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Thursday, February 27, 2014 - Mentorship, scholarship and hands-on experience creates environment for success
OU senior William Gross is very clear about the kind of business professional he plans to be. “Whatever I do, I want to be a good leader,” Gross says. “I want to be a person who people can look up to and trust.”

Gross, who grew up in Sterling Heights, Mich., believes he is evolving into that kind of leader thanks to the education, hands-on opportunities and professional development programs available at Oakland University’s School of Business Administration (SBA).

“I love Oakland University because it gives me an opportunity to be in an environment where I can succeed,” Gross says.

Rich experiencesWilliam Gross

The oldest of four children, Gross is the first member of his immediate family to attend college. He takes the charge seriously, refusing to waste any opportunity.

Gross, who is preparing to graduate December 2014 with a major in finance and a minor in applied technology in business, has fully immersed himself in the wealth of experiences OU has to offer.

“Looking back, beyond taking classes, my involvement in student organizations has been one of my most worthwhile activities,” Gross says. “The responsibility of being president of the SBA’s Society for Applied Investing and Financial Education (SAIFE) student chapter really helped me mature.”

His additional activities included the Golden Key International Honour Society and Alpha Lambda Delta, the national honor society for first-year students.

Living on campus was also valuable. “You learn to be your own person when you live on campus,” says Gross. “That’s when you discover who you are.”

Growth opportunities

Gross also recognizes the value of the many professional development opportunities available through the SBA and has taken advantage of many, including the business school’s required ACHIEVE professional development program and its selective Scholars program.

That’s where he met Chris Valmassoi, SBA ’09, who has served as Gross’ mentor since 2012.

“William is obviously an up-and-coming student,” says Valmassoi, a senior treasury analyst at La-Z-Boy. “He’s come a long way in his confidence and his willingness to approach business professionals.”

Gross knows the guidance of an experienced business professional is invaluable.

“Chris’ mentorship means a lot to me,” Gross says. “As I progress through my career, I will make many mistakes and have many questions. Since Chris has already ‘been there, done that,’ so to speak, I have complete confidence he will be able to guide me.”

Help along the way

While Gross is starting to see the results of his hard work and drive, he says he never will forget the support that is making his successes possible.

Gross earned two OU scholarships – the SBA Tower Scholarship and the OU Sharf Scholarship – and holds a product analysis internship with Chrysler.

“I will be forever grateful for the scholarships,” says Gross. “They helped so much.”

Thanks to the Chrysler internship, Gross observes this was the first semester he hasn’t had to ask his family for financial support to make ends meet. “Money is tight, though,” he adds. “When gas and food prices go up, I feel it.”

Still driven

Gross is still fine tuning his career goals, but plans to eventually start his own company. “I want to find something I’m passionate about and build a business around it,” he says.

He’ll tackle those goals the same way he approached his college education – with drive, enthusiasm and a plan of action.

“It’s important to think about what you want in life and then do whatever you can to achieve it,” Gross says.

By Flori Meeks