Full Circle: How Partnerships Help Students and Alumni Succeed
by Colleen Sabatino '11 (M.A.)
HSB alumni and their businesses are discovering a secret well-known to those who have come before them: forging partnerships with SJU and its students leads to success.
Alumni engagement, coupled with a curriculum that values experiential learning, is helping to build the resumes and skillsets of students in every business discipline, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, while creating opportunities for the businesses to grow innovation, client bases, talent pools and bottom lines.
“By maintaining relationships with industry leaders we remain relevant, competitive and engaged in the business world,” says Joseph A. DiAngelo Jr., Ed.D. ’70, dean of the Haub School of Business. “And who makes a better business partner and mentor for our students than a fellow Hawk?”
HSB Associate Dean Stephen Porth, Ph.D. ’80, has witnessed the positive impact on both the students and the alumni partners. “The students’ level of career preparedness is unmatched, largely because of the real-world experiences we offer them in Haub,” he says. “The alumni walk away from engaging with our students feeling energized, ready to move their companies forward and eager to hire our graduates.”
These alumni hail from companies ranging in size, scope and industry — from rising family-owned NEST; to candy giant Mars; sustainability-focused R World Energy Solutions; and household brand manufacturer Hormel Foods.
Rob Almond '04 (MBA), CEO, NEST
Starting at the Top
NEST: Gloucester City, New Jersey
“What are the benefits of working with SJU?” a friend and fellow alumnus once asked NEST CEO Rob Almond ’04 (MBA). Without hesitation, he replied, “Get a pen; it’s a long list!”
While earning his Haub MBA, Almond joined multi-facility maintenance and construction management advisor, NEST, a business founded by his father in 1994. NEST specializes in guiding clients through the process of building, managing, budgeting and tracking construction and facility maintenance. He worked his way up the leadership path, and was named CEO in 2015.
That spring, Almond was invited to participate in University Professor Nicholas S. Rashford, S.J.’s CEO Intervention, a program that culminates the capstone course for Executive MBA students. Under Almond’s lead, NEST had already engaged with HSB in multiple ways, including sponsoring the management department’s annual business policy competition and hiring interns and co-ops from a variety of majors including marketing, business intelligence & analytics and finance — but this opportunity was uniquely appealing.
Created by Fr. Rashford in 1976 when he was a professor at Rockhurst University, CEO Intervention brings 10-15 executives to campus each year to present real-time challenges to cohorts of EMBA students who serve as sounding boards and consultants. Widely praised by students and executives alike, the program has engaged active alumni — such as CEOs Mike Hagan ’85, managing partner and co-founder of Hawk Capital and former CEO of Nutrisystem, James Maguire Jr. ’84, executive chairman of Philadelphia Insurance Companies, and Christian Haub, Co-Chief Executive Officer at Tenglemann Group.
“Students need to be exposed to real leadership challenges when they are in our classrooms, so that they will know how to encounter them in the real world,” says Fr. Rashford, who co-teaches the course with Associate Professor of Management João Neiva de Figueiredo, Ph.D.
“Hearing feedback from EMBA students who are not only currently immersed in case studies and learning best business practices, but have also worked in the business world and been successful themselves, was incredibly valuable,” says Almond. “There was a direct symbiotic benefit in that moment. I was able to get reinforcement for a decision I was planning to make, and the students were able to engage in a real-life business decision.”
Almond’s intervention experience was so successful that Rashford and Neiva included it in the second edition of Organizational Change and Strategy: An Interlevel Dynamics Approach, the book that provides a framework for the method and the class.
“To hear the case would be used in a text to educate future graduate students, like I once was — it was like everything came full circle,” says Almond.
Kelsey Tryon '17, Megan Kalagher '17, Kristine Eiserard '16, Nick Gerbo '17 and Emma Stoll '14 collaborate at MARS North American Headquarters.
Internships, Co-ops and Alumni Ambassadors
Mars Chocolate, North America Headquarters: Hackettstown, New Jersey
One of the University’s most specialized programs, food marketing consistently graduates top quality hires, so it’s no wonder the nation’s largest food service companies are interested in recruiting — and learning from — Haub students.
Not long ago, Emma Stoll ’14, a food marketing major, was recruited by one such company — global confectionery, pet food and food product manufacturer Mars, Inc. Stoll interned for the company in 2013, the summer before her senior year.
Between her internship, classes and the business policy competition, Stoll says she was exposed to many real-world scenarios, companies and contacts at SJU. “I started working two weeks after graduation and the transition was seamless,” she says.
Now an associate category development manager at Mars Chocolate’s North America headquarters, she is also the sales division’s recruitment lead assigned to SJU. It’s an “extra” job she couldn’t be more enthusiastic about.
“I’ve become a huge advocate for the food marketing program,” says Stoll. “Because of its incredible track record with interns and new hires, SJU is one of the only schools from which we now recruit for direct full-time hires. This is a big deal.”
Across the country, Mars Chocolate, one of six segments of the Mars Corporation, has over 30 employees with SJU diplomas, from interns to senior-level executives. This year, the company’s North America Headquarters also joined the Academy of Food Marketing’s five-year cooperative education program (co-op) as a participating employer.
Students in the co-op program graduate with 24 months of paid work experience gained through three separate work placements.
Like Stoll, Megan Kalagher ’17, the first co-op student to be placed with Mars, is a food marketing major who has benefitted from her forays into the industry.
“After having the opportunity to work for three large CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies as previous coops, I realized that you can only learn so much in a classroom,” she says. “Real-world experience has aided dramatically in helping me find out what I like and don't like about the industry. It also has allowed me to learn more about myself as a person.”
Andres Delgado '15 (MBA), Wayne A. Rotelle '94 (M.S.), Danielle Myers '13, and Frank Fazio '76 (B.S.) '05 (MBA) work together at R World Energy Solutions.
Building a Sustainable Partnership
R WORLD ENERGY SOLUTIONS: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Walking through the halls of R World Energy Solutions, it’s hard to miss the affinity of CEO Frank Fazio’s ’76 (B.S.) ’05 (MBA) for Saint Joseph’s University. Prints and photos adorn the walls of the common areas while diplomas, memorabilia and even a stuffed hawk decorate the alumnus’s office.
When he was recruited to the role of CEO at the sales and engineering firm focused on efficiency and renewable energy solutions in 2010, Fazio had already been in discussions with the University about helping to develop and teach sales courses. In his new role, he saw even more possibilities for the partnership.
“There was a clear opportunity to elevate both the SJU business curriculum and R World’s reach,” he says.
A natural fit for the Pedro Arrupe Center for Business Ethics board, Fazio began working closely with the center’s leaders, John McCall, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and management, and David Steingard, Ph.D., associate professor of leadership, ethics and organizational sustainability, to incorporate sustainability into the center’s focus and, consequentially, into the HSB curriculum.
R World also became an active supporter of the school’s chapter of Net Impact, a nonprofit organization for ethically-minded business students, and received its B Corps designation (a certification of social and environmental performance) with the help of students in the Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Sustainability (LEO) program.
In 2015, the company partnered with Net Impact students to complete an energy audit of Mandeville Hall. The R World team guided students through the process of assessing the building’s energy usage, finding sustainable solutions and preparing a presentation and proposal.
The students submitted the project to the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and it was accepted as a case study. “The goal of AASHE is to spread discussion of best practices in sustainability among colleges and universities,” says McCall. “The students’ work is thus contributing to the adoption of sustainability initiatives across the higher education community.”
A learning exercise for the students, the project was also an opportunity to expand R World’s client base as the company began working with the University to implement some of the changes. Four members of the five-person team from R World who worked on the project were alumni of SJU, among them, Danielle Myers ’13 a LEO major, and former president of Net Impact, recruited by Fazio as a student.
“Our mission aligns perfectly with that of Saint Joseph’s,” says Fazi, “which makes it a really powerful partnership.”
SJU graduates and members of Hormel's Bethlehem office: Jaqueline Sheaffer '13, Tom Gamy '14, Sam Veloz '17, Cailyn Alfieri '15, Joseph O'Connor '06, Joe Barsa '12, and Eric Franz '07
Growing Relationships, Recruitment
Hormel Foods: Bethlehem, PA
Despite its national reach and footprint of over 40 production facilities and sales offices throughout the country, Hormel Foods prides itself on being an extended family for its employees.
That feeling rings true for the SJU graduates who work at the company’s location nearest to SJU, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Of the 38 employees there, seven are Hawk alumni — and both of the office’s co-ops are current SJU students.
This past summer, Hormel celebrated its 125th year with a conference for all employees. During the week, a gathering of Hormel employees who graduated from SJU topped 30 people — in the consumer products sales division alone.
This cohort is thanks, in large part, to a partnership with the University led by Joseph O’Connor ’06.
“SJU’s food marketing program is a hub of innovation and a rich network,” says O’Connor.
Customer Business Manager for Hormel’s Consumer Products Sales division, O’Connor recently celebrated his 10th anniversary with the company, where he has enjoyed an accelerated career. For the last 6 of those 10 years, O’Connor has actively recruited SJU students as the company’s ambassador to the University – but he has done more than attend the career fair and make phone calls.
“We strive to build relationships with students early on that eventually result in top candidates, but this relationship offers an education for us as well,” says O’Connor. “The ability to connect with faculty and students, attend lectures on best practices in industry and get feedback through business policy — it’s all so valuable.”
O’Connor has served as a guest lecturer in the classes of Richard George, Ph.D., professor emeritus of food marketing, delivered presentations, served on panels and organized “day in the life” sessions for SJU students with his colleagues. His team has sponsored events, scholarship fundraisers and annual business policy competitions, and regularly hires interns, co-ops and full time employees.
Two years ago, one of those hires was senior sales representative and food marketing major Cailyn Alfieri ’15. “I attended the Career Fair in September and handed the Hormel team a copy of my resume. The next day, I interviewed with Joe O’Connor,” she says. “The process was extremely quick. Before Halloween of my senior year, I received an offer from Hormel and already accepted my dream job.”
“Each year, the recruits from SJU get better and better,” says O’Connor. “On average, we hire about six or seven annually to fill positions in offices across the country. The Saint Joseph’s graduates that we hire add to our culture and help us move forward.”