University of Tennessee

New EMBA-HL Alumna Is Dedicated to Supporting Her Students’ Capabilities

February 2, 2021

Naomi Anderson just earned her Executive MBA in Healthcare Leadership from the Haslam College of Business, but her relationship with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, goes back to the 1990s when she plunged into UT’s engineering school. Eventually, she changed course and earned her bachelor’s in nursing instead. When she wanted to pursue an MBA, she immediately thought of her alma mater.

“I wanted to attend an MBA program that provided more than just a degree,” Anderson says. “I wanted a challenging program from an elite group of professors, and I do believe the Haslam program does just that.”

While Anderson has been interested in gaining an MBA for many years, she felt that an EMBA-HL would enhance her professional repertoire in her role as the supervisor of the Health Services Medical Clinic at the Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD). It was important enough to her that she paid her own way.

“I recognized that my skills needed some polish and updating, especially regarding organizational culture and process improvement,” she says.

Because in-person learning is the best environment for students at TSD, Covid-19’s initial closure of the school was particularly disruptive. So, while going through the MBA program, Anderson also was working on a reopening plan for the school that ensured students and staff could attend safely.

“I believe in the capability of every student, and I value the mission TSD serves,” she says. “Whatever I could do to help support the staff, which directly and indirectly helped the students, my team and I were there.”

Coping with pandemic-related issues while meeting her professional responsibilities and completing her MBA wasn’t easy. However, in a twist, Anderson says the pandemic may have influenced her time in the program positively.

“I feel like I have experienced five years of personal growth and development crammed into this one calendar year – and it is good,” she says.

Anderson says the executive education support staff provided a top-notch level of professionalism, and she praised several professors, including Chuck Noon, Michael Grojean, Jim Reeve and Randy Bradley, for offering relatable, pertinent content in an approachable manner.

“The diversity of the different tracts made the program interesting and stimulating, and I enjoyed connecting with other future leaders,” she says.

With her MBA in hand, Anderson is unsure what the future holds. She knows she is needed were she is, serving and leading.

“The dilemma comes with trying to find the balance of serving the goals of myself and my family and serving the needs of others,” she says.

One thing is likely, though. Anderson will continue to focus efforts on good outcomes for underserved populations. Her advisor, finance professor Phillip Daves, praises her steadfastness to her students at TSD.

“Throughout the organizational action project (OAP) process, Naomi has maintained a laser focus on her students at TSD,” Daves says. “Although Covid-19, data access and organizational priorities forced her to pivot through several versions of her project, Naomi’s goal has always been to improve the lives of her students. Naomi’s advocacy, her empathy and her tireless drive to improve TSD have all made her a joy to work with.”

In turn, Anderson sees Daves as a mentor.

“Dr. Daves showed great kindness and patience with this project,” she says. “It was often difficult to conceptualize due to its visionary nature.”

Of her OAP, Anderson notes that research shows visual language causes no harm to a baby, no matter what a family’s future language goals are and that language connection fulfills the most basic hierarchical need for inclusion in the family unit.

“With hearing loss and deafness, language is key,” she says. “Visual language early and often in a newborn baby’s life is free and fun, which leads to my vision of educating healthcare providers as an outreach initiative later on.”


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist,