Business degree, connections prove healthy for alum
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Things just keep working out for Luke Elliott. But his attitude has a lot to do with that.
The quality of health care was lacking in his native Vietnam. Then he was adopted and brought to the United States at a young age.
He came to Grand Canyon University with the goal of obtaining a business degree, which can be used in multiple ways. A little more than a month after graduating from GCU, he was hired as a senior project manager in Medicaid for Aetna, a major health insurance provider.
Even the pandemic didn’t affect him that much. Elliott was an intern at Avnet, an electronic components distributor headquartered in Phoenix, when COVID-19 punctuated his final semester of study last spring. He didn’t miss a beat.
“I was actually incredibly lucky because even though (in-person) classes were shut down, I was still learning in the real-world aspect because Avnet continued my internship online,” he said. “I was really fortunate because a lot of students had internships revoked and full-time offers revoked.”
The good fortune didn’t stop there. Elliott was taking two other classes besides working the internship, and both were almost entirely online — lessening the impact when ground classes were transitioned to an online platform for the final four weeks of the semester.
He also feels blessed by the connections he made in the Colangelo College of Business, starting with David Blackledge‘s business ethics class.
“He pointed out to us how important an internship was, and he helped me actually prepare to get my internship,” Elliott said. “I really attribute a lot of my success to his help.”
Said Blackledge, “Luke exemplifies the type of individual that graduates from GCU – passionate, studious, compassionate and always looking for additional ways to serve his community. I remember him very well in and out of class and wish him the best. Aetna made a great hire bringing Luke on board!”
Elliott credits Dr. Eduardo Borquez for providing him both spiritual and professional guidance.
“I definitely feel like the professors were the biggest help to me,” he said. “They were always willing to take time out of their day, outside of class time, to help me in whatever endeavor I was going through.”
Borquez’s sentiments reflect how much those professors appreciate students as dedicated as Elliott.
“One of the many qualities Luke has is his level of professionalism, always very proper and respectful, which made him stand out among his peers,” Borquez said. “Luke is a young man of faith, and I had the opportunity to witness his relationship with God and how he involved Him in every decision he had to make. We often prayed together, and I remember the day we prayed before his interview with Aetna, and days later to thank God because Luke had been offered the position.
“I have no doubt Luke will develop a successful career, and that is because he has the right attitude — to serve others.”
Being in the Honors College also made a difference for Elliott: “I had a lot of friends and a lot of connections there that helped me, not only to set me up for future opportunities but also just kind of prepare me and just got me some great connections and friendships.”
Dr. Breanna Naegeli, Associate Dean of the Honors College, said, “Luke was an exceptional student and always intentional and driven in the pursuit of his professional goals. From day one, he sought our mentorship, relevant student worker and internship opportunities, attended numerous professional development and guest speaker seminars, and always checked in to see what he could be doing to further improve and prepare for his future career. His networking and work ethic has served him well and he’s off to a great start with a great company.”
When it comes to connecting with employers, Elliott said it is more important than ever for students and graduates to market themselves.
“I think students really have to think outside the box to make themselves a unique and attractive prospect,” he said.
The Aetna position, which Elliott accepted in early June, is part of a rotational program designed to help him grow and learn more about the company. He will change jobs every year and a half for 4 1/2 years.
One more thing he has learned: A business degree can be very versatile.
“I was thinking I was going to go into strategy or I was just going to stay on full time at Avnet,” he said. “It was a complete 180, but it (Aetna) is an opportunity that the more I learned about it, the more I thought I couldn’t pass it up.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].