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School of Business

Meesha Ann Daley

Meesha Ann Daley has always found joy in fashion.  “I was born into it,” says the Jamaican native who is enrolled in Southern’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. “My uncle is a tailor. Growing up, I was constantly in his sewing room, going through his scrap box for fabric to make doll clothes.”

Modeling and pageants held allure as well. A passageway in the family’s home became an impromptu runway for the young Daley, who practiced walking with books balanced on her head. She also spent hours happily watching pageants with her mother —  “a petite, gorgeous woman,” she says.

“The expectation was for me to be a contestant someday. Unfortunately, I was not the size you are ‘supposed to be’ in these competitions,” she says with a smile.

Growing up, Daley unsuccessfully tried a slew of diets.  “At home I was a social butterfly. I felt beautiful, loved and supported. At school I was the reserved child in the corner. I was teased constantly about my weight,” she says.

Shying away from social gatherings, Daley focused on her school work — and teachers gradually noticed the quiet girl in the back of the room who received top marks. “For some kids, it’s soccer. For me, it was school work. I had found my strength. Then came the revolution,” says Daley. She became a peer counselor and the prefect of her class, and went on to graduate valedictorian of Pembroke Hall High School in Kingston, completing her studies at the age of 15. After furthering her education at a second high school, she was accepted at the University of Technology (UTech) in Jamaica. “It’s famous in the U.S. for our athletes — Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell,” says Daley.

At UTech, she majored in accounting and minored in banking and financial services. For the first time, Daley also was free to choose her school clothes, a significant turning point for the fashion-focused young woman. “Jamaica has a very strict school system. We wore uniforms. My uncle made every single one, from the time I was 2 years old to 18.”

When Daley signed on to a program that permitted students to work in the U.S. during the summer, her uncle made her work clothes as well. Staying with extended family in New York City from May to August, she held a variety of jobs, often simultaneously. She worked as a junior auditor at a law firm, babysat, and took shifts at McDonald’s and Old Navy. Then it was back to UTech to finish up to eight classes a semester.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Daley moved to the U.S. permanently, with a five-year plan that included starting a business and earning a graduate degree. When an early attempt to run an online clothing store was unsuccessful, she put that dream on hold and decided to earn a master’s degree. Prompted by an advertisement, she came to Southern’s graduate student open house, and met Samuel K. Andoh, now dean of the School of Business.  “He helped me throughout the whole process, even though a person at his level could easily have passed me on to an assistant,” says Daley. “Others say the same. He really cares.”

A modeling career also has become a reality for Daley, who entered her first modeling competition — Full Figured Fierce — after being inspired by the organization’s message of “empowerment, self-love and positive body image.” She won the online competition and has gone on to additional modeling work, most recently gracing the cover of the September issue of Queen Size Magazine. The photo shoot, which focused on “clothes college students need in their closets,” took place on Southern’s campus. Daley suggested the site. After modeling for the publication several times, she was asked to serve as its fashion editor.

She says she’ll always be drawn to fashion and plans to revisit her dream of opening an online clothing store. But another issue has become a driving force as well. Working with classmate Asa Cort, Daley hopes to launch #trustfund, a seminar covering financial topics for young people and their families.  “This seminar not only will cover money management, but also the important role education plays in developing financial stability,” says Daley.

She notes that the goal of the project meshes closely with her work as a plus-size model — furthering her commitment to self-empowerment. “In my eyes, we need not associate the concept of beauty with a size, color or shape. That is the industry I want to help build . . . the industry I am moving toward.”

 

School of Business students

It was a simple suggestion that grabbed the attention of Modern Plastics President Bing Carbone: If he hired someone for just six hours a week to update social media accounts, brand recognition would rise and marketing costs would drop.

That nugget of advice – backed by solid market research – came not from a high-priced consultant, but from a group of five business-minded students at Southern Connecticut State University.

The hiring recommendation was part of a larger social media campaign to help the Shelton-based plastics distributor increase profits and boost sales of two older products, Plexiglas acrylic and COVESTRO MAKROLON® Polycarbonate. The proposal netted the students a $1,000 prize from the company.

“Wow, I’m blown away,” said Carbone after listening to the students’ pitch at the School of Business during the week of final exams. “I’ve been to other presentations and have been thoroughly disappointed. Here, I can’t say enough.”

The presentation was the culmination of a semester-long project aimed at giving students a real-life experience in the business world, says Robert Forbus, associate professor of marketing and assistant to the dean of the School of Business. The project was part of a marketing class he taught during the fall semester.

School of Business students

Forbus divided the class into six teams, asking each to research ways Modern Plastics could tap back into the Plexiglas and polycarbonate market. The company shifted its focus away from those products over the years, favoring the larger profit margins of high-end engineering and medical grade plastics, but other companies have found them profitable. Forbus then gave the teams 10 minutes each to pitch their ideas.

“Ideally, what they’ll leave this class with is a new skill that’s very much in demand in the workplace,” Forbus says. “Plus, they’ll have a deliverable – this plan – that they can actually show to a hiring manager.”

The winning team suggested numerous ways the company could increase sales by stepping up its online presence – using blogs, targeted ads, discounts and promotions and more frequent and engaging Facebook posts.

Carbone said just as he had hoped, the students approached the problem with fresh ideas and a youthful perspective.

While he intends to use some recommendations from each team’s presentation, he said the winners stood out by offering something he could implement immediately. Carbone said he’s thinking about offering the new social media position to a Southern student as an internship.

“I thought they hit it right on the nose with things I ought to be doing,” Carbone said. “I feel that I could implement their ideas tomorrow.”

School of Business student

The university-business partnership began after Carbone approached Judite Vamvakides, SCSU director of annual and leadership giving. Carbone’s two daughters attend Southern, and he said he wanted to give something back.

Vamvakides arranged for Forbus and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Durnin to tour the plastics company, and during their conversations, the contest was born.

Members of the winning group said the experience was nerve-wracking, especially since they had to start more than three weeks before the deadline after being told their first plan wouldn’t work.

“We initially wanted to do something with 3-D printing, but they didn’t have the manufacturing ability, so we had to start from scratch,” said senior Charlie Dunn.

Junior Chanelle Clarke said the presentation helped her overcome her fear of public speaking. “I was really shy and nervous about the whole process, but my teammates really encouraged me to go out there and kill it,” she said.

Senior Brielle Grestini said the most valuable lesson was learning how to work together as a team. Other winning team members were seniors Ashley Tomanio and Melanie Sivo.

Durnin said the students’ role in the project should give them an edge in job interviews, and she commended Forbus and Carbone for providing the opportunity. “This is a real focus of what we do in this school,” Durnin said. “We want students to feel as if when they leave here, they have the skill set they need to succeed.”

Regional Water Authority agrreement

Pictured (left to right) are: Ellen Durnin, dean of the SCSU School of Business; Larry Bingaman, president and CEO of the Regional Water Authority; and SCSU President Mary A. Papazian.

With nearly one-third of the workforce at the region’s utility companies eligible to retire within five years, Southern and Gateway Community College are developing a pipeline to provide highly qualified individuals to fill those anticipated openings.

In collaboration with the Regional Water Authority, the two schools have created a pathway for students to receive the education necessary to fill those projected managerial and technological job openings. Gateway is developing a certificate and an associate degree in public utility management. SCSU is creating a specialization in public utility management within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration – a program that may be the first of its kind in the country.

“I know of no other bachelor’s degree program in the United States that focuses specifically on public utility management,” said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an association of the largest publicly-owned drinking water utilities in the United States. “This unique program should fill a void in the development of future water utility leaders.”

The specialization, offered by SCSU, will include 30 credits that focus on management of public utilities, such as water, gas, electric and wastewater. New courses in crisis/risk management, green energy and environmental sustainability, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes will be part of the program. It also will include existing courses – such as in business communications, business law, public utility/governmental accounting, and business continuity planning – which will have sections tailored to focus on elements of utility management.

Many students are likely to begin at Gateway, attain an associate degree, and transfer to SCSU in their third year to complete their B.S. degree program with the specialization. But existing and incoming students at SCSU may opt to start their program at SCSU.

The pathway was approved Dec. 3 by the state Board of Regents for Higher Education.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this new program, which will start next fall,” said Ellen Durnin, dean of the SCSU School of Business. “At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce. This is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal. At the same time, it will provide our students with skills necessary for a career in that field.”

Durnin said internships at various utility companies in Connecticut will be offered to SCSU students, as part of the new collaboration.

“This is an exciting program that benefits the utilities, SCSU and Gateway, as well as the students,” said Larry Bingaman,” president and CEO of the Regional Water Authority (RWA). “The utilities gain a pool of qualified candidates to assume management and technical positions; SCSU and Gateway have a new curriculum that meets the needs of local utilities; and the students gain new career opportunities.”

Bingaman said that in the case of the RWA, half of its employees will be eligible to retire in the next five years. And more than a third are eligible to retire now. But this “graying of the workforce” trend is not unique to the RWA or public utilities in the region. Officials point to similar concerns throughout New England and in other parts of the nation. An aging workforce — combined with changes in regulations, technology and the push toward “greener energy” sources — pose new challenges for the utility industry.

Durnin said the RWA approached SCSU and Gateway two years ago with the idea of establishing this type of program. Subsequently, representatives of other utility companies supported the concept. “The utilities demonstrated a serious need for this type of training because of the demographic trends and anticipated retirements,” Durnin said. “They have employees who want to be trained to fill these soon-to-be openings, and we have the faculty who can provide this specialized education.”

In addition, existing and traditional-age SCSU students may wish to pursue public utility management as a career.

The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include customer service, field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, and finance and quality assurance, according to an industry study conducted by SCSU and Gateway. The average salaries range between $55,600 and $75,833, depending upon an applicant’s level of experience and educational background.

For further information, contact Richard Bassett, chairman of the SCSU Management and Management Information Systems Department, at bassettr3@southernct.edu.