Saint Mary’s Graduate School: A Life-Changing Choice

“Receiving my MBA from Saint Mary’s gave me a seat at the table and the confidence that I needed to fulfill my ambition.” These are the words of Lori Gentles, MBA ’13, a senior-level human resources professional, author, and founder of a nonprofit organization.

Gentles, a first-generation undergraduate and graduate student was motivated to break the cycle of growing up in a very large family, in a small town in Arizona where the expectation is to graduate from high school, secure a local job, get married, and raise a family. “In my family, most are high school graduates and live within a 10-miles radius of each other,” said Gentles. “My grandmother, who is somewhat superstitious, always told me that I was special because I was the seventh child—called to be the one to make a difference.” Gentles shared that since she took the leap of faith, her many nieces and nephews have followed in her footsteps, and are now college graduates with professional careers. “Earning my MBA at Saint Mary’s launched a career trajectory that has allowed me to bring about transformative change for my family. I was able to seed an effort that is blossoming in perpetuity.”

Gentles started her career in human resources (HR) in the aerospace industry, but felt that to be competitive and uniquely qualified, she would need to augment her experience with quantitative skills. “I felt like I needed to be able to talk the language of finance and business to make sure that HR had a seat at the strategy and decision making table,” said Gentles. “It was serendipitous that as I decided to embark upon earning an MBA, I was contacted by a recruiter for an HR job with Contra Costa County. I negotiated a salary package that included them paying for my Saint Mary’s tuition, so I believe it was meant to be.”

“The Global Executive MBA program was a two-year pseudo residential program, and it was intense,” shared Gentles. “My cohort lived together four days a month, Thursday through Friday, and we worked in groups for the rest of the month. We traveled to Asia and South America to learn about global and emerging markets, and to engage with global business leaders. It was rigorous, and the expectations were very high. For me, it was ideal, and the best life-decision I’ve ever made.”

Gentles took her experience as an HR professional and her newly minted MBA, and embarked on a career trajectory that now has her seated as the chief people officer for the City of Santa Monica, with responsibility for 2,000 employees in multiple departments. “Decision making through data and analysis helps me to make a stronger business case for HR as a member of the executive leadership team. This makes my MBA worth its weight in gold.”

In addition to her role as an HR executive, Gentles has written a book titled Oh Slap! My Choices Determine My Destiny, a guide to making better choices through self-empowerment. She is also founder of The Choices Company, a nonprofit power-coaching organization with the mission to help people achieve greatness by tapping into their inner power. Gentles added, “It’s a parallel process—my HR job during the week, and my nonprofit company on the weekends. Receiving my MBA from Saint Mary’s gave me the confidence and the analytical skills to fulfill my ambitions, which is exactly what I’m doing.”

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