You are using an outdated browser. For a faster, safer browsing experience, upgrade for free today.

Next Generation of Business Leaders Learning from Corporate Executive at Lander


Dr. Dianna Akin, left, brings more than two decades of business leadership experience to Lander. Here, she and Lillian Strawn review notes from her principles of management class. Photo by Laura Wood

With a stellar corporate business background that includes national and international product development and consumer insights, Dr. Dianna Akin has long been adept at looking for the “next great thing.”

The skills that helped Akin bring new products to the market for Mars Wrigley, the world’s leading manufacturer of some of our most highly desired treats -- chocolates, mints, chewing gum and fruity confections – came in handy when she was looking for a home away from the cold in Illinois and probably a new career as well.

“When I left the corporate world in June 2020, I had an inkling that I wasn’t going to retire,” said Akin, a business administration lecturer at Lander University. “I got a lot of joy from developing business teams that included many young people, who were interested in what could be next for their careers.”

In her job with the multi-national corporation, Akin worked closely with the numerous interns at Mars Wrigley, who were selected from colleges and universities to be part of an 18-month rotation program at the business.

“This type of work was very rewarding,” said Akin, who earned her doctorate while working at Mars Wrigley. “I really enjoyed the interaction with our interns and having the opportunity to help them develop their careers.”

As she considered a possible career in teaching, “I knew that I wanted to find a role with a good liberal arts program. Finding a home close to a large city for my husband, who is a pilot for American Airlines, was important, too” she said.

Akin and her husband, Mike, landed first in Milledgeville, Ga., where she became a marketing lecturer at the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business.

The move to Georgia gave the couple the opportunity to explore places for their future home. They spent weekends on the road and discovered Lander University and Lake Greenwood, a perfect match for her desire to teach and be close enough to Charlotte for her husband’s career, too.

When she joined Lander in January, Akin became immersed in teaching. Her course load includes an introductory business course, as well as classes in entrepreneurship and innovation, business strategy and principles of management.

It seems that Akin was always poised for business success. After earning her bachelor’s degree in international business from Northwood University, she got a job as a new product import coordinator with Mr. Coffee, one of the world’s best known coffee machine and small appliance businesses. When the company was acquired by Sunbeam, Akin decided to “see what the rest of the world has to offer,” and she moved to Chicago.

It was a leap of faith, and Akin began looking for a job the old-fashioned way – by searching the employment ads in the Sunday newspaper. Before long, Akin was working for the William Wrigley Jr. Co., where she was a product developer and a senior project manager for research and development. During her work at Wrigley, Akin continued her own education and earned an MBA from the Keller School of Management at DeVry University.

As the development of new products led to her career success, Akin was promoted to numerous high-profile posts. She became Wrigley’s Senior Innovation Director and Regional Innovation Leader (RIL), which gave her accountability for the research and development of all gum and confections for the Wrigley Europe business. The job covered about $1.7B in sales and gave her a position on the Europe Leadership Team for innovation and new product development.

In her post as the company’s Senior director of Innovation and Technical Innovation Leader, Akin led a technical team of more than 45 scientists and technicians responsible for new product and packaging development activities in North America, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States/Russia.

As the Senior Director of Research and Development Global Programs, Akin played a critical role in the delivery of the company’s research and product development agenda around the world. And, during the integration of Mars Chocolate and Wrigley, Akin became the Senior Director of Global Research and Development. She continued to promote and develop products for global markets and traveled abroad frequently.

Americans may not realize that their favorite brands of gum and candy, for example, have a different taste for international consumers. “Doublemint gum sold overseas still looks like Doublemint, but it’s not as sweet as what we have in the United States,” she said. “The products have their own nuances and flavors.”

The minor customizations make the overseas brands “glocal,” Akin said.

Although her professional career put her in cities throughout world, Akin said when she landed at Lander, “I knew this is where I wanted to be and where I want to stay.”

She now sees the business world through the eyes of students and is learning from them as well. “In a class where we were discussing globalization, a student brought up a point that I had not considered. I feel that I am getting as much as I am giving. I want to help the next generation of business leaders be successful.”