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School of Business

Students Timothy Epps, Zari Williams, and Wendy Ann Santillan talk with business etiquette expert Karen Hinds.

Dean Ellen Durnin and the SCSU School of Business recently hosted the annual Business Etiquette Dinner in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. Nearly 150 business students, faculty, and staff attended this popular event.

Sponsored by Marcum, LLC, the event featured keynote speaker, Karen Hinds, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Workplace Success Group. Hinds has an impressive list of corporate clients as well as being a regular contributor on television and radio. She is also the author of five books, the most recent being Get Along, Get Ahead: 101 Courtesies for the New Workplace; Networking for a Better Position & More Profit; and A Young Adult’s Guide to the Global Workplace.

Hinds presented an interactive experience, first talking students through a mocktail networking portion of the evening, and later an immersive professional dinner.

During mocktail hour, Hinds covered a number of topics including where to position nametags, which hand to hold a drink in, how to properly shake hands, how to enter and exit a conversation, and how to deny a drink graciously. The latter she stressed heavily saying that, in interview situations, drinking while out with future employers is never a good look.

With the networking portion of the evening out of the way, the dinner — which featured proper etiquette for both Continental and American dining — delved into the proper way to drink soup, butter bits of bread, and signal to wait staff the enjoyment of a meal.

Outside of the proper ways to eat, the dinner also went over proper use of utensils and napkins, how to pass the salt and pepper shakers (always together), and how to properly excuse oneself from a table.

Although proper etiquette is important, perhaps the most important piece of advice given to students by Hinds was to focus more on the interview and networking opportunity than the meal. This includes ordering foods that are easy to eat with utensils, never taking a to-go bag, and possibly even eating before the actual dinner itself. In professional situations, the food isn’t the main focus, business is.

From “Where do I put my bag or purse?” to “What do I do if I spill something on my host?”, students had a chance to ask Hinds all of their questions to ensure a smooth dinner when the opportunity arises.

Employers frequently mention soft skills as an area where recent graduates fall short. The School of Business is committed to supporting students’ growth in these critical areas with programming and resources. By practicing networking and professional dining in a real-life situation, SCSU students can become more comfortable in the situations they’ll encounter in the workforce as well as in their personal lives.

 

Story by Goldy Previlus

School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin with Mike Haggerty, Haggerty Financial Partners (left), and Richard Dyce, Director of Operations, Amazon (right)

School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin and the Southern Connecticut State University Business Advisory Council hosted the 2nd annual Business Leadership Breakfast on Wednesday, October 2, 2019, at the New Haven Lawn Club. SCSU President Joe Bertolino was in attendance, along with 150 key members of the Greater New Haven business community.

Sponsored by Haggerty Financial Partners, the event featured a keynote address by Richard Dyce, Director of Operations for Amazon’s North Haven Fulfillment Center on the topic “Regional Economic Development: Investing in the Local Community.”

Dyce, who was introduced by North Haven First Selectman Mike Freda, captivated the audience with a discussion on Amazon’s beginnings and its successful customer-focused business model, and detailed how it manages the incredible feat of getting product to our doorsteps in two days or less.

The popular Business Leadership Breakfast is an important component in building the relationships between industry and education to prepare graduates for both current job opportunities as well as jobs of the future. SCSU School of Business is pleased to bring together all parties for the benefit of the region’s economy.

Ellen Durnin, dean of Southern Connecticut State University School of Business, is pleased to welcome Kevin Burke and Lauren Tagliatela to the Business Advisory Council.

Durnin said about the importance of the BAC, “The Business Advisory Council serves a critical role in connecting the School of Business to the business community. The BAC members provide connections, internships, and employment opportunities for students; they advocate for the School of Business in the community; and they are key partners in fundraising efforts for strategic initiatives.”

Kevin Burke is a senior vice president and Market Executive for the Wells Fargo Commercial Banking in Connecticut and NY Capital Region. He manages commercial banking division that develops and maintains business relationships with companies with annual revenues greater than $5 million. Burke’s team has offices in Albany, N.Y., and Greenwich, Hartford and Shelton, Conn.

Burke started his banking career in 1991 and, before joining Wells Fargo, had a long and impressive career utilizing his talents at Consolidated Asset Recovery Corporation, a subsidiary of Chase Manhattan Bank; Shawmut Bank; and Fleet Bank, a successor to Shawmut.

Burke, a U.S. Army veteran, earned a B.A. from Fordham University in New York; an M.A. in international relations from Boston University in Heidelberg, Germany; and an MBA in finance from the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Burke is an active member in the community. He is the chairman of the Gateway Community College President’s Council, and immediate past chair and board member of the Shubert Theater in New Haven. In addition, he is a member of the board of overseers of the Bushnell Theater in Hartford.

Burke and his wife have two daughters and reside in Guilford, Conn.

Lauren Tagliatela joined Franklin Construction, a family business founded by her great-grandfather over a century ago, in 2006. She serves as the chief community officer for Canal Crossing at Whitneyville West and Franklin Communities, managing a total of 1,200 apartment homes in the Greater New Haven region. She is responsible for marketing, social media campaigns, online reputation analytics, resident engagement, conflict resolution, budgeting, and creating design concepts for future apartment communities.

Born and raised in Wallingford, Conn., Tagliatela currently resides in North Haven with her wife and twin boys. She graduated from Boston University in 2002 with a B.S. in journalism, a concentration in photography and minor in women’s studies. In 2017, she received her MBA with high honors from Albertus Magnus College, with a concentration in marketing and leadership.

Currently, Tagliatela is serving on the Board of Directors for the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Durnin said, “Both Kevin and Lauren bring experience, knowledge, and passion to their roles as new BAC members. I am pleased to welcome them to my advisory council, and I look forward to continuing our progress of building bridges with the business community.”

 

The Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce (GNHCC) will award Ellen Durnin, Ph.D., dean of Southern’s School of Business, with the with the Leadership Center Alumnus Award at the Annual Leadership Awards Luncheon on September 26, 2019.

The Alumnus of the Leadership Center Award honors an exemplary leader and graduate of the Leadership Center. The Leadership Center supports the professional growth of business executives through leadership training and community education.

Durnin was appointed dean of the School of Business at SCSU in 2010. She has served in this role since, excluding 18 months when she served as interim provost for 2016 and 2017.

Under Durnin’s leadership, the School of Business has created the nation’s first Public Utilities Management Program; a Women’s Mentoring Program; a Business Success Center for student internships and professional development; and a Business Advisory Council.

Durnin is also leading the School’s committee to design a new School of Business building that will be the first “net zero” space constructed by the State of Connecticut, and she developed the Business School’s first international partnership with ESPEME University in France. Additionally, Durnin leads SCSU’s Transatlantic Alliance with Liverpool John Moores University in Liverpool, England, providing international research and educational experiences for faculty and students.

Previously, Durnin was the dean of Graduate Studies and External Programs at Western Connecticut State University. While at WestConn, she was a member of the Business Women’s Forum; TBICO, an advocacy organization for women in the workplace; and provided training for corporations such as Boehringer-Ingelheim and Cartus.

Durnin holds a B.A. in sociology from Wagner College, a master’s in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in business from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Her teaching, research, training, and consulting focus on the areas of human resource management, negotiations and conflict resolution, and work/family balance.

Durnin sits on the Board of Directors of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Director’s for Chapel Haven’s Schleifer Center, and the Vista Life Innovations Economic Development Committee. She was named the Business Community Advocate of the Year by the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2013.

The Annual Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2019. Tickets can be purchased online at the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Christine Stackhouse, '19

Christine Stackhouse, ’19, didn’t know the career path she wanted for herself when she transferred to Southern in the middle of her freshman year. But less than four years later – and after two trips abroad – she discovered her passion for the business world, specifically in the field of marketing.

And today, Stackhouse is a marketing assistant for the New Haven-based law firm of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey, LLP.

The Terryville resident said she transferred to Southern in the spring of 2016 because Southern was closer to home, and because she was selected for the university’s Honors College. She initially did not declare a major.

“I was a motivated and determined student,” she said. “Neither of my parents went to college, but they were very supportive of me. Things were going okay here. I was doing well and made some friends. I wanted to pursue a people-oriented job and kind of leaned toward marketing.”

Stackhouse was eventually invited to join the School of Business’s Student Ambassador Program, in which she helped conduct workshops for other students on topics such as writing a resume, dressing for success and interviewing for jobs.

“Through that program, we were invited to apply for a business trip during spring break to Japan sponsored by Austin Auger, a Southern alumnus. I was one of three students selected for the trip. It was exciting, but I was also nervous because I had never been out of the country.

“Austin showed us around Tokyo, especially to various businesses. And suddenly, I realized I was on a business trip meeting high-level executives. Who gets to do that? I felt valued and realized I was accomplishing what I wanted to do.”

Stackhouse decided she wanted to try another trip outside the country, and opted to study abroad for a semester (fall 2018) in France at the prestigious EDHEC Business School, located in Nice.

“I didn’t know a word of French, but there were students and professors there from all over the world. The classes were very hard, but I learned a lot. Our education system is quite different, and so are our approaches to developing a marketing plan.

“I came back to the United States having learned so much about myself. But I also started freaking out because I only had one more semester before graduating, and had no idea what I was going to do.”

But she said that the School of Business was instrumental in landing her the job opportunity at Carmody. In particular, she pointed to Patty Conte, School of Business internship coordinator; Sue Rapini, the school’s director of external relations; and Tony Rescigno, former executive director of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Stackhouse said she performs various duties as a marketing assistant with the firm, including social media, coordinating sponsorships and some budgeting. “I also want to be a resource for students and try to connect the company with Southern students,” she said.

“Before I went there, I underestimated Southern because it’s a state university,” Stackhouse said. “But my experience was different from what I originally expected. There are so many opportunities at Southern. You just have to take advantage of them. The school helped me develop both professionally and personally.”

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. She compiled a 3.84 GPA and earned departmental honors in marketing, as well as award for performance and leadership in marketing.

Stackhouse said she plans to continue in the marketing field for the foreseeable future, and would eventually like to engage in data analysis and campaign planning. “I like turning numbers into results,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left to right: Charlotte McMillan; Justin Paolillo; Patty Conte, Internship Coordinator, SCSU School of Business; Sarah Thompson; Dean Ellen Durnin, SCSU School of Business; Michael Agyeman; Kyle Ballou, Vice President, YNHH; Amber Schultz; Taylor Chisholm; and Kevin Inahuazo (In absentia: intern Alan Duran)

For the first time, Yale New Haven Health has hired eight SCSU School of Business students as summer interns: Charlotte McMillan, Justin Paolillo, Sarah Thompson, Michael Agyeman, Amber Schultz, Taylor Chisholm, Kevin Inahuazo, and Alan Duran.

At Yale New Haven Health, an internship on the business side of the healthcare industry presents opportunities to explore the multifaceted nature of business, finance and information technology in this dynamic field. Interns enjoy exposure to financial reporting, budgeting, systems analysis processes, and billing in one of the leading healthcare systems in the Northeast.

Patty Conte, internship coordinator for the School of Business, says, “We are thrilled that our students have had the opportunity this summer to partner with Yale New Haven Health, a rapidly expanding group of hospitals, specialty groups, and physician networks with a reputation for professionalism and excellence. During their time at YNHHS, our students will be gaining experience in HR, accounting, IT, finance, training and development, and patient experience.

“According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers reported converting an average of 51.7 percent of their eligible interns into full-time hires. Knowing that statistic, we are hopeful that not only will our students have the chance to learn a great deal about the business side of health care through their internships, but they also might be fortunate enough to someday become a full-time employee of YNHH, one of the most sought-out employers in Connecticut.”

 

 

The sky’s the limit for Gabriel Geist, ’17, and Jack Dowe, ’17, co-founders of FlyReal, a full-service drone marketing and consulting company.

The FlyReal team includes [from left] two alumni of Southern’s School of Business — Gabriel Geist,’17, and Jack Dowe, ’17 — and fellow partners Justin Kegley and José Alvarez de Lugo [missing from photo].

You know your college business course is a standout when it inspires you to launch an actual business. So it was for Jack Dowe, ’17, and Gabriel Geist, ’17, who on April 12, 2017, exited Management 450 — Business Policy and Strategy — and headed to a study room in Buley Library to incorporate their new company.

“How’s that for a founders’ story?” asks Dowe of the resulting enterprise — FlyReal, a marketing and consulting company that specializes in drone video and photography. Based in New Haven, the company works primarily with the real estate industry, but has expanded into general marketing. Soon after taking to the skies, the FlyReal team has completed projects in 12 states for clients that include the KeyBank Foundation and commercial real estate leaders Marcus and Millichap, Cushman and Wakefield, Northside Development, and the NNN Pro Group. “The biggest kick for me is that we are helping to define an entire industry,” says Dowe.

A partnership forms
The FlyReal story began in a classroom — a Saturday session of the aforementioned Management 450, taught by Linda Ferraro, assistant professor of management. All business majors are required to complete the capstone course, which challenges teams of students to “run” a simulated business — a sensor company with about $100 million in initial hypothetical sales. Working online and in the classroom, each team draws on everything learned in previous business courses: accounting, economics, management, marketing, and more to operate their “sensor company” as successfully as possible.

The business-strategy simulation — called Capstone™ — is fittingly challenging. It was originally developed by Capsim for corporate management training, used by companies like Microsoft, General Electric, PwC, and Samsung. “It’s used in quite a few MBA programs,” says Ferraro. “It definitely requires students to up their game.”

Dowe and Geist were placed on the same Management 450 team. The senior business majors hadn’t previously met but had a lot in common — specifically a commitment to their studies. Dowe transferred to Southern from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he received a scholarship after graduating summa cum laude from Hamden Hall Country Day School. It had seemed a dream scenario. But the fit wasn’t right, and he made the difficult decision to leave for New Haven.

At Southern, everything fell into place. Dowe was named one of eight School of Business Ambassadors — a leadership-development program — and was invited to Tokyo, Japan, to explore international business through a program led by alumnus Austin Auger, ’78. Dowe ultimately graduated summa cum laude.

Gabriel Geist was a transfer student as well, enrolling at Southern after taking classes at Middlesex Community College. He also studied abroad, spending a semester at the highly regarded EDHEC Business School in Lille, France. As a Southern student, he tutored classmates at the Academic Success Center, completed two tax internships, and served as treasurer of SUMA Marketing (Southern’s chapter of the American Marketing Association) as well as the Accounting Society. He also worked part-time as a ballroom dance instructor —managing his busy schedule and graduating cum laude.

The two dedicated students took Management 450 in their final semester — and they gave it 110 percent. They each worked near the New Haven green, and would sometimes meet for lunch to discuss the project. One day, Geist shared an idea he’d had while studying abroad in France: a drone marketing company.

“The most important thing I learned in Management 450 was to view my learning outside of the context of the classroom,” says Gabriel Geist, ’17, (right) with Jack Dowe, ’17, (center) and Justin Kegley.

Dowe was intrigued and the student teammates soon became real-life business partners. They found an initial investor, purchased the required equipment, and within months FlyReal was open for business.

“The most important thing I learned in Management 450 was to view my learning outside of the context of the classroom,” notes Geist. “I give credit to Linda Ferraro and her discussion-based learning style for our success in developing our business idea.”

Their former professor is thrilled but not surprised to learn about FlyReal. Dowe and Geist did well in the class, ending the business simulation with more than $400 million in hypothetical sales over eight simulated years — a 300 percent increase. “Both are extremely intelligent and exceedingly professional,” she says. “Jack [Dowe] has the ability to unite people around a common purpose. He has great energy and enthusiasm — and a level of curiosity that inspires him to ask questions without fear,” says Ferraro.

Her opinion of Geist is equally telling. “Gabe is extremely thoughtful and analytical. He integrates information so well and is also curious, but in a less extroverted way.” They are, she notes, a good team.

Which leads us to today. Challenges remain — including balancing the demands of holding traditional corporate positions while running their own business. Dowe is a multi-family analyst at M&T Realty Capital Corporation and Geist is an international tax associate with RSM US, where he previously interned.

They are also entrepreneurs. As managing partners at FlyReal, they work alongside partners José Alvarez de Lugo, director of business development, and Justin Kegley, creative director, who pilots the drones.

Dowe and Geist say the opportunity for future success is their ultimate inspiration. They hope to expand FlyReal’s focus and work with hotels, resorts, golf courses, and more. They also would like to segue into industrial applications such as mapping, zoning, and surveying.

“Right now, drones are largely for hobbyists,” says Dowe. “But in 10 years, every industry is going to have an application for a drone.” He pauses, then asks a hypothetical question: “When that time comes, who is going to have a platform of FAA- [Federal Aviation Administration] certified, experienced drone operators — one that is large enough to meet that huge need? There will be very few. And if you can be one of the top 10, you’re all set.”

Want to succeed in life? “Stay curious,” says Rick Capozzi, ’83, who shares the secrets to surviving and thriving in today’s rapidly changing business world in his new book: “The Growth Mindset.”

Alumnus Rick Capozzi graduated from Southern Connecticut State University's School of Business in 1983. Today, he's a leader in the world of finance.

As a high school football star from northern New Jersey, Rick Capozzi, ’83, was being actively recruited by several NCAA Division I universities when he broke his back playing in an all-star game at Giants Stadium. He recovered from the injury, but was no longer a top Div. I prospect. Southern, however, was interested and Capozzi soon was playing in New Haven.

“The first year was tough,” says Capozzi, of his shift in plans. “But I came to love Southern.” Majoring in business administration, he played football for the Owls for three years. He also was a nationally ranked power lifter and served as a residence hall adviser. The latter, he says, provided a crash course in leadership and responsibility.

The skills honed on campus fueled Capozzi’s post-graduation success. He held senior management positions at TD Private Bank, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Wells Fargo, and other industry leaders. His tenure at Morgan Stanley helps illustrate the breadth of his experience. As national sales manager at the organization, he was responsible for the firm’s network of 8,000 financial advisers in nearly 500 offices across the U.S. — and as Morgan Stanley’s regional director, he oversaw more than $35 billion in assets.

Building on such experience, he founded Capozzi Advisory Group in December 2014. “After 30 years on Wall Street, I wanted to be a bit more entrepreneurial,” he says. Today, he’s a sought-after consultant and speaker, who’s made more than 1,200 keynote presentations throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He’s also a successful author, whose most recent book, “The Growth Mindset: Leadership Makes a Difference in Wealth Management,” outlines strategies for success.

In November, Capozzi, who serves on the Business Advisory Council for Southern’s School of Business, returned to campus to meet with students. Following he shares a few of his thoughts on thriving in business today.

Tell us about the book’s title: “The Growth Mindset.”
Capozzi: Because of technology and innovation, we are facing arguably the greatest period of change in the business world in our lives. If you don’t have a growth mindset — meaning if you are not constantly thinking about ways to grow both professionally and personally — you will fall behind in this rapidly changing economy and world market.

Describe someone with a growth mindset.
Two words come to mind: responsibility and curiosity. Someone with a growth mindset wants to know more about the world around them and they take full responsibility for their lives. They always believe they can improve.

What are some of the changes shaping business?
In my world [economics and finance], the disruption comes from technology — algorithms and robo-advisers. You call in, basically talk to a computer, and based on your responses, it will, in essence, try to manage your money.

In other industries, some of the best examples of disrupters are Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, and Tesla, the electric-auto manufacturer. Think about how much disruption Uber has caused — and they are able to do so because of technology. Uber is basically a technology company. We have no idea where artificial intelligence will lead to in the future. But we know that technological innovation is not going away. It’s going to accelerate.

What’s the effect on the personal level?
Everyone in the business world needs to ask: Can a robot or technology do my job? If the answer is, ‘Yes’ or ‘At some point soon,’ you are probably going to become less relevant unless you take steps.

You stress the importance of the human component as a way of maintaining a competitive edge.
Communication skills are paramount in this economy — and I stress this whether I am talking about leadership with college students or management directors. Seventy percent of our economy is service-based. If you don’t have the right interpersonal and soft skills, it will be hard for you to compete.

People generally do business with people they like. It’s best to form those relationships face to face. . . . If I look you in the eyes when negotiating, I can learn more in three seconds than through 25 email exchanges.

Any quick tips?
I am a big proponent of mentors. Based on the research I did for my book, you are never too old for mentors. I know CEOs who have run organizations with 50,000 employees — leaders who are 70 years old — who still have mentors. Being a mentor is also important. I consider myself a student teacher.

Did you have a mentor at Southern?
I had several. One was my philosophy professor Dr. Mohan [professor emeritus of philosophy]. He opened doors to a world that didn’t exist to me before. I’m from the Class of 1983 — but philosophy is still at the core of what I do today.

Rick Capozzi during a recent visit to Southern, where he is a member of the School of Business Advisory Council.

To what do you attribute your success?
It all started with a belief system. I was absolutely certain that if I wanted something badly enough, no one — no matter who they were — was going to tell me I wasn’t going to achieve it. That belief came from my parents and my siblings. They stressed a strong work ethic and the ability to persevere no matter what.

Also, if I didn’t know something, I was not afraid to ask. I wasn’t afraid of surrounding myself with people who were in some way smarter than me. In fact, my goal was to hire people who had a skill set or knowledge that I didn’t.

Finally, I never stopped learning — and I’m not just talking about the business world. It’s all about curiosity.

What’s something you’ve learned about recently?
My daughter wanted to go shark diving with great whites, so I went. Why? Because I was curious to see what great whites look like from a foot away.

Any final thoughts?
You never master it all. The best professionals, when they are in their 80s and 90s, will tell me, ‘Rick, I am excited about today, because I’m probably going to learn something new.’

New Haven is a foodies' paradise — with Junzi Kitchen among students' favorite new dining hotspots. Alumnus Andrew Chu, '10, MBA '13, the restaurant's director of operations, reflects on the excitement of working for the successful startup — and how Southern helped prepare him for the feast.

Photo: Junzi
Andrew Chu, '10, MBA '13, is director of operations at Junzi Kitchen, a student favorite in New Haven.

Andrew Chu, ’10, MBA ’13, is energized by the lightning-fast pace of a restaurant startup. “If I went to a 9 to 5 desk job, I would be incredibly bored,” says Chu, director of operations for Junzi Kitchen. The restaurant, which was founded in New Haven in 2015 by a group of Yale University alumni, has already expanded to include several New York locations, all specializing in northern Chinese cuisine. Chu was among Junzi’s earliest team members — drawing on experience gained from his family’s restaurant background and two Southern business degrees. Both prepared him for a rewarding, demanding schedule. At Southern, he was a graduate intern, a resident hall adviser, an orientation ambassador, and treasurer of the Cultural Affairs Club and the Ski/Snowboard Club. “I was one of those kids,” says Chu, who also worked off campus — and served on what is now the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. In the following interview, he shares his thoughts on Southern and business.

How did you become involved with Junzi?
It was really through networking and living in New Haven for so long. I moved to New Haven when I was 17 — so I’ve been in the city for some time. Mutual friends were working with Junzi’s co-founders at the very beginning. One of my friends, Reed Immer, who is a New Haven local, signed on to do marketing. He introduced us, and my background fit. My upbringing was in Chinese restaurants. My family had a restaurant in Middletown, Conn., called Debbie Wong Restaurant. We also had a few in Massachusetts. They were banquet-style restaurants — most 65 – 70 seats — with the location in Middletown seating about 300 for weddings, Lion’s Club meetings, and other events. So it was more of an operation.

So it’s in your blood.
It’s kind of ironic. My dad will say to me: ‘You didn’t want to take over the restaurant when you were younger. Then you went, got all of this college education, and now you want to get back in the restaurant industry.’ But Junzi is very different from your traditional, neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I saw a great opportunity for growth and forward momentum.

What are your responsibilities with the restaurant?
I am one of the operations managers for the company. In 2015, there were only seven of us. With a recent hire, we are at 17 employees now, so we’ve grown considerably in three years. In the beginning, I oversaw store operations. But now I am happy to be transitioning into more of an HR [human resources] role, which I enjoy immensely. Working closely with people on communication, making sure policies are followed. And I still get to have my hand in a little bit of everything else.

You earned two business degrees at Southern. Did you always plan to major in business?
From high school on, I had a business track in mind. I was interested in marketing as an undergraduate. In terms of the MBA degree, I was given an amazing opportunity to become a graduate intern for Judicial Affairs [at Southern]. So I was earning my degree while gaining experience.

Noodle bowls at Junzi

How did Southern help prepare you for your career?
Serving on the board of trustees for what was then the Connecticut State Universities system was instrumental — especially doing so while going through Southern’s business program and earning my MBA. I was able to take what I was learning in the classroom and apply it to a real-world setting. That experience definitely taught me to hold my own . . . to be able to walk into a room of senior business leaders and understand what they were talking about. I remember there being a $171 million budget just for Southern. So I gained an understanding of those type of numbers, and I was part of meetings and conferences where all different aspects of business were discussed. It was very exciting. [laughs] It was also very nerve-wrecking. But it gave me experience.
I also had side jobs while attending graduate school. I was a sales rep for a snow board company based out of Waterbury, Vt., and worked at a retail store out of Berlin, Conn. I like to stay busy.

Was there anyone at Southern who had a particularly strong influence?
The board of trustees was a huge influence.Then, without question, my graduate internship with Student Affairs — and all of the administrators I worked with [through the division]. Chris Piscitelli [assistant dean of students and director of student conduct], Denise Bentley-Drobish [director of student involvement], Sal Rizzo [director of new student and sophomore programs], and Eric Lacharity [interim associate director of student involvement] — all had such a major impact. A lot of it was them stressing the importance of getting involved and networking. That helped me exponentially get to where I am today.

The restaurant also takes reservations for a monthly chef’s table, featuring culinary specialities.
The restaurant industry has a reputation for being very demanding. I’d imagine that would be even more so with a successful startup.
At the very beginning, it could be discouraging: having six-day work weeks and 10-plus hour work days. Without question, you do have to work extended hours. But it helped build me into a better person. I’m more professional and more organized. I’ve learned so much from them. And, honestly, I live for this. If I went to a 9 to 5 desk job, I would be incredibly bored.

Looking forward, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I’d like to ride this out to see where it takes me. I spent a lot of my earlier years — in my 20s — figuring out what I actually wanted to do. I always had a focus on business — and once I found this [opportunity], it was really exciting, especially coming in close to the beginning. I think I was employee number three. I went from working with our chef, cooking in the owners’ apartment. We’d be there at 8 a.m. testing recipes — and the co-founders would be sleeping after staying up all night talking with investors in China. Now two stores are open. Our NYU location is about to open. [The store is slated to open this summer.] And we just locked in a new location on 41st Street between Bryant Park and Times Square. We are working on a new round of fundraising. . . . There are so many really exciting things happening – and I only see this company growing. In terms of opportunities, this is going to give me the greatest amount of growth and the greatest amount of challenge – both personally and professionally. To be able to come in at the ground level has been incredible. I want to invest as much time and effort to seeing Junzi grow. Nothing would be more satisfying to me than to one day say, ‘We have 100 units throughout the U.S. — if not internationally.’

Any advice for students?
I would tell them to get experience while they are earning their degrees. I know that it is incredibly challenging for a lot of young people to know what they want to do — to think, for example, I want to ultimately be the VP of human resources for a major company. That’s why I encourage people to start exploring different aspects of business while they are going to college. I thought I wanted to do marketing — and low and behold . . . I’m interested in HR.
It’s also very much about networking. Building relationships. Putting yourself out there, even if it makes you nervous. Networking is what helped me get to where I am today. It’s what’s helped the business [Junzi] expand.

We’ll end with something light. What’s your favorite dish at Junzi?
Junzi has a “build your own”-style menu. I really like the jaja noodle bowl. I build that with spring noodles, the jaja sauce, pork as the protein — all stir-fried with a little bit of cucumber and scallions to top it off. That’s my go-to combo.

Photos: Junzi 2018

Ten Southern students recently received prestigious internships or full-time positions with Deloitte. Yes, we’re counting!

Louis Signor, ’17, who graduated with a degree in business administration, is one of numerous Southern alumni who recently joined Deloitte.

It’s the Holy Grail for many accounting students: a position with one of the “Big Four” accounting firms — Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG — widely recognized as the largest professional services networks in the world. In 2016, they earned a combined revenue of $128.2 billion through work in auditing, advising, consulting, tax services, and more.

Deloitte is the largest of the Big Four in terms of revenue ($36.8 billion in 2016) and number of employees (244,400) — the latter figure receiving a boost from a growing number of Owls who recently joined Deloitte’s Stamford, Conn., office as interns and full-time employees.

“Once I became an accounting major, my only goal was to work for a Big Four firm. The goal now is specifically [to become] a partner at Deloitte,” says Kayla Seminoro, ’17, who graduated from Southern with a degree in business administration and a concentration in accounting. In September, she moved closer to realizing that dream, joining Deloitte as an audit assistant after interning there.

Her interest in accounting came relatively late in her college career. After transferring from Central Connecticut State University, she took her first college-level business course at Southern — an accounting class taught by Janet Phillips, professor of accounting and chair of the department. Several years later, Phillips recommended that Seminoro apply for an internship with Deloitte.

“The best advertisement for Southern’s accounting program is definitely our students,” says Phillips. Her confidence in Seminoro was well placed. After interviewing online and in person, she was selected for the highly competitive internship, which began at Deloitte University, The Leadership Center, a 700,000-square foot training facility in West Lake, Texas.  She was then assigned to a client-team, receiving extensive real-world experience. “Deloitte values the importance of networking and making genuine connections with the professionals around you. This is one of my favorite aspects about both the firm and my internship experience,” says Seminoro.

Such positive feedback is icing on the cake for Lori Charlton, a partner at Deloitte based in its Stamford, Conn., office. Southern flashed on Charlton’s radar screen several years ago when she was working with an especially talented young colleague. “I asked her where she went to school, and she said Southern,” she says.

Soon after, Deloitte made its first campus presentation. “We had a very good turnout. The students were well-dressed and well-prepared, with resumes in hand. They asked great questions and were very enthusiastic,” says Charlton. “The faculty also came, showing a lot of support for their students and for us being there.”

In September 2017, Deloitte made its fourth campus visit — and many Southern students now know a classmate who’s interned or become an employee there. “They’ve been terrific,” says Charlton of the students and alumni who’ve received offers in both the audit and tax practices. “They interviewed very well and were very competitive. . . . It’s been a great success from my perspective. We’re really encouraged by our partnership with the university and want to keep the relationship going.”

Deloitte rates first among accounting companies for formal training, according to Vault, which annually ranks firms on numerous criteria. The services provider also finished among the leaders in the “prestige” and the overall accounting categories.

Muhamad Chowdhury, ’16, knew of Deloitte’s reputation. Before graduating in December, he’d explored different career options, including a potential winter internship with the organization. But after an in-depth interview process, Deloitte offered him a full-time position as an audit assistant in financial services. He started in January 2017.

His success comes after a period of intense struggle. In 2014, Chowdhury was a full-time junior at the University of Connecticut, among the first generation in his family to attend college. His parents both immigrated from Bangladesh to the U.S., where they built a successful life operating several Subway franchises in the Wallingford and New Haven areas. Then the family patriarch became seriously ill. Chowdhury left UConn, returning home to help run the family business. He also enrolled at Southern — working full time, attending school full time, and commuting.  “It came out of a difficult situation, but I have to say it was the best decision I ever made,” he says.

At Southern, he majored in business administration with a concentration in economics — a program he says develops a comprehensive understanding of the business world. He also volunteered with the campus VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program, which helps those with low-incomes, disabilities, and limited English. “My career is not in taxation, but the knowledge and experience I gained translate to any business environment,” he says of the program overseen by Frank Bevvino, associate professor of accounting.

Today, things are looking up. His father has recovered, and Chowdhury’s transition to Deloitte has been remarkably smooth. “After working for Deloitte for six months, I can absolutely say that this was the right decision for me. It’s been priceless in terms of the experience and many benefits,” he says.

Lubna Sparks, ’17, also transferred to Southern — and says her interest in Deloitte peaked after the organization made a presentation to the SCSU Accounting Society. After interning at the company last year, she’s been offered a full-time position. But she asked to remain an intern while preparing for her examinations to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) — a request Deloitte honored.

A fellow graduate of the Class of 2017, Louis Signor is preparing for his CPA examinations as well. It’s a welcome development for the talented alumnus who had worked at Home Depot for about six years when, in 2016, his position as an asset manager was eliminated.

“I’m not a typical student,” says Signor, who graduated from Southern at the age of 29. He’d attended Utica College right after high school, but didn’t return after his first year. Instead, responding to his father’s request to “get a job,” Signor applied at Home Depot — and steadily moved up the corporate ladder. Armed only with a high school degree, he ultimately found himself overseeing asset protection for all stores in the Norwalk, Conn., and New York Metro area — a market grossing $105 million.

“At the age of 24, I had a really good job making much more money than I thought would be possible,” says Signor. A watercooler conversation with coworkers changed his perspective. “The general consensus was that they felt stuck. They were paid well. It wasn’t a bad situation, but they didn’t have alternatives,” he says. He began attending Southern part-time, using Home Depot’s tuition reimbursement benefits. Then in August 2016, Home Depot underwent a corporate restructuring and his position was eliminated. Signor took the compensation package and, as a Southern senior, began attending the university fulltime for the first time ever.

In May 2017, Signor became the first in his family to earn a college degree, graduating magna cum laude. He interviewed with six employers and received five job offers — including one from Deloitte. He started in September.

[From left] Students Luke Velez, Brooke Davis and Lyman DePriest interned with Deloitte over the summer, while student Yenny Bayas completed an earlier internship during the busy tax season.
[From left] Students Luke Velez, Brooke Davis and Lyman DePriest interned with Deloitte over the summer, while student Yenny Bayas completed an earlier internship during the busy tax season.
The Interns

Deloitte consistently earns top ratings for its formal training program, a benefit experienced firsthand by a growing number of Owls, including four who participated in coveted summer internships in 2017. The interns — all business administration majors with a concentration in accounting — are students Luke Velez, Lyman DePriest, and Brooke Davis, and alumnus Nicholas Intino, ’17.

Velez and DePriest completed Deloitte’s Discovery Internship, with time spent exploring two company functions — audit and tax services. The hands-on learning kicked off at Deloitte University, the Leadership Center, in West Lake, Texas, where they connected with other high-achieving students from around the U.S.

“Before heading to Deloitte University, I heard so much about it that my expectations were through the roof. . . . Those expectations were met,” says DePriest.

During one team-building exercise, the students were placed in groups and challenged to develop a presentation. DePriest’s team took first place out of 25, earning an assortment of Deloitte gear.  The victory was particularly sweet for DePriest. His team’s presentation focused on a startup mobile application that he is developing (myhypeeye.com) — Here Are Your Parties and Events Everywhere.

Looking forward, there is certainly a lot to celebrate. After completing their summer 2017 internships, Intino and Davis received offers to join Deloitte’s audit practice. Meanwhile, Deloitte’s Discovery Internship will continue for DePriest and Velez. Both chose audit as their area of focus and are invited to intern with Deloitte again: Velez in summer 2018 and DePriest in the winter. “It’s a very unique experience because it allows you to get a glimpse of both aspects of accounting to possibly steer your career decision-making before you graduate,” says DePriest.

Southern senior Yenny Bayas, who interned with Deloitte in the winter of 2017, agrees, noting the experience confirmed her career aspirations. Although she’s wanted to study business since high school, she was unsure what specialization to select. But she loved her accounting classes — and a trip to a major European accounting conference with Robert J. Kirsch, professor of accounting, and three other Southern students cemented the deal. Southern was the only college or university from the U.S. at the event. “That’s where I really fell in love with accounting,” says Bayas. “But my internship at Deloitte made that even clearer.”

Like the others who won internships after completing several rounds of interviews, Bayas is a hard-working, high-achieving student. She — and classmate Velez — are School of Business ambassadors, two of only nine in the selective leadership program. At the age of 23, she has also been a licensed realtor for several years. In sum, Bayas — a native of Ecuador and a first-generation college student — is no stranger to a challenging workload. Still, she concedes that her Deloitte internship, conducted during the busy tax season, was very intense at times. “I loved the challenge,” she says.

In terms of a future career, she says being an accountant who specializes in real estate would combine her passions. But she’s also drawn to audit services. “I like that you are with a team and that you are investigating,” says Bayas. “You see the financial statements, think about the facts and numbers, and combine them into the story to make sure it all makes sense. I discovered that I really enjoyed that at Deloitte — and that’s one of the things I loved most about my internship.”