Former healthcare CEO tells future business leaders to "take a chance on people, just like UMass Dartmouth took a chance on you"

UMass Dartmouth celebrates Charlton College of Business Class of 2015

Today UMass Dartmouth held its Commencement Ceremony for the Charlton College of Business at the University's Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater. The Charlton College of Business Class of 2015 is made up of 542 students (386 undergraduates, 156 graduates). The Top 3 areas of study for the Charlton College of Business Class of 2015 are Marketing (103), Accounting (95), and Management (58). 

"Let us remember that your time at UMass Dartmouth has just been one chapter in your life story," UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman said. "You are just getting started. I know this to be true. Class of 2015- I think you are ready to roll!" 

UMass President Robert Caret was present for today's ceremony and offered congratulatory remarks to the Class of 2015. 

"Today is a celebration of hard work, of setting goals and achieving them and on behalf of the entire University of Massachusetts system, I want to congratulate you," President Caret said. "Today marks an important milestone. It is the end of one journey, but it is also the beginning of another, the beginning of a whole new path full of even greater challenges, greater achievements, and greater opportunity. Education is never about obtaining a finite amount of knowledge, but rather about seeking more knowledge as you grow." 

Former UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits CEO and UMass Dartmouth Alumna Diane Desmarais Souza '79 received an honorary degree and delivered the keynote address at UMass Dartmouth's Charlton College of Business Commencement ceremony. As CEO of UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits, Ms. Souza led an organization that serves more than 75,000 employers and 21 million members with revenues of $2 billion. The company portfolio includes dental, vision, life, disability, critical illness and accident products, services and solutions. Her achievements included implementing a turnaround strategy that grew revenues by $100 million in three years despite economic and business challenges. She improved the bottom line profitability by 300 percent in that same timeframe driven by pricing discipline, addition of key talent and a solid management of affordability initiatives. 

Ms. Souza also served as a member of the inaugural UnitedHealth Group Cultural Leadership Team, comprised of select UnitedHealth Group senior leaders responsible for guiding and implementing the company's culture map. Ms. Souza's impressive career path spans positions from dental hygienist to community advocate to board member to CEO. She held leadership positions at Deloitte Haskins & Sells and Price Waterhouse. In 1994, she began a 12-year career at Aetna where she rose to CFO of Aetna's Guaranteed Products business with more than $36 billion of assets under management, and led national customer operations and major strategic systems and process transformation, while managing teams of up to 3,200 employees. A certified public accountant, Ms. Souza graduated from UMass Dartmouth in 1979 with a degree in accounting. She also holds a degree in Dental Hygiene from the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists at Northeastern University. 

"Make a difference in the life of the people around you," said Ms. Souza. "You may never know how you are helping people and what difference you can make in their lives, but take a chance on people, just like UMass Dartmouth took a chance on you." 

Sapna Jawid Piracha, MBA '15 delivered the student address at the Charlton College of Business ceremony. Sapna's experience at UMass Dartmouth embodies a true spirit of passion and hard work. Sapna, originally from Pakistan, earned her undergraduate degree in Robotics and Automation Engineering from Air University Islamabad. Soon after, she became Pakistan's only female to sit on a panel of design engineers for the construction of the Gandhara International Airport, which upon completion will be one of the world's largest airports. Sapna has earned her MBA degree with special interests in big data and supply chain management. She is currently in the process of publishing her first paper on Data Mining and Artificial Intelligence. Sapna is very passionate about traveling the world, mountain climbing and exploring nature. She is planning an expedition to climb Mount Everest in 2017. Her ultimate goal is to raise the literacy rate of Pakistan by empowering women and youth. 

"Everyone has their own mountain to climb," said Sapna. "There is a summit and I really hope you all get there. The view from the top is breathtaking. Fellow students- be fearless, say yes, break barriers, and disagree, because you can make your dreams your life. I did."

To watch the Commencement in its entirety, visit http://www.umassd.edu/commencement/watchonline/. UMass Dartmouth's 2015 Commencement is over three days with four ceremonies. This year's undergraduate and graduate ceremonies will take place May 15-18, 2015. The UMass Dartmouth Class of 2015 is made up of 1,923 (1427 undergraduates; 440 graduates) students. The Class of 2015 represents 235 Massachusetts communities, 28 states, and 30 countries. 

UMass Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional economic, social, and cultural development. UMass Dartmouth's mandate to serve its community is realized through countless partnerships, programs, and other outreach efforts to engage the community, and apply its knowledge to help address local issues and empower others to facilitate change for all. 


News and Public Information, College of Business