad Jupiters Hotel and Casino on the Gold Coast.
Realising she would need a business degree to move into senior management, Dr Cronin studied a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Bond University. The hard work paid off, and in 1995 Dr Cronin was appointed general manager of the Kooralbyn Hotel Resort.
Having steered through several downturns in various hotels due to global events and political upheaval, Dr Cronin sought to bolster her experience with a PhD in hotel crisis management.
At Wharf Hotels, Dr Cronin puts her background and knowledge to good use and hopes to one day do the same in Australia.
In addition to her impressive work in the hotel sector, Dr Cronin believes in the importance of nurturing young talent and ensures she passes on her skills through mentoring in her leadership positions. She also takes an active interest at Griffith, where she sits on business advisory boards and has also taught entrepreneurship at the University.
Her achievements were recently recognised when she received the APacCHRIE (Asia Pacific Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education) Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the first woman and non-Asia Pacific national to receive this prestigious award.
Dr Cronin credits Griffith Business School with laying the groundwork on which she has built an incredibly successful career. “It was very formative in setting my expectations of what life would be beyond the academic world,” she says. “It gave me a background in language and economics, and was a bridge between my cultural understanding of Japan and long-term goal to work in Asia.
“Never would I have dreamed my university studies would have taken me to the level I am now.”
Outstanding First Peoples Alumnus Award: Dr Kerry Bodle
Dr Kerry Bodle is a descendant of Karendali (Thargomindah), Kalali (Conbar Outstation) and Waka Waka (Cherbourg) First Nation Peoples.
At the age of 38, Kerry completed her Bachelor of Business degree at Griffith University and went on to complete her Honours in 2003. It was during her Honours courses that she developed a good understanding and passion for undertaking research, leading her to enrol in a doctorate degree, whilst working as a tutor for Griffith’s Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.
Kerry’s career has continued at Griffith University, where she has used her self-proclaimed ‘accidental academic’ status to establish relationships with industry and government departments which support the importance of increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in business education, research, engagement and employment.
Her plethora of professional achievements is intrinsically linked to her passion of engaging students in authentic and meaningful ways to develop their cultural competency. One such achievement is her national recognition as the first Level B accounting academic to win a prestigious ARC Indigenous Discovery Grant. Most recently, Dr Bodle has been appointed as the Griffith Business School Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Academic Director.
Her community-based roles in addition to Accounting, Finance, and Economics academia include: Griffith Business School Pro Vice Chancellor’s nominated Equity Champion, Reconciliation Action Plan champion, First Peoples Employment Working Group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council, Certified Practising Accountants of Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), and Indigenous Accountants Australia (IAA).
Dr Bodle has established herself as a prominent and highly respected First People’s advocate who is regularly called upon to speak on Indigenous issues within the accounting and financial services industries. Her contributions to Indigenous knowledge increasingly influence industry professionals, government policy-makers and educators around Australia.
Outstanding International Alumnus Award: Jacob Hansen Karaduman
In the seven short years since Jacob Hansen Karaduman graduated from Griffith University, he has already been acknowledged by his peers as the key driving force behind the transformation of the Scandinavian loan industry—a feat that most would consider impossible to achieve in one of the most traditional and complex finance markets.
Upon graduating from Griffith, Jacob joined Advisa, a Swedish loan brokerage firm, in an entry-level role, where he was to make roughly 200 cold calls per day. Six months into the role, he launched a new department which introduced new revenue-generating business verticals, as well as new approaches to handling customer enquiries.
Not satisfied with the level of improvements for the end consumer, Jacob expressed his desire to turn the entire industry upside down by democratising the loan application process, saving money for millions of Scandinavian people, and developing a new career path for Millennial’s. A natural leader with an obsession to get to the root cause of an issue or opportunity, Jacob quickly rallied three other professionals and together in 2014, they launched the loan marketplace platform Enklare. Today, Enklare serves as the third largest and most successful loan marketplace platform, has employed over 500 youths, and has disrupted an industry mired in red tape, complexity, and information disparity. Due to Jacob’s operational, managerial, and growth/scaling excellence, he is now highly sought after as a judge and mentor for some of the world’s most prestigious startup and business plan competitions, including but not limited to Rice Business Plan Competition and Princeton Tiger Launch.
Mr Karaduman has also played a formidable role in shaping his colleagues’ professional outlooks, something he continues to do naturally not only for his 140+ employees at Enklare, but for emerging startups, organisations, and communities.
Outstanding Young Alumnus Award: Sabrina Aripen
Sabrina Melisa Aripen is the founder and chairperson of Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All (SERATA), a nonprofit organisation based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. SERATA works to dismantle long-held socially constructed gender roles and promote gender equality by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls.
Her career shift from commerce to gender equality advocacy began in 2010, when she organised a ‘White Ribbon Day’ to raise awareness on the prevalence of violence against women. During her event campaign, she rallied seven local men to join her advocacy by becoming White Ribbon Ambassadors and over the next four years immersed herself in a variety of organisations to help marginalised women and children.
The defining moment of Sabrina’s career occurred during her time as a Community Solutions Program Fellow in San Francisco. She made a startling discovery on what could be the root cause of the gender gap in employment at her home country, Malaysia. While assisting her host organisation advocate for paid parental leave for all working people in the United States, she noticed that Malaysia only offered maternity leave under the Labour Law and is silent on the topic of paternity leave. Ms Aripen identified this to be a strong indicator of gender stereotypes and a deep-seated cultural expectation that women are solely responsible for raising children. Observing this gap and doing her own research, led to Sabrina founding SERATA.
Sabrina’s life work is now centred around changing the perceptions and expectations of parental care in Malaysia. In addition to her organisational work, she has written several articles championing the role of fathers in families, linking this to increasing the representation of women in the workforce and beyond.
In recognition of her work on gender equality, Sabrina was awarded the 2018 ‘Community Achievement Award’ by the Malaysian Australian Alumni Council.