EMBA is learning to transform your thinking

Dennis Mulherin Executive Director and Kerryn Simpfendorfer Chief Financial Officer at Lutheran Education Queensland.

“We have great managers who haven’t spent a day in Management School, do we have great surgeons that haven’t spent a day in surgical school?”  Henry Mintzberg

The purpose of learning is the growth of our minds, understanding this knowledge, building, developing and practising these skills in our work and private life is the essence of studying an MBA or Executive MBA (EMBA). Pursuing an MBA (E) forces you out of your comfort zone, allows you to understand the newest management techniques while continually challenging your perceptions and biases as you finally balance the demands of your study, work, and personal life.

Committing to a two-year intensive EMBA requires strong leadership, drive, determination, and commitment.  Two recent graduates Dennis Mulherin Executive Director graduated in March 2018, and Kerryn Simpfendorfer Chief Financial Officer graduated in March 2017. Both Dennis and Kerryn are part of the Lutheran Education Queensland Executive Leadership Team.

Dennis and Kerryn consistently demonstrated these skills, as well as supporting fellow cohort members, pushing themselves to achieve the highest academic results. Hearing first-hand how projects derived from the EMBA program are being successfully implemented across Lutheran Education Queensland is inspirational.

Their combined learning helped with their understanding of the need for leadership integration across the whole organization. They constantly bounce ideas off each other to identify some of the key challenges facing the organisation. Shared understanding allows them to look at how they could use their knowledge, particularly from their assessment challenges, to come up with solutions to real-world problems. This knowledge particularly helped them have the confidence to approach the Board about investing in projects that have achieved wonderful outcomes for the organisation.

How does EMBA learning apply to this real-world?

Every EMBA subject and associated assessment was approached with the question of “how does this apply to what we are doing?” They have instigated multiple projects as a direct result of assignments completed as part of their study, and are using real-world application of their learning to improve outcomes for the organisation.

“The EMBA is learning to transform your thinking and therefore transform your organization,” Dennis Mulherin

One project, that is a direct result of one assessment piece, has streamlined the way data is now collected from each school within Lutheran Education Queensland. This means that they are able to drive their own business intelligence “automagically”. Being able to use their data more effectively has meant that they have become more intentional, reframing problems and opportunities that arise, to produce long-term benefits across the organisation.

Dennis Mulherin and Kerryn Simpfendorfer are working together to transform Lutheran Education Queensland.

What was the highlight of your study experience?

“If you think you are going into the EMBA to add to your existing knowledge, think again,” Kerryn commented, “you need to unlearn, to be able to learn.” Both agree that one of the benefits of the EMBA is remarkable personal growth, particularly in the area of self-awareness and how this applies to your leadership.

“It is no longer enough to be a specialist in your technical area, you have to have a multi-disciplinarian view across a number of areas.” Kerryn Simfendorfer

Dennis and Kerryn say that the highlight of completing their EMBA was the cohort experience. Working alongside people with incredible talent, diversity and caliber helped them to grow as individuals, and as leaders. They have applied this knowledge in the workplace and have learned to surround themselves with those that challenge their thinking, pushing a growth mindset. They learned to collaborate for the benefit of the whole and state that the connections they made are an amazing resource. This connection and support network with their cohort has continued even though their studies have completed.

What wisdom would you pass on?

 Both agree you must have a passion for what you do, and to be committed to the mission of the organization. Being part of a not-for-profit organization can be a thankless, but rewarding career, and being part of the transformation of education, at this point in time, is exciting.

Dennis and Kerryn were already experienced professionals, however, the common language and understanding gained through the EMBA has helped them face the challenges of a not-for-profit organization, that has a mission focus, with a business mentality. It has provided them with solutions and better ways of doing things. They learned that they needed not only to be business people, but also educators, finance, and legal, whatever they need to be within the organization.

“When doing the EMBA, you can’t help but come away thinking differently,” says Dennis. This change in how you think, and what you do, is the way to personal growth as a leader. EMBA really is learning for the real world.


Tim Burton is the MBA Program Manager, Graduate School of Business. Tim has exceptional leadership skills with 20 year’s experience in leading and managing teams, recruiting, coaching, and mentoring. He has a strong commitment to people development working within the recruitment, hospitality and higher education sectors.

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