How two students found love through the MBA@Denver program

Hovland (MBA 2019) and Heitman (MBA 2020) at their graduation ceremony

Two years ago, Ali Hovland (MBA 2019) and Devin Heitman (MBA 2020) enrolled in the online MBA@Denver program seeking industry expertise, professional development and career progression.

Looking back now as graduates, they can confidently say they gained much more than that.

As classmates, Ali and Devin discovered that they shared a love of finance, a fiercely competitive nature and an unfailing work ethic. Today, they’re also sharing their lives with each other—and are engaged to be married in 2021.

Here’s their love story, in their words.

When did you start dating?

Ali: We went on lots of dates after I invited Devin to a Fourth of July party. But we still dated other people, too—until November, when we traveled to New York City for an MBA@Denver immersion weekend. After that, we didn’t stop dating. We realized we had something we didn’t want to let go of.

Devin: We spent every day together in New York: school days and off days. Ali flew back to Colorado early Sunday after the immersion weekend, and my flight wasn’t until later in the day. Not having her there with me felt off. I woke up that morning and realized I didn’t want to be without her again.

Hovland and Heitman on a hike with Hovland’s daughters

It sounds like the New York immersion was particularly memorable. Can you tell us about what happened during class hours?

Ali: We actually went to New York City twice during our time in the MBA@Denver program. The first immersion was called “Walk Down Wall Street.” We were based in Midtown, and companies from different finance sectors came to us and spoke about their daily jobs and new developments in the industry.

Devin: The second New York immersion was considered a class for the finance concentration. We visited the Stock Exchange and witnessed the day-to-day business operations at a bunch of companies around the city that had University of Denver alumni. The experience really gave us a look into the nitty-gritty of each sector. New York is known for finance, and we got to be a part of the culture for the week.

How did the format of the MBA@Denver program lend itself to natural relationship building?

Devin: In the past, my experiences with online learning were always audio-based. The MBA@Denver program was my first real-time, live online learning experience, and I really enjoyed being able to put faces to names on video calls. We had breakout rooms after class, and professors made sure you weren’t always grouped with the same people. I got to know others I never would have normally. When we all met in person for immersions, it felt like we’d known each other for years.

Ali: Everyone in the program took education seriously, too. It was easy to find similarities and form relationships since we’d all put in hard work to be there.

What were your very first impressions of each other?

Ali: We had a couple of classes together since we’re both in finance. One was with the faculty director of the program and Devin was her favorite since he always spoke up.

Devin: Ali thought I was a brown-noser.

Ali: He was a total brown-noser! So when we saw each other at events outside of class, that’s what we talked about. Then Devin mentioned his hometown, and we discovered we both grew up on lakes. There were a lot of similarities between us, which was definitely a positive.

Imagine you could travel back in time to the day before classes started. What would you tell your former self?

Devin: I would tell myself to enjoy each moment as much as possible. When you reach the end of the program, the time seems like it went by so quickly. I look back and can’t believe it’s been 2½ years since graduating. A lot of great things happened during the program, so I’d tell myself to write them down: the people we met and the memories we made.

Ali: My life dramatically changed because of this program—in ways that I never could have imagined. I had no expectations going in since I didn’t have any experience with online learning. But through the program, I met a handful of people who will always be my very good friends. And of course, Devin has 100% changed my life for the better.

Let’s talk about your engagement. Can you tell us about the proposal?

Devin: I proposed on March 14, 2020. We drove up to Loveland, Colorado, for the weekend with Ali’s daughters, Zoe and AJ. I grew up in Loveland, so it holds a lot of sentimental value—I thought it was a good place to add to my family. On Saturday morning, Ali, Zoe, AJ and I hiked a popular trail called the Devil’s Backbone. We stopped at a scenic section where you can look out at the Rocky Mountains through a keyhole in a giant rock formation. It also happens to overlook the house where I was born and raised—the place where it all started. I had Ali and the girls sit on a rock facing the keyhole, and I proposed to all three of them.

Ali: I wasn’t expecting it, that’s for sure. Hiking isn’t out of the norm for us, particularly when we go up to Loveland, so I didn’t think anything of Devin’s suggestion. I’m still surprised, even now. Sometimes I still call him my boyfriend!

What type of reaction do you typically receive when sharing your love story with others?

Devin: I don’t think people are all that surprised. We met online, like lots of couples do—just in a different online channel. Most of the people in our MBA@Denver cohort knew what was happening between us. Classmates always said, “You have your own language that no one else understands.”

Ali: We were inseparable.