School of Management Newsletter

October 2015

Graduate students and alumni attend first-ever Leadership Weekend 

Students in the MBA and MPA programs — as well as alumni and members of the faculty and administration — were all in attendance at the kick-off dinner for the School of Management’s inaugural Leadership Weekend.

The Friday, October 2 dinner was held at the historic Thayer Hotel on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. For the graduate students, it was the prelude to a Saturday full of activities led by the Thayer Leader Development Group, an organization that offers leadership-skills education programs based on the principles used to train U.S. Army officers. Student teams tackled an obstacle course on the West Point grounds, and took part in an “urban orienteering” exercise that tested each group’s ability to overcome unforeseen problems.

RinnPaul X. Rinn, a 1968 Marist graduate, was the keynote speaker at the dinner. A naval officer, Rinn was in command of the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts when the frigate was heavily damaged after striking a mine in the Persian Gulf in 1988. In his speech, Rinn recounted the events of that day to a rapt audience, crediting effective leadership among the members of his crew with saving the ship and suffering no loss of life. “Leadership is the most important ingredient in anything you do,” he said. “It engenders trust. Great leaders train people to be better than they ever thought they could be.”

Leadership Weekend is the first SoM program designed to help graduate students develop professional skills while interacting with each other outside of a classroom or online situation. A second experiential event, slated to take place in New York City this coming spring, is currently in the planning stages. 

New Career Management course targets first-year students

Forty-five freshmen are currently enrolled in a brand-new pilot course aimed at helping them learn the workplace skills necessary to control their professional lives once they graduate.

Dubbed “Career Management Program — Year 1,” this one-credit Special Topics course meets for a total of 10 sessions throughout the fall semester: five in the classroom, and five with a mentor who is a member of the SoM senior class. Assistant Dean Joanne Gavin manages the class; topics covered include helping students become familiar with the Marist community; identifying talents and interests using an assessment tool called StrengthsQuest; and learning how to write a basic resume. In addition, other faculty members will be invited to discuss career opportunities in areas like marketing and finance. The concepts and skills presented in class will be reinforced during the mentor sessions. The goal, says Prof. Gavin, is “to give students the skills that will allow them, along with their academic knowledge, to develop successful, lifelong careers.”

If all goes well, it is hoped that the course can be expanded and offered to upperclassmen as well as freshmen. So far, students seem enthusiastic. “The feedback from the students that I have spoken with has been very positive,” says Prof. Gavin. “They feel that the class is helping them get acclimated with Marist more quickly.”  

Students gain insight on job-hunting from recent alums

Recent guest speaker appearances, organized by Prof. Brian Haughey, gave SoM students concrete information on what it’s like to work at one of the nation’s leading ratings agencies.

RaiaAlumni Vincent Raia and Christopher McMahon are both 2014 graduates who are employed by Moody’s Rating Agency. The pair returned to campus on September 25 to discuss their positions and the pros and cons of working for a large firm. Most importantly, they offered undergraduates several tips on how to land that all-important first job.

Brianna Ferrentino ’16 wrote a summary of Raia and McMahon’s advice: “They recommended many classes that they felt were beneficial to them, including Fixed Income, Equities, Quantitative Methods, and Excel. They explained that it is essential to take classes that will change the way you think. And besides focusing on your studies, it is important to understand current events and stay on top of what is happening in the world.” When writing a resume, the speakers emphasized including financial key words (such as macroeconomics and credit analysis) and proofreading the document carefully. Once an interview is scheduled, research the company thoroughly, and be personable but professional during the meeting.

Lastly, “when searching for a job, do not underestimate the relationships you have made here at Marist,” Ferrentino writes in her summary, noting that Raia was instrumental in helping McMahon land his job at Moody’s. 

PHOTO CAPTION: Seniors Briana Ferrentino, Alexis Wagner, Samantha Villacampa, Dan Duggan, and Chris Callegari attend the talk by Marist alumni 

Professional organizations get active on campus

With the start of the new academic year, campus chapters of two national business organizations — the American Marketing Association (AMA) and the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) — are busy recruiting members and planning activities.

The newly established AMA chapter is a result of the efforts of Prof. Pamela Harper, who is its faculty advisor. “I started working with the AMA corporate office last spring, and met with the SUNY New Paltz team regarding their collegiate chapter,” she says. “Marist’s chapter has been received with great enthusiasm and support from the School of Management's Dean Singleton, students, and faculty.”

Seniors Joseph Valenza and Spencer Strange are president and vice-president, respectively. “Here at Marist, there are a lot of different organizations and clubs, but there was nothing that catered to marketing students,” says Strange. “We want to provide students with marketing experiences they wouldn’t normally have inside the classroom.” With about 30 members so far, the group has already sponsored a resume-writing workshop with a Northwestern Mutual representative. “Going forward, we will also have an interview skills workshop, and a search engine optimization presentation by a company based in Kingston,” says Valenza. “We want to bring in other speakers, attend some professional conferences, and compete in a national case competition in New Orleans.”

At present, the seven-member executive board is brainstorming ways to fund this ambitious agenda. The School of Management has donated some money, but “the process of being funded by the Student Government Association is a very lengthy one,” says Strange. “It’s important that we come up with ways to raise money on our own.” “If alumni would like to donate, that would be fantastic,” says Valenza.

To join the Marist AMA chapter, email Membership VP Amanda Martini ’17; to donate funds, contact either Valenza or Strange.

The Marist chapter of SHRM recently took part in a joint event with the Mid-Hudson Human Resources Association. A speaker discussed the interview process; afterwards, members of the two groups networked “in a speed-dating style,” says chapter President Madeline Heusted ’17. “Overall, it was a great experience for both students and professionals.”

Close to 20 students have joined SHRM so far this semester, says Heusted, who —along with chapter VP Lauren Wright ’17 and Treasurer Amanda Carroll ’17 — is planning to bring “more speakers and networking events” to campus.

Prof. Ismay Czarniecki, the group’s faculty advisor, says her goal is getting more students to join the society. “The field of human resource management is growing more complex by the minute,” she says. “SHRM exists to keep its members up-to-date. Students can tap into a database of knowledge that is constantly updated, so they can be better prepared to get a job once they graduate.” 

Heusted concurs with this sentiment. “It’s a great idea for students to join SHRM. It can help them understand the working world and develop relationships with professionals.”

Students interested in getting involved in the chapter can contact Heusted by email.

Faculty Focus

FinniganProf. John Finnigan received the Marist College “Club Advisor of the Year” award from the Student Government Association at its transition dinner last semester. Prof. Finnigan was honored for his work as advisor to the college’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an honor organization for accounting, finance, and information systems majors.

Lamar University in Texas recently inducted alumnus Prof. J. Donald Warren, Jr. into its College of Business Hall of Fame. “The Hall of Fame is the highest tribute possible for graduates of the College of Business,” said Dean Henry Venta. “Members of the Hall of Fame serve as outstanding role models for current and future students.” Prof. Warren earned his B.B.A. from the college in 1963.


Getting to know…. J. Donald Warren, Jr.


The first thing one notices upon meeting Don Warren — a professor of accounting and the Schlobach Distinguished Chair in Accounting — is that he’s not from around here. Although he spent half of his professional career working in New York City, the Beaumont, Texas, native retains his distinctive accent. “When I came to New York, I had a boss who didn’t like Southerners, so he sent me to accent reduction therapy,” Warren says. “I went for a year, but the therapist said there was nothing she could do about my accent — it’s part of my personality.”

Prof. Warren earned his bachelor of business administration degree from Beaumont’s Lamar University (whose College of Business recently inducted him into its Hall of Fame; see accompanying item); an MBA (“with a concentration in data processing; today they’d probably call it information technology”) from The George Washington University in D.C., and his Ph.D. from Texas A&M. He studied for his doctorate after retiring from PricewaterhouseCoopers, having spent more than 30 years with that firm. He lives with Judith Ann Johnston, his “bride” of almost 40 years (“she says ‘wife’ is a four-letter word”), in Milford, Connecticut.

This is Prof. Warren’s first semester at Marist; he has taught previously at Rutgers University and, most recently, at the University of Hartford. So what brought him to Poughkeepsie? “Dean Singleton contacted me and told me about the opportunity,” he says. “To be very candid, I told him I wasn’t interested in leaving the University of Hartford — but he was persistent, so I came for an interview in September of 2014. I met with President Murray and Vice President Wermuth.  I was impressed with the enthusiasm to move forward with a graduate program in accounting and the establishment of a center to address audit technology in the Cloud. I talked to some of what I call my mentors, and other colleagues, and they all said I really needed to take the position, that it’s a phenomenal opportunity.”

Helping to establish a master’s degree program in accounting is one of Prof. Warren’s initial responsibilities. “We would hope to be able to kick it off next summer,” he says, “but I’m not certain if that will happen. First we have to get the programs approved by the college, then by the State of New York Education Department.” Creating an audit technology center and assisting with the development of a speaker’s series on accounting issues are other items on his to-do list.

Although he’s only been on campus a short time, Prof. Warren likes what he sees. “I’m impressed with the students, and I do believe that there’s a lot of opportunity here. I like the campus; I think it is conducive to collegiality, and a place with which you want to be associated. And the fact that we have a football team is kind of interesting; the University of Hartford doesn’t have one. That helps bring spirit to the school.”

The students in Prof. Warren’s auditing classes probably already know about his fascination with the comic character Batman; he sports a ring with the familiar black bat symbol. “I actually use the story in my classroom. I tell my students: Batman is a principled person, and he has rules — and he doesn’t break his rules. We also have rules — general accepted auditing standards and generally accepted accounting principles —and if we break them, we lose our right to practice. In The Dark Knight, there is a scene in which the Joker tells Batman that he is truly incorruptible. I tell my students that that’s what we have to be as a profession. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the investors and lenders in the companies for which we work.” 

Alumni Profile — Paul F. Curran MBA ’84


Paul Curran spent more than 20 years working in the “conventional” energy industry. In 2003, he founded BQ Energy, a renewable energy development firm that specializes is siting wind and solar energy projects on landfills and brownfield sites. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University, and completed his MBA at Marist in 1984; he joined the Dean’s Board of Advisors last year. Originally from the Bronx, Curran now lives in the Dutchess County town of Beekman with his wife Brenda (the company name makes use of her initials); daughter Michalyn (currently a senior at Marist); and son Reilly, a freshman at Clarkson University.

Q: How did BQ Energy get started?

A: I was in the alternative energy division at Texaco; I lived in Europe for six years. One day, someone walked into my office and told me that Texaco and BP jointly owned an oil refinery in Rotterdam, and that they wanted to put wind turbines in it. Eventually we did that [in 2002], and it was a really neat idea.

As an oil company, we owned a lot of properties, such as closed oil refineries, that were under-utilized. I thought that we could do a lot more with wind energy on those sites. Texaco wasn’t really interested in that, it wasn’t their core business. I was looking to go back to the States, so I thought that this would be a good time to start a company. I founded BQ in 2003, deciding that we would look for sites that we could develop for wind energy, such as brownfields, landfills, etc. It took about two or three years to get rolling, but eventually it did roll nicely! A few years later, some of the people we were working with wanted to put solar energy on these brownfields, so in 2009 we launched that part of the business.

We do only large projects. We sell the electricity either directly to utility companies, or through what’s called remote net metering to people who use a lot of energy — like universities.

Q: Do you have any projects in the Hudson Valley?

A: We do. We have a solar project we built last year in Putnam County, and one of our Hudson Valley projects will be selling electricity to Vassar College. A lot of our projects take us around the country, but we enjoy working locally as much as we can.

Q: What is the job market like in renewable energy?

A: It’s growing, in solar particularly. I’d say there are 10 times more people working in solar energy now than there were five years ago. It’s a new industry, and it makes sense both environmentally and economically. When I left Texaco 10-12 years ago, the U.S. was importing 60% of its oil from other countries. Now we can see the day — within the next four or five years — where our net imports of oil will be zero. That’s a great thing for the country, and solar and wind energy play a part in that.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Dean’s Board of Advisors?

A: I had met Dean Singleton at the renewable energy conference that Marist hosts each year. The Marist MBA program was 100 percent online, and I didn’t quite see how that approach would be the most effective — partially for networking and partially for learning how to think with others. We began having an ongoing dialogue on the subject, and he asked me if I’d like to spend more time talking about the program in general. 

I’ve enjoyed the challenges at the board level, of how to grow the program so that it can really meet the needs of more students. These challenges and others are why I got involved.