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The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar Program at Ithaca College uses the phrase “citizenship and service in the global community,” and that’s exactly the spirit of connection and commitment that attracted Greta Hardware.
“[The MLK program] gave me a different perspective others in my major didn’t have,” she says. “It inspired me to explore classes on social justice issues and do research outside my major but still integrate the business world and look at it from a different perspective.”
For example, Greta used several international trips built into the MLK Scholar Program to research free-trade agreements between the United States and countries she visited—South Korea, Costa Rica, Spain, and Morocco. During her junior year, the accounting and finance major had the opportunity to present her findings at IC’s Whalen Academic Symposium, where students present research projects to the campus community.
“When I was in South Korea, there were real-time discussions about free trade, and we saw protests at the U.S. embassy. It was a very real experience. [The overseas trips] helped me realize I want an international experience, that I like learning about different perspectives. That stuck with me.”
The international component was one reason she joined the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers after graduation. “I found out you could do tours in different offices around the world. I knew I wanted to work at a PWC office in another country for an extended amount of time.” Greta’s done a two-month stint in Sydney, Australia, and hopes to land a longer stint in a Spanish-speaking country.
She was also drawn by PWC’s community involvement, an important aspect of life for Greta. She’s been involved in programs that teach school children the importance of financial management, done cancer walks, and assisted with community service projects as fundamental as painting at local schools.
PWC offered her a job after college based on her performance during a summer internship with the firm, and Greta credits her education with helping prepare her.
“The School of Business puts you in a professional environment, which simulates the real world. Presentations, student organizations in which you play a professional role conducting activities in your field, internships in the industries that interest you, contact with recent alumni—you get a real-world perspective on what it’s going to be like after college.”
>> More on this story: MLK Scholar Program
When financial accounts are hacked and money trails need to be followed, Rachel Hart goes into action. Rachel works as a global banking operations analyst, investigating cases of fraud for the wealth management arm of a leading financial institution on Wall Street.
“My team processes individual fraud claims and monitors global fraud activity daily. We focus on average and high net-worth individual accounts, but we also support a number of small businesses and subsidiaries of larger corporations. Our clients are domestic and international, which is both interesting and challenging,” she explains.
Rachel is a graduate of Ithaca College’s School of Business, but if you’d told her in high school she’d end up working in finance, she might have looked at you funny.
“I took AP economics as a senior in high school, and I actually hated it. I didn’t have a great experience,” Rachel says. Despite that, the international business program at IC caught her eye. She says she fell in love with the program during her very first semester.
“Being in the program and joining clubs in the business school really helped me discover how much I wanted to be in finance and business,” Rachel says.
She credits the hands-on experiences emphasized at Ithaca College for helping to prepare her for her career.
“I learned a lot in my classes, but being able to apply that to something more tangible made it really stick,” Rachel adds. “Being able to use what I learned in my finance classes in the investment club, and then eventually in the real-time portfolio management class, really helped me understand all of the theories we learned in the classroom, put that knowledge to use, and feel like a capable employee.”
Opportunities to apply your education in campus organizations and through internships are central to the Ithaca College experience.
“These opportunities teach you so many skills that a lot of students don’t get to build in other universities, especially in larger ones where you might get lost in the shuffle,” Rachel says.
More on this story: Financial Management Association and Investment Club
I entered Ithaca College having no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Then Jeff Furman—an Ithaca local known as “the ampersand” at the famous ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s—spoke in one of my classes. He talked about Ben & Jerry’s and an amazing way of doing business that I had never heard of before. I became inspired and engulfed in the way Ben & Jerry’s does business, in their philosophy on giving back to the community and in their belief that businesses don’t have to be run solely based on making a profit. It was then I decided, “I want to be a part of this.”
For four years after graduating, I worked at the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont. I became half of a two-person team and the company’s official “PR chick,” working with the integrated marketing and social mission teams. Often other companies would turn to us to find out how Ben & Jerry’s is so successful at being such a “good” company. That’s when I realized that there were few resources available to help for-profit companies looking to embrace corporate social and environmental responsibility.
Being exposed to Jeff Furman’s business philosophy, studying so many different types of companies while at Ithaca College, and experiencing values-led business at Ben & Jerry’s, I realized my passion for this kind of work. I want to see every single company in the world doing business in a responsible way, in a way that isn’t hurting people, continuing the poverty cycle, or harming the environment but proactively improving local and global communities.
That’s why I started Socially Good Business, a firm dedicated to helping companies incorporate values into their sustainable business models and consumer communication campaigns. My company also helps nonprofits partner with for-profits by creating proposals and packaged ideas that for-profits can use to engage consumers and enhance the company’s efforts toward social responsibility. This is the next generation of business, an evolution of society, and this movement is just starting to rev up. There are only a few other companies like mine in the country. My experience at Ithaca gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to get a job at one of the most beloved global brands in the world—the very company that pioneered this movement—and that’s what gives my company an edge over the competition.
Consumers are starting to demand that companies do business in a different way, in a way that respects the planet and the people on it. Companies are seeing a demand for this better business model and are starting to change. But a lot of them don’t know how—and that’s what Socially Good Business is here for.
Before Mike Severo came to Ithaca College, his life was focused mainly on music. As a talented boy soprano, he had performed with stars like Bruce Springsteen and Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall. When his voice changed, so did his musical direction. He transitioned to piano and percussion and continued to grow his skills.
But when it came time to choose a major, Mike made the big decision to move away from a career in music. At a college with a nationally known music school, he knew he'd have exciting musical opportunities, so he wanted to focus on another area for his profession--he just wasn't sure what it would be.
"One of my friends had told me about the flexibility of the Exploratory Program," Mike explains. "There's an emphasis on growing organically with the school and developing where you think you can derive the most value."
The program gives students up to four semesters to take courses in various areas of study to find the best fit for their career. As a freshman, Mike took a seminar about math and music, and through his passion for music he discovered a strength in math that led him in a whole new direction. His faculty adviser helped him decide what courses to take from there. "The best thing about advisers is that if you have goals, they can help you plan so that you can achieve those goals."
Mike focused his path on finance and accounting, and secured an internship at FBR, a leading investment bank. During his senior year, he led a team of his peers to victory in the Adirondack Cup competition by achieving the greatest return on a hypothetical million-dollar investment portfolio. Ithaca College bested undergraduate and graduate students from 17 other colleges and universities in New England and New York, including Hofstra University, SUNY Plattsburgh, Clarkson University, and SUNY Stony Brook. (You can read more about Mike leading his team to success in the Ithacan.)
Mike is excited about his future in finance as he approaches graduation, and he will continue to enjoy a musical life outside of work. He is confident that the Exploratory Program helped him make the right choices. "Sometimes life pushes you in a direction, and you end up in a place you never thought you'd be--but you find yourself loving it."
More on this story: The Center for Trading and Analysis of Financial Instruments
It’s not easy to find free time in Jake Tenenbaum’s schedule. The business administration major has minors in integrated marketing communications and legal studies, and he also spends time as co-president of Ithaca’s chapter of the American Marketing Association. So when does he sleep?
“It’s going to sound nerdy, but for me the work is fun. Ithaca is such a hands-on school, and it’s given me the opportunity to learn such an incredible amount inside the classroom and through different student organizations. For instance, my consumer behavior class helped me understand the reasons the professionals at my internships made many of the decisions they did while I was there.”
“With the Business Link organization, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and helping others connect with alumni in their industry. We help students beginning in their freshman year to get in touch with alumni in their hometown, allowing them to foster relationships in an off-campus setting.”
Those experiences came in handy, scoring Jake an exciting internship in New York City with alumnus Chris Burch’s newest venture. Burch’s company, J. Christopher Capital, which owns the popular tech brands Powermat and Jawbone, had two fashion lines that were nearing their launch. “I was involved in the process of designing taglines and comparison charts for the two new companies, C Wonder and Monika Chiang,” Jake says. “It was just an amazing chance to organize all of my skills from Ithaca in one place.”
Jake plans on graduating a year early and already has a job offer on the table thanks to the connections he’s made through Ithaca. “I feel ready to lead. I want to go out and do well, and the links I made with business professionals due to my involvement on campus have placed me right where I want to be.”
Editor's Note: Jake impressed CEO and Ithaca alumnus Chris Burch '76 so much during his internship that Chris offered Jake a vital client-facing role at J. Christopher Capital immediately following graduation. Jake now works as a corporate gifting coordinator promoting the C. Wonder and Monika Chiang brands.
As the saying goes, it’s not just what you know, but who you know that matters. Matt Palmaccio leveraged the marketing skills and professional connections he made at Ithaca College to get his career off to a flying start.
As a student, Matt built his confidence and real-world marketing knowledge through his coursework, group projects involving local businesses, and as a recruiter for the College’s chapter of the American Marketing Association.
“Those experiences gave me a professional demeanor, as well as the working knowledge of marketing and advertising that I needed to successfully interview for jobs,” he says.
The path to his current position at Details began when he attended a career fair as a senior in the School of Business. He stayed in touch with a recruiter he met from a media planning company in New York City and was called for an interview when he was about to graduate.
Matt got the job and worked for a pharmaceutical company on media planning, which included choosing the magazines the company advertised in. Marketing was his real passion, and he found himself drawn to the magazine industry, especially when a coworker went to work at publisher Conde Nast, which produces Details.
“We got together for lunch because I wanted to find out what he was doing there,” Matt says, and the lunch conversation piqued his interest even more. “That’s how I ended up switching over to the marketing side of magazines.”
Matt was hired at Conde Nast, transitioned to Hearst, and was then drawn back to Conde. “The interesting thing about magazines is that, in New York, it’s kind of a small world once you’ve worked in it,” he notes. “So when a job opened back up at Conde Nast, the human resources person called and said, ‘There’s an opening at Details I think you would be really good for.’”
Matt credits the networking skills he learned and relationships he made through the School of Business with kick-starting his career. “Obviously, Ithaca is kind of far from New York City, but they have established great connections to different places.”
>> More on this story: Business Administration: Marketing Concentration
Looking for a good reason to study business at Ithaca College? Shamika Edwards has one for you: “Ithaca’s School of Business absolutely prepares you for the real world,” she says.
And the keys to that preparation? For Shamika, it starts with the faculty.
“They push you to advance personally and professionally,” says Shamika, who’s now pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at Ithaca College. “They care about whether you’re growing, whether you’re learning, whether you’re getting something out of the experience.”
Then there’s the fact that at Ithaca, preparation for the real world of business means immersing yourself in it.
En route to her undergraduate diploma, Shamika led a team of Ithaca students to an impressive second-place finish in the Deloitte NABA NY Case Study Competition, a rigorous national student challenge sponsored by the National Association of Black Accountants and international financial services giant Deloitte.“They said we were one of the best-prepared teams,” says Shamika, who now has a job waiting for her at Deloitte when she finishes her M.B.A. “Ithaca faculty were extremely helpful, staying after hours to help us prepare. It was such a valuable part of my education.”
Shamika, who’s from Barbados, came a long way to attend Ithaca. And she’s poised to go even farther when she graduates.
“I’ll be at a global firm solving global problems in a global world,” she says. “I am a stronger person, a wiser person, and a better person because of Ithaca.”
An Ithaca College education has Mike Potter’s career off to a fast start. Disrupto, a digital product development firm that Mike cofounded, has a client list that includes names like Samsung and the New York Knicks. In the world of digital communications, Disrupto is a rising star.
At IC, Mike was a triple major who interned with AOL and with Industrial Light and Magic, Star Wars creator George Lucas’s visual effects studio. He once pitched a business plan to Disney CEO and Ithaca alumna Bob Iger over lunch.
As a Park scholar in Ithaca’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, Mike helped launch Megaphone, a student project that provided communication support to nonprofits. He also won Ithaca’s first CellFlix video contest—a competition that challenged students to create the best 30-second short film using a cell phone video camera—with his film Cheat.
It’s that rich palette of opportunity at Ithaca, Mike reports, that’s been the key to his success. “The biggest thing Ithaca did was expose me to different experiences. I got a great education in the broad range of things I needed to become an entrepreneur and start my own business. I’m totally living my career goals, and I’m incredibly happy doing it.”
How do you bring accounting and finance concepts to life? Try balancing and allocating a real $400,000 budget, for starters. When Brian Keefe became vice president of finance for the Student Government Association in his sophomore year, he did just that, drawing on what he was learning in his classes to make big—and much needed—changes.
“I ended up reworking the entire allocation system and writing a 34-page handbook,” he says. “Sharing the new policies and regulations with IC’s student organizations helped them come up with better budget proposals and better prepared the budget committee itself to allocate money more consistently.”
As a senior, Brian found another golden opportunity to combine his love of number crunching with his passion for running.
“I wandered into the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company looking for a run-of-the-mill sales position. But after reviewing my résumé, IC alum Ian Golden [’99] made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: organizing the company’s finances, making inventory projections, talking with professional accountants, and analyzing account ledgers were all part of the job description. It was really powerful to go into the classroom and then take that knowledge back to the running store and apply it to a real company,” he says.
After graduation Brian took some time to pursue his dream of biking across the U.S. But thanks to his Ithaca experiences and a supportive alumni network, his accounting career is already off and running.
>> More on this story: "Running the Numbers" - Fuse
What would compel a 40-something owner of an already successful small business to return to school for an M.B.A. at Ithaca College?
Heather Lane, owner of Purity Ice Cream—a well-known and loved institution in Ithaca and the central New York area—had her reasons: “I had plateaued at Purity. I couldn’t beat my best day’s sales,” she says.
Heather always urged IC students on her staff to finish their degrees but was embarrassed she never finished her own. After taking the final classes needed to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology with the University at Buffalo, she was inspired to scoop up an M.B.A. at Ithaca to boost her business.
“I didn’t understand how transferable the theoretical knowledge was until I entered the program, and then it just became this great game: what can I change next at Purity?”
Heather made operational adjustments, which included changing the way customers move through her store and the location of the cash registers. She also modified the prices of certain products.
Then she tackled the human resources side of the business and created a series of videos so that staffers could understand the nuances of making a great sundae or a smooth milkshake, and even how to mop the floor correctly.
Changes like these and others are what helped Heather eventually beat her best day's sales by 40 percent. She credits that growth to her education at IC.
“The M.B.A. program really pushed me to analyze my operation, make sense of it, and do it better,” Heather says.
>> More on this story: "Ice Cream Social" - The Ithacan