UM-Flint Commencement Speaker is Alumna and Best Buy Exec

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A Best Buy executive and University of Michigan-Flint alumna will be the keynote speaker at both of the University of Michigan-Flint’s April 30 Commencement Ceremonies.

Shari Ballard is senior executive vice president and president of multichannel retail at Best Buy, where she oversees and is responsible for all U.S. Best Buy stores, e-commerce, Best Buy Mexico and the company’s real estate strategy.

Ballard grew up in Gaines, Michigan, and attended Swartz Creek High School. She graduated from UM-Flint in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I am honored and very much looking forward to it,” Ballard said about being the keynote speaker at the April 30 commencement ceremonies at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center.

Ballard credits her years at the university with expanding her horizons and providing a foundation for her professional success.

“The university gave me huge access to the broader world and different ideas,” she said. “It gave me a place to test out my ideas. It really opened up a world of possibilities.”

During her UM-Flint career, Ballard worked full time at an area MC Sports store, where she became fascinated with group dynamics and how managers related to employees. She recognized that the way a manager treated and interacted with employees made a huge difference for staff and store performance.

That experience sparked Ballard’s interest in human behavior and leadership. Upon graduating, she decided to pursue a career in retail.

“I was drawn to retail and leadership,” she said. “My family supported it, so I did it. Your degree is not about the field, per se. It is about learning to learn. It is about understanding there is a world beyond you.”

Studying social work also gave Ballard further insight into human motivation, as well as the desire to embrace everyone’s unique personalities and talents.

“My interest in people, and people’s behaviors and their humanity, was fostered at the university,” she said.

Ballard joined Best Buy in 1993 as a store manager at the Flint, Michigan location before rising to general manager. Over the years, she has held multiple retail leadership positions across Best Buy’s domestic and international businesses, as well as executive roles within the human resources and legal departments.

At UM-Flint, Ballard said she embraced the talents and skills of faculty, students, and others — a mindset that has helped her succeed at Best Buy. “You can and do learn from everybody once you realize and believe everybody has something unique about them,” she said.

“It is a great pleasure to have Shari Ballard serve as our keynote speaker at both April Commencement ceremonies,” said UM-Flint Chancellor Susan E. Borrego. “As a UM-Flint alumna, she exemplifies what it means to take full advantage of all the opportunities that a Michigan degree provides. Her drive to succeed in domestic and international business by connecting with people has created new standards in business solutions. Shari’s story is a great example for our students.”

Robert is a staff writer in the Office of University Relations. Contact him with comments, questions, and story ideas.