Graduating to Being in Charge

After finishing the MBA program at Drury University, Dawn Hiles went on to run and revamp the program.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Dawn Hiles can tell you a million and one little details about how she recently helped revamp Drury University’s MBA program. The one thing she can’t remember, though, is her own wedding anniversary.

“This is actually a joke in our house,” she laughs. “I think it’s November 27.”

Luckily for Dawn, her husband, John, is pretty laid-back. From the time the two got engaged, John has showed unconditional love in ways most men do not.

Case in point: Dawn cheers on the Green Bay Packers, while her husband is a loyal Minnesota Vikings fan. When John popped the question, he presented her with a puppy named Lambeau, after her favorite NFL team’s founder and home stadium. “So, I really knew he loved me,” says Dawn. “If a Vikings fan is going to name his dog Lambeau, then he really loved me.”

Dawn is apparently used to having things work out in her favor. In her first few months as the director of Drury’s MBA program, she’s become somewhat of a powerhouse with her ambitious goals to re-engineer the school’s program. After completing the coursework herself, Dawn had a hand in changing the curriculum, which includes pairing students with local business mentors, sending students to study in places such as China and encouraging students to become entrepreneurs by allowing them to pitch their ideas to a group of potential investors.

“Last year we had a standard, run-of-the-mill program,” says Dawn. “This year, we put together a phenomenal program.”

She says that every year Drury puts out a lot of leaders who end up moving to places like Kansas City or St. Louis. She hopes that with the new program, graduates will see how much Springfield has to offer. “I think we’re going to help a lot of those talented people stay here in this area,” she says. “I would expect people from all over the country to eventually be coming to apply for funds and grants.”

Dawn’s not just trying to change the Ozarks one business student at a time. She also participates in her church’s outreach programs, volunteers with the Southwest Missouri Humane Society, and occasionally consults non-profit groups. This year, the Springfield Business Journal named her one of the city’s 40 most prominent business leaders under the age of 40. “I was really surprised,” she says. “It was a huge honor, and I really enjoyed getting to meet more people, too.”

Now that Dawn has helped so many people with their business futures, one might wonder who’s helping Dawn. Even with her own MBA and endless knowledge of all-things-commercial, Dawn has yet to play the role of entrepreneur. She had considered opening a Trader Joe’s, a chain of low-priced, all-natural grocery stores that can be found in cities like St. Louis, but in the end, decided it wasn’t a good fit. Plus, this leader still wants to be led.

“I think I have a lot to learn still,” she says. “At some point it would be great if I did own my own business. I don’t know what it would be, and I don’t think I know enough quite yet to be ready to do that. My hat goes off to any entrepreneur. I think they are the gutsiest people.”
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