Faces of Carlson: Spring 2021

Faces of Carlson: Spring 2021

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Among our greatest achievements at the Carlson School are the connections we have made to each other and to the school. Our Faces of Carlson series showcases the perspectives of our inimitable students, faculty, staff, and alumni, highlighting what inspires them and makes them proud of their work and communities.


Prof. Abdifatah Ali

Abdifatah Ali

Professor, Work & Organizations Department

“I am most proud of earning my doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology. Coming from a refugee background and having few resources coming to the United States required a lot of hard work, perseverance, and learning to navigate different systems. Having accomplished this, it feels great to pave the way for the next generation and be the representation I desperately wanted. I hope more people who look like me know that there is space for them and they are very needed in these fields.” I desperately wanted. I hope more people who look like me know that there is space for them and they are very needed in these fields.”


Faces of Carlson: Connie

Connie Buechele

Carlson School IT Director

“One of the most pivotal moments in my life was participating in the Carlson School Executive MBA Program, also known as CEMBA. Being in the CEMBA program was a great opportunity for me to set an example for my kids, who were 10 and 16 at the time. When I started in the CEMBA program, I had been the IT director at the Carlson School for about five years, and I really appreciate the opportunity to experience the student perspective and see what it was like to sit in the classroom. I also had the opportunity to learn from some of the most talented instructors at the Carlson School, as well as see how they used our classroom technology. My classmates in the CEMBA program were working in a variety of fields, and it was so interesting to learn about different industries, corporate cultures, and challenges, which broadened my perspective beyond IT and beyond higher education. I keep in touch with my classmates, and I bring lessons and ideas from the program to work with me every day, including keeping the student and instructor perspective as a top focus for our IT team. I truly feel honored and privileged to have participated in the CEMBA program and to work at the Carlson School of Management.”


Faces of Carlson: Luke Schaible

Luke Schaible


“My biggest hero is still my dad. He’s still working as a facilities engineer for Marvin Windows in Warroad, Minn. He has worked on several projects funded by the company throughout town, such as the public library and the Gardens Arena. Growing up in a small community, I thought my dad was a rock star since his name was on plaques commemorating the teams that built both the library and the rink. As an adult, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with talented people from all walks of life while serving in the military and in the private sector. But I have yet to meet someone with a character, work ethic, and devotion to family and community quite like my dad. I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”


Faces of Carlson: Tiana Birawer

Tiana Birawer

’19 MBA 
Associate Brand Manager, Cheerios at General Mills

“My biggest hero isn’t one person per se, but is everyone who has come before me and paved a way for me. My parents moved from Jamaica to America when I was four. The sacrifices they made to bring me here and knowing this would be a better life. I also have heroes who are African American Black women who were able to break the color barrier both in education and in the workforce, while looking out for people who look like me. I think those are my heroes.”


Faces of Carlson: Nina Vrtjak

Nina Vrtjak

’21 BSB

“This may be a cliche answer, but my biggest hero is my mom. She is godsent and is walking on Earth as an angel. She is the most selfless, hardworking woman I’ve ever met. I would trust her with my entire life. She’s been faced with many hardships and you would never know it. She has the strongest mentality and is the strongest person I’ve ever met in my life. I admire that so much. I strive to be half the person she can be. She’s a rock for myself and so many others, and I really hope I could be that selfless of a person one day.”

Spring 2021 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Spring 2021 alumni magazine

Explore the latest insights and stories in business education and innovation. Dive into the Spring 2021 edition of Carlson School Magazine.



Spring 2021 table of contents