Connected by their careers, two EMBA graduates prove the value of community

For years, Surabhi Palkimas painstakingly debated the merits and drawbacks of pursuing an advanced business degree.

The pros were obvious to her. She’d gain crucial skills to advance her career in health care, build a network of local professionals to lean on and learn to lead.

But there was one, very personal con holding her back: Palkimas was struck by what she called “mom guilt.”

She felt guilty putting herself ahead of her three children, she said, losing precious time during their childhoods to chase her dreams. So, she put it off, stacking her ambitions on the shelf for a later date.

“I was hesitant to do this on my own,” she said. “We have three beautiful children and it felt daunting to do a program like this on my own.”

Where Palkimas needed a push, Lynn Nguyen was glad to help.

Surabhi Palkimas (left) and Lynn Nguyen in the Daniels College of Business.

Nguyen was also working in health care, at Denver Health and, similarly, looking at an MBA program to create change within her organization. As a mom of two, Nguyen was facing the same personal challenges that had slowed Palkimas’ pursuit.

Nguyen’s boss saw her ambition and her struggle, so he introduced her to Palkimas, his wife. By connecting the two women, he hoped their shared experience would push them to pursue an MBA together. The duo hit the ground running. They toured the Daniels College of Business together and left convinced of the strength of its in-person Executive MBA program.

“I really wanted to change and better myself,” Nguyen said. “So, getting out of online courses and being here with people and talking about things that aren’t in health care is refreshing.”

Now, almost two years later, Palkimas and Nguyen are set to graduate in March from the EMBA program together, with an inseparable bond and a bright future in business.

Palkimas is grateful for the way Nguyen supported her through the program and is inspired by the other women that she met at Daniels.

“The reason I needed a friend was this mom guilt. [My kids] are only little for so long. Am I giving up their life to be in school? Is this selfish?” she wondered. “To see other moms show up as teachers [and classmates]—and our cohort has six women in all different walks of life—that’s amazing. I think we need more of that in business.”

Both lauded the EMBA’s global trip to South Africa and team-building sailing excursion to San Diego as top memories, and key components to growing as a cohort.

“I feel like I’m going to continuously celebrate them from a distance,” Palkimas said.

As they prepare for graduation, the two women have already made changes in their respective careers, spurred by their degrees. Palkimas has taken a new leadership role and Nguyen is in transition as she paves a new path in health care. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve grown as people.

“This was not just for the growth of our positions, but for the growth of ourselves as humans,” Palkimas said.

Because it took the support of one another to head down the MBA path at Daniels, both Nguyen and Palkimas offered advice for others in the same boat.

“There’s not always the right time. If you keep waiting for the right time, there’s never going to be a right time,” Nguyen said.

“If you need a friend, grab a friend along the way. If you need a community, grab that along the way,” Palkimas said. “Grab whatever you need, just go for it.”

Because of the impact she made at Daniels, Palkimas was selected to present the code of honor at Daniels’ Academic Hood ceremony on March 10.