Monday, July 27, 2009
The OU experience and persistence leads to success for GMAC VP The OU experience and persistence leads to success for GMAC VP
An Ivy League education isn’t necessary to land powerful positions and lucrative careers. Just ask Toni Simonetti (CAS ‘79, MBA ‘90), vice president of global communications and chief communications officer for GMAC Financial Services. She earned her degrees from Oakland University.
“I appreciate and respect the Ivy League schools. They are great institutions,” Simonetti says. “At the end of the day, however, individuals are responsible for their own learning process. I acquired a great skill set from Oakland University and I enjoyed my time there. It worked for me.”
It worked for her indeed. Born and raised in Michigan, Simonetti enrolled at OU as an undecided major. After taking journalism and French courses her first semester, she had her major and minor mapped out.
With degree in hand, she found herself employed as a full-fledged reporter -- and later editor -- for a group of weekly newspapers in Macomb County, Mich. After five years in the media business, she was ready for a change.
“GM (General Motors) was the biggest ticket in town,” Simonetti says. “Somehow I got it in my head that I was going to work there, and I sent resume after resume to their corporate communications department. I think I still have a drawer full of rejection letters.” She didn’t give up and her persistence paid off. One day she received a call for an interview and was subsequently hired.
That’s when she got down to business – a master’s in business, to be exact.
“I knew an MBA would be a great complement to my undergraduate background, and provide additional credentials to pursue my professional aspirations in a business environment,” she says.
Having received her undergraduate degree from OU, she was comfortable and confident in obtaining a solid education from OU’s School of Business Administration. Among Simonetti’s criteria for selecting a business school – it must be accredited, and it must specifically offer an MBA. “Some colleges in the area use a different nomenclature for their business degrees,” Simonetti says.
Most of OU’s MBA students – like Simonetti -- were working full time during the day and attending classes at night. “This brought great richness to the class discussions, giving us real-life situations to assess. It sparked my interest and ambition.”
Simonetti steadily climbed the ranks of GM, ultimately landing her current position with GMAC. She relocated to GM’s New York office in early 1993. She spent two years, from 1998-99, with the defense company, Raytheon, based in Lexington, Mass., then returned to GM.
She’s often asked about her alma mater as she rubs shoulders with colleagues around the world. The assumption is that she’s attended a well-known, Ivy League college. Simonetti piques their curiosity when she tells them about OU.
“I wouldn’t trade my Oakland University education for anything,” Simonetti says. “The broad range of classes and experiences added to my perspective and gave me insight to the world around me.”
It’s an esteemed career, to say the least. And just think – OU is part of that impressive resume.
By Kathy Pomaville Pate