Alumni Success Story: Larissa Karimwabo BBA ’11, MBA ’17

Larissa Karimwabo ‘11, ’17, has been conquering the business world one step at a time. After living in multiple countries and receiving three Davenport degrees she is nowhere near done learning and growing into the person she is going to be. Let’s dig into what this sport management 11’, marketing and accounting master’s 17’ graduate has gotten herself into after college:

Tell me about yourself!
I was born in Africa, moved to Europe at age 10, came to the United States for a little while, and finally ended up settling down in Canada at around age 13 with my mother and siblings. So, I am actually a Canadian citizen. I came here in 2010 through the Davenport University Canadian transfer program and I graduated with my BBA with a Sport Management major in 2011. After graduation, I got a great job back home with the Sport Alliance of Ontario, providing administrative support services to amateur sports and recreation organizations. In 2013, I received a call about the new marketing MBA program at DU, and I immediately jumped to the opportunity and moved back to Grand Rapids. In the middle of the marketing MBA program, I met an accounting professor who said to me, “why aren’t you studying accounting? It comes so naturally to you.” In 2015, I decided to add the Accounting concentration courses to my degree. In May of 2017, I graduated with both degrees at the same time. I enjoyed tutoring and teaching accounting and I would love to perhaps teach it someday, but my passion is working in the marketing and events field at the moment.

Why did you pick DU?
It was the right time and opportunity. I saw the advertisement to study at a school in the US while I was attending college in Canada. The location of the school was key because I had family in the area at the time, and I had visited Grand Rapids before.

 What professors or staff did you connect with the most?
I had many great teachers/staff in every department that helped me and molded me. Thank you to all that pushed me to my full potential. To name a few let’s start with the amazing Suzanne Gutt, our DU DECA advisor. She has been a rock for me and to the many of us in the DECA program or what we call the DECA family. Steve Prawdzik (Project) was a huge mentor of mine and really guided me when I first arrived at Davenport in 2010. On the accounting program I would say Tim Bergsma, who is no longer with DU, but a great teacher and mentor. Other mentors I definitely need to recognize are Linda Goulet, DU Marketing Department Chair, Dr. Margaret Mwenda, former College of Business & Chair of the Management Department at DU, and finally, Karen Mosier, Director of Tutoring Services. I thank you for all that you did for me!

 What are you doing now?
I work for Experience Grand Rapids or the Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our role is to inspire tourism and conventions through short-term promotions, long-term marketing and sales strategies, and a focus on community developments that will impact the visitor experience. Proud to always promote the fact that we are Beer City USA, and if you are not a Brewsader by now and you live in Grand Rapids, you better get on it. My job title is Event Coordinator. The events department works closely with the sales department, as a vast majority of the events planned are supporting sales efforts. My role focuses heavily on creating sales opportunities with state-based convention planners, as well as group tour and third-party planners.

Outside of work what do you like to do?
I make it a point to travel as often as possible. I love coaching basketball and been coaching since high school. I enjoy mentoring. I have mentored with Big Brother Big Sisters, Bethany Christian refugee program and Davenports Alumni Mentor Network.

 Do you consider yourself a lifelong learner?
100%! I’m just waiting for Davenport to launch a Ph.D. program. I am currently studying for my certified meeting planner exam and I love it. I catch myself just reading old-school textbook for fun.

What is your dream job?
I don’t set any limits on myself. I am always looking for opportunities to learn and move forward my career. Something I’ve always aspired to one day work or volunteer for the Summer or Winter Olympic Games. That would be a dream come true!

Who inspires you?
My mother! Everything she does and has done has always been to support her family. My siblings and I cannot thank her enough.

How do you want to be remembered?
I would say as a mentor, someone who helped others see their potential, and someone who always offered a helping hand no matter what.


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