When you think of Roosevelt University, you may think of its strong emphasis on inclusive and dynamic education, or its status as an academic community that encourages social justice and diversity. For Harry Petrakos (MBA in Accounting and Hospitality Management, ’12), Roosevelt is all these things, as well as a springboard for what he was able to accomplish with his career.
Petrakos says that the journey to his current position as manager of Americas revenue management support for Marriott wasn’t necessarily glamorous, but it was memorable. “I have my current job because of my MBA from Roosevelt … it all started in a marketing class,” he said.
Petrakos presented a project on the power of the Marriott hotel chain in that class, in which one of his classmates was employed with the hospitality company at the time. They referred Petrakos to the JW Marriott in downtown Chicago, and he later jumped at the opportunity to work an entry-level job there, working overnight shifts while navigating his graduate studies. Despite his busy schedule, Petrakos said his Roosevelt education was invaluable in laying the foundation for his career.
After graduating from the University of Iowa, Petrakos wanted a graduate experience that ultimately captured his values as a person. He enjoyed that in Iowa, which had a sense of deep-rooted, natural hospitality that he wanted to emulate in his future work. Roosevelt was a continuation of that sentiment.
“RU puts an emphasis on community; I just thought that made it very unique,” he said, referring to the diverse and hardworking student body with which he interacted. “I joined Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity on campus. It was cool to get to be in a business fraternity as a graduate student. Because of Roosevelt’s size, the fraternity had a broad mix of students ranging from an 18-year-old freshman up to a graduate student with a doctorate in education. I also joined the National Association of Black Accountants student group. The group was very inclusive and included students from all races. I felt like Roosevelt University’s student body was a very hardworking group of people.”
He also appreciates the spirit of kindness and hospitality inherent in the Roosevelt community. “I was working 50 hours a week [at Marriott], going to grad school full time, so I moved into the city and got a different perspective,” he said. “I’d sleep on the couches at RU. You want to talk about how great the people are here? The janitor changed her schedule to not interrupt my sleep and would check on me to make sure I left in time for work.”
In addition to the wonderful community, Petrakos also values the vast amount of resources and opportunities that both Chicago and Roosevelt offer. He indicated his love of the culture and architecture, but also noted the sheer amount of academic and professional opportunities.
“Living in the city affords you so many opportunities academically. It just depends on what you’re studying,” Petrakos said. “Nothing can compare to the resources and museums you have right around you, [and the] opportunities to work and intern at these places. And how can you go wrong from a business standpoint when you have all these Fortune 500 companies right there? Chicago gives you an opportunity to apply what you learn.”
The unique size of the school and faculty engagement are worth talking about as well, in Petrakos’ opinion — even group projects were engaging and fun because of these factors. “When I was in school I didn’t like working in groups,” he said. “Professor Carolyn Wiley’s Executive Leadership class changed my opinion on group work.” He said that she managed to teach the class how to initially pick groups that would lend themselves to the best work, among many other valuable leadership skills in that class.
Petrakos speaks highly of many classes and professors, noting that the diversity that Roosevelt holds dear was clearly evident. “There was diversity [with faculty] not just in regards to race, but also age and professional experience,” he said, observing adjunct faculty members as some of the most engaging professors with whom he interacted.
What does this practical, straightforward and successful alumnus and businessman have to say to anyone making the decision to pursue higher education? “Go to school wherever you feel the most comfortable, a school that aligns with your values, desires and wants. That’s where you should go, if you can,” Petrakos said. “For me, Roosevelt helped provide the building blocks for a successful career.”