EMBAAN Industry 4.0 Conference Brings Back Alumni

EMBAAN Industry 4.0 Conference Brings Back Alumni

UA EMBAAN Annual Conference dinner
EMBA alumni Angie Sandritter and Justin Brown at the EMBAAN Conference opening dinner.

The temperature was not the only thing heating up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on October 3-4. Alumni of the University of Alabama’s Executive MBA program traveled from all over the country to attend the 6th annual EMBA Alumni Network (EMBAAN) conference. Sixty members of EMBA classes ranging from 1986-2019, along with faculty and staff, listened to accomplished speakers and a panel of industry experts. Embodying the Capstone of Higher Education, the EMBAAN conference balanced relationships with a glimpse of the future throughout its events at UA.

What better way to start the conference off than dinner at Dreamland, a staple of Tuscaloosa, for bar-b-que and catching up with classmates! Alumni, faculty, staff, and guests were able to network and enjoy mini-reunions with classmates. EMBAAN hosts several events throughout the year leading to the conference in October.

This year’s conference focused on “Industry 4.0: How the Fourth Industrial Revolution is Transforming Our Businesses.” On Friday, October 4, the attendees met at the Bryant Conference Center to engage in discussion about the continuously shifting landscape of technological advancement and its impact on how we conduct business around the globe. Christened the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” it is critical to understand as it dictates how best to leverage an MBA for our high speed, high tech world.

Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama, opened the conference, delivering exciting updates about the College and student growth in the business school program.

EMBAAN Conference Keynote Tom Edwards
EMBAAN Board members and Keynote speaker Tom Edwards (third from left).

Keynote speaker,  Tom Edwards, Futurist and Strategic Consultant at Blackfin 360, consults with companies including Southwest and Nokia, who are on top of the latest trends in the digital age. Edwards captivated the audience with predictions of a world leagues ahead of where movies of the ’80s-’90s put us in the future. Edwards expressed enthusiasm for the “increasingly accessible nature of the tech world and how it will change the way businesses promote and sell goods.”

Next, the attendees heard from a panel on disruptive technologies and trends reshaping our industries.  Panelists included: Mark Spencer, Founder of Avilution, David Johnson, Vice President, Manufacturing Engineering at Nissan North America, and moderator Beth Smith, Chief Compliance Officer and Senior Vice President at Progress Rail.

Johnson reflected that “technology helps us to make more informed decisions, breaking down siloes between separate groups to allow for the potential for better cross-communication as organizations become flatter.” The panel helped to reinforce the idea that being able to roll with the punches and adapt the way we do business is the difference between success and failure.

UA EMBAAN Conference Panel on Disruptive Technology
Disruptive Technology panelists (L-R) Mark Spencer, David Johnson, and Beth Smith.

Finally, attendees heard from Dr. Yuanyuan Chen, Assistant Professor of Information Systems at UA on blockchain and its impact on our industries. Chen delved into the practical applications of blockchain in different sectors, including financial, healthcare, and supply chain.

In a world governed by data, security is at the forefront of our minds. With blockchain, Dr. Chen assured the group that by removing intermediaries and by tracking and securing data, blockchain is the eminent contender for data transportation.


Concluding the conference, 2018-2019, EMBAAN President Russell Chambliss awarded the 2019 EMBA Alumnus of the Year award to Kent Darzi (HEMBA 2010). The Board honored Kent for his dedication and support of the EMBA Program and Culverhouse College of Business.

Chambliss then passed the torch to his successor, Ryan McDaniels, 2019-2020 EMBAAN President. McDaniels announced the Board members for next year, and the upcoming annual EMBA Alumni Tailgate on November 9, for the Alabama-LSU game.  Roll Tide!

For more information on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Program, contact Cheryl Altemara or call 205.348.4501, or visit the UAEMBA website.

Article written by Ben Tarkoff, Graduate Assistant in the Executive MBA Program.