Honda Graduate Certificate in Leadership Business Class of 2023

A common thread among the most successful organizations — across any industry — is a focus on talent development. A workforce equipped to learn, adapt and thrive in the face of change is one that drives personal growth and organizational success.

That simple belief is the motivation behind the Honda Graduate Certificate in Business Leadership (GCBL), a partnership that continues to connect employees at the automotive manufacturer with educators at Fisher College of Business.

Meredith Reffey

The specialized, two-semester program incorporates finance, strategy, leadership, business communications and negotiations concepts into curriculum created and customized by Fisher’s Executive Education department. The certificate program began five years ago when Honda expanded its now 22-year Ohio State partnership to establish a joint business plan focusing on talent, community and research — key aspects of Fisher’s and Honda’s shared areas of interest.

“This program gives our associates a chance to learn more about business situations ahead of them being in a leadership role,” said Meredith Reffey, government industry relations at American Honda Motor Company and assistant manager of the Honda-Ohio State Partnership at Ohio State. “It helps strengthen the collective knowledge of business management principles and gives them the background needed to solve complex problems with the confidence and knowledge of the business impact their decisions may have.”

Growing leadership skills

Jason VanBuren is applying the lessons he’s learned from the program in overseeing a growing team of 12 software, electrical and mechanical systems engineers working on Honda’s latest Autonomous Work Vehicle and Autonomous Work Mower.

Jason VanBuren with Autonomous Work Vehicle
Jason VanBuren with Honda's Autonomous Work Vehicle.

“I thought the program would be a great opportunity to grow my skill set for the future roles I will do outside of engineering,” said VanBuren, a 2019 graduate of the program and manager of the Systems Engineering & Technical Operations Department at American Honda Motor Company, Inc.

“Many engineers do not have the skill set to be great leaders, so I wanted to gain the soft skills I need to be a better leader. This program allowed me to work on leadership, negotiation and strategy — all of which have helped me as I take on new challenges in my career.”

Through case studies and hands-on capstone projects, students acquire the skills, competence and confidence to adapt to rapid changes in the mobility industry and directly contribute to the continued success of Honda.

VanBuren says the certificate’s finance and strategy sessions continue to be helpful in his daily work. He’s using calculations to predict revenue of new products and reflecting on program case studies when making new Honda products or team strategies.

Sandip Suvedi, a 2023 graduate of the program and department lead for Battery Cell Formation at Honda, joined the program seeking to expand his finance, strategy and negotiation skills.

“The coursework is highly applicable to my everyday work,” he said. “Even as a recent graduate, I have already shared key takeaways with my team and have applied negotiation strategies and leadership levers to some of my work.”

Real challenges, real growth

One key benefit of the GCBL — and all custom programs at Fisher — are projects that require students to apply critical thinking, analysis, innovation and decision-making skills to address real challenges within their organizations. For Honda, this real-world integration can produce meaningful outcomes because project takeaways can be implemented immediately.

Sandip Suvedi

“My team’s capstone project focused on developing a strategic plan to achieve Honda’s 2050 goal of zero traffic collision fatalities,” Suvedi said. “Honda has a strong strategy in place for improving our active and passive safety systems, however, there was an opportunity to define a strategy for driver education. We recommended a young driver education program to be implemented in public schools and at our dealership networks. Our goal is training one million participants within three years to meet our 2030 intermediate goal and, eventually, our 2050 overall goal.”

Since the GCBL’s first cohort in 2018, 156 Honda employees have earned the certificate. Completion of the program yields each student 13 credit hours which can be applied to an MBA at Fisher.

“In June, we had 48 students graduate from the Honda program, which was our largest cohort to date with associates from a variety of roles and locations,” said Stephanie Medors, manager of business operations in Executive Education at Fisher. “This program gives Honda employees access to business courses they may have not previously been exposed to, leading to both personal and professional growth.”

For Suvedi, it was both personal and professional growth, as well as an introduction to an MBA that piqued his interest.

“After my career transitioned from engineering to management, I wanted to build a foundation of knowledge that could support me in my current and future aspirational roles,” he said. “The GCBL was an excellent opportunity to trial an MBA, to help me understand how applicable MBA coursework is to my daily work and to help me gauge if I can balance work, home and MBA classes at the same time.”

Reffey says program participants are more confident in management roles and activities within the company and are making informed decisions. Many have taken on leadership positions.

“This program prepares our associates to understand business leadership in a hands-on way that will prepare them for real-world problems,” she said. “The program emphasizes the issues being faced by Honda, although many of the topics are not always unique to Honda.”

Jason Van Buren

As a student, VanBuren recalled learning key soft skills, particularly empathy and networking, that differentiate effective leaders.

“Everyone has something going on outside the walls of work,” he said. “As leaders we must respect everyone and support them during tough times. Recognizing this allows me to gain the trust of my team, and in turn they are motivated to support the team and projects.”

“One of the best parts of the program was the relationships I made with people all around Honda who I would have never met in a normal work environment. I have stayed in touch with many of these colleagues and converse with some weekly to work through issues and make decisions.”

This program allowed me to work on leadership, negotiation and strategy — all of which have helped me as I take on new challenges in my career.

Jason VanBurenManager,
Systems Engineering & Technical Operations Department
American Honda Motor Company


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