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David Berglund, Kristin Hough Frame and David Marrese, graduates of the Part-Time Flex MBA program, gather for a photo. 

Combining Creativity, Curiosity and Ethics

With the rising role of technology in the future of banking, it’s perhaps no surprise that U.S. Bank – a 72,000-employee finance company – created an innovation team that explores and implements technological advances.

For three members of that team – David Berglund, Kristin Hough Frame and David Marrese – they all share a common thread: the MBA program at St. Thomas.

“What I loved about the MBA was that it was learning for the sake of learning,” said Marrese ’13 MBA, who earned his degree as a part-time student. “St. Thomas does a really good job about asking critical thinking questions. To work in the [innovation] space, you have to [ask those questions] and be curious by nature.”

Each of the trio made their way to St. Thomas with the hopes of building their business acumen as they advanced in finance. At St. Thomas they not only found the value of developing business language and skills, but how to apply it directly to their budding careers.

“One of the reasons I wanted to go to St. Thomas was the applied learning versus theoretical,” said Berglund ’13 MBA, who heads the innovation team’s work in artificial intelligence. “If had a business problem in front of me from work, I could talk about with faculty and other students.”

Working through those kinds of problems in a small-group setting – similar to the team she’s now on – was critical for Hough Frame ’12 MBA.

“That small-group setting at St. Thomas helped in learning how to be open-minded and seeing that strategic view, which helps with the innovation team [to see the long-term goals],” she said.

The development of a peer network has continued to pay big dividends. The MBA program’s emphasis on developing strong ethics has proven critical as Berglund’s team deals with developing the future of banking for U.S. Bank and its customers.

“It’s not just about us trying to extract value from the customers, but truly putting their needs first,” he said. “We're always thinking through whether what we do will put people in a better spot in the future.”

In considering those kinds of complex scenarios, Marrese pointed to the group’s eclectic background – his in journalism, Hough Frame’s in mathematics and Berglund’s in psychology – as being truly dynamic when paired with the MBA degree.

“If you’re elongating the amount of time someone spends learning, that’s what we want to do. That’s what innovation is -- it’s learning,” he said. “And the MBA program at St. Thomas is that same learning.”

Currently there’s more than 400 undergraduate and graduate Tommie alumni working at U.S. Bank.