Lakeland University Blog

LU Colloquium series continues with business leaders

LU Colloquium series continues with business leaders


LU Colloquium series continues with business leaders

Three successful Lakeland graduates returned to campus Thursday to speak with current and prospective LU students for day two of the annual colloquium series.

Returning for the Business & Entrepreneurship Colloquium were Darcy Johnson ’95, chief financial officer at Tormach; Eric Kriete ’99, owner of The Silver Fern Pub in Sheboygan; and Girts Rubenis ’08 MBA ’20, engineering project management coordinator at Johnsonville.

The colloquium events invite prospective students to Lakeland to hear from successful graduates as part of a day that also includes interviews for Lakeland scholarships. For current students, the events provide an opportunity to interact with these Lakeland grads to build their networks.

Johnson, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration, oversees finance, human resources, legal, strategy and overall business operations at Tormach, an ESOP company in Madison, Wis., and Guadalajara, Mexico.

She also teaches financial workshops at UW-Milwaukee’s entrepreneurship classes each semester, and with her husband is co-owner of four LLC’s in the real estate space.

Johnson encouraged students to take advantages of Lakeland’s Cooperative Education program and get as much experience as they can while building their network to prepare for post-graduation success.

“Southeast Wisconsin is a very small place and so many people know so many others,” she said.

With her dual degrees from Lakeland, Johnson has moved through her career in packaging, conveyors, machinery and wholesale/retail, all the while setting the foundation for her employers’ success.

“I started filing papers for $7 an hour,” she said. “Everything you do is an experience. You’re not entitled – you have to have patience. Keep showing your employer what you’re made of.”

Kriete, who graduated with a degree in business administration, took an interesting path to his role as the owner of The Silver Fern, a popular pub in Sheboygan. He initially worked for the family business, a trucking company called The Kriete Group. He didn’t find the job fulfilling and took a trip to New Zealand where he discovered his love for the hospitality business, which spurred his purchase of The Silver Fern, which is named for the national symbol for New Zealand.

“We talk about being an entrepreneur and that means you’ve got to take risks sometimes,” said Kriete, an avid Lakeland supporter who danced in the Movers & Shakers Gala in 2014. “Instead of chasing the money and the status, there are some bigger things in life.”

Rubenis graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration before returning for his MBA with specifications in finance and project management. He is an experienced leader in operations, project management and portfolio management who oversees the capital investment plan and project management office for Johnsonville.

Rubenis, who came to Lakeland as an international student from Latvia, noted that he’s in his third career after previously working in sales/customer relations and healthcare. He noted that the trend toward employers prominently factoring culture into their hiring strategies is important for students to understand.

“Look for an organization where you fit better and don’t just focus as much on the specific role,” Rubenis said. “If you fit with their culture, you’re going to find the right spot. You need to have respect of your time and your life. Set those boundaries. What are you willing to sacrifice for pay and opportunities?”

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