By Tom Brandes
Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Vachel Hudson M’19 was familiar with Saint Mary’s College of California because of its successful athletic teams. After moving to Minnesota and receiving his undergraduate degree, he began looking at MBA programs. He was familiar with the Saint Mary’s name, just not Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. But he quickly realized it was a respected and well-known program in the state.
“I was recruited to move to Minnesota and work for Aeon, an affordable housing provider, after helping the City of Louisville land a $32 million grant to increase affordable housing options,” Hudson says. “I really liked the MBA program’s low barriers to entry, including not having to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), and the flexibility to take classes virtually and start and complete it quickly. I took three classes every five months, so I could advance my career.”
The flexibility was important for Hudson, who took his studies with him when traveling and while working evenings. Hudson also liked the low student-to-teacher ratio, which allowed him to get feedback on his work, and he appreciated the university’s approachable MBA program director, whose direct communication style helped him achieve a 4.0 GPA.
Applying real-life business concepts
Several very valuable courses stand out in Hudson’s mind, including Marketing Strategy, Project Management, Quantitative Decision Making, and Finance. He uses combinations of these classes every day in his personal and professional life.
“I wanted my MBA so I could gain a general understanding of how businesses and departments operate, so I could understand ‘the blueprints and the bones,’ how the parts help the overall operation,” Hudson said. “The fact that I could apply real-life business concepts helped me grow so I could show an organization how it could improve, and it prepared me to step into an organization and improve its product and processes.”
While working on his MBA, Hudson took a job with the Urban League Twin Cities. There he helped people prepare for homeownership, learn the differences between owning and renting, help first-time homebuyers navigate the process, and help improve credit scores so they could buy a home or start a business.
In March, Hudson joined First Independence Bank in Minneapolis, the first and only Black-owned bank in Minnesota and one of only 17 Black-owned full-service banks in the country. The bank was started as a response to George Floyd’s murder by police in 2020. Hudson focuses on homeownership and oversees mortgages in the Twin Cities.
Building Trust and Relationships
In addition to his work at First Independence Bank, Hudson works as a life insurance broker/agent to support personal wealth development. He’s also a full-time volunteer as president of Urban League Twin Cities’ urban young professionals, where he oversees the chapter’s 60+ members who volunteer their time, talent, and treasure.
“As founder of Reinvesting in Communities and Housing, we help build relationships, we help build relationships between Blacks and financial institutions and help them build trust and awareness of financial resources,” Hudson said. “We’re reinvesting in communities, improving financial literacy, and helping people connect with the right resources to facilitate homeownership. I’m a bridge builder.”
Hudson credits Saint Mary’s for preparing him to communicate effectively, manage a team, and apply concepts to real-world work. He also gained the ability to interact with a range of diverse classmates (in age, race, and backgrounds), while helping him navigate the real world and learn to market himself and apply managerial concepts.
“If you’re considering Saint Mary’s MBA program, don’t think about it, just do it. If you appreciate a small ratio of students to instructors, I’d highly recommend it,” Hudson said. “There are low acceptance barriers and not the same requirements as other programs. I’d also love to be more involved with Saint Mary’s alumni events.”