On January 31, UST Executive MBA Cohort 65 took the Plunge – the Polar Bear Plunge in support of Special Olympics. Led by Mark Laliberte ’99, Eric Matuska and Erica Roland, Team UST joined thousands of fellow Minnesotans who braved the frigid waters of White Bear Lake to inspire support of Special Olympics athletes.

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The EMBA program’s initial foray into what they hope will become an annual tradition was a smashing success. Support from classmates and faculty helped make Cohort 65 the top fundraising group among all participating colleges and universities, generating more than $3,100 in donations to Special Olympics Minnesota.

The idea of participating in the event was hatched by Laliberte, senior research associate at HealthEast, who was inspired by the years he has spent officiating Special Olympics Minnesota’s Basketball Championships. “Given UST’s history of hosting Special Olympics events, I felt doing the Plunge was a great fit for an already tight-knit class that was actively searching for community outreach opportunities to strengthen their collective bond.”

Getting classmates to sign up for the “extreme” event did however, require a bit of convincing.

“Mark is very persuasive,” said Roland, an executive fundraiser and founder of The Wellspring Group. “As a cohort, we’ve decided that we want to share experiences outside of the classroom and support each other in doing good. Plus I thought my teenagers might think I was cool,” she added with a chuckle.

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While many find the Plunge daunting, it turns out that the members of Team UST found the whole process exhilarating.

“I enjoyed the entire experience from the challenge to raise money to the comradery of our team to the actual plunge itself. Above all we raised a lot of money for a great event” said Matuska, plant manager at All Flex Flexible Circuits, LLC.

In a uniquely St. Thomas way, the participants even took away some solid business lessons. “I think we learned a lot about coming together as a team, overcoming fears and the rewarding feeling of giving back in thanksgiving for our talents. Our ethical lives can’t just be molded in our classrooms or through gaining the knowledge of what not to do. An ethical individual – an ethical business person – is crafted through attentive and active charity” said Laliberte.

Feel inspired? You can still help support Special Olympics Minnesota by donating through the University of St. Thomas team page.

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About The Author

Clark Gregor has more than a decade of business marketing, communication and public relations experience, primarily in higher education, with shorter stints in corporate public relations and the federal government. At the University of St. Thomas he manages communications at the Opus College of Business and edits the university blog for graduate business programs, Opus Magnum along with other marketing efforts.

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