School of Management Newsletter
Last month, we reported that the Ethics team had received an invitation to attend the International Business Ethics Case Competition, which takes place April 21-23 in New Orleans. In order to help pay for the trip, the team is soliciting donations. The goal is $5,000; to date, $1,020 has been received.
Follow these steps if you would like to make a contribution:
- Visit www.maristconnect.marist.edu/give
- Enter the amount of your contribution in two places: under “Total Gift Amount” and under “Other Designation”
- In the box labeled “Please direct my gift to,” enter “Ethics Trip to New Orleans”
During the week of March 2, 37 current students were invited to join the Marist chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, the academic honor society for business schools accredited by AACSB (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). But the SoM faculty — eschewing the usual ways of issuing an invitation, such as by mail or phone — invited the students via a uniquely formal ceremony known as “tapping.”
“Faculty don their full regalia and visit the students’ classrooms to single them out for this unusual opportunity,” says honor society advisor Prof. Elizabeth Purinton-Johnson. “The faculty whose classes are visited are unerringly gracious and patient. Prof. Kavous Ardalan, ever the gentleman, plays music for the entrance of the professors and the student officers carrying the Beta Gamma Sigma banner.”
The 28 undergraduates and nine post-graduate candidates represent the top 10 percent of business and accounting majors in the junior and senior classes, and the top 20 percent of MBA students. Prof. Purinton-Johnson began the tradition when she formed the honor society’s campus chapter in 2003. “When I learned about formal tapping, something that only a few schools do, I thought it was something that would be a lot of fun, but would also help us to make our chapter a success,” she says. The new members will be inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma during a brunch ceremony at the Cabaret on March 19. Vicki Sylvester, the CEO of Good Reasons — a Westchester-based dog-treat company whose employees include people with autism and other disabilities — will be the keynote speaker.
“It goes without saying that we appreciate the work of all our School of Management students as they pursue their studies,” says Dean Lawrence Singleton. “Those invited to join Beta Gamma Sigma have shown exceptional academic promise, and we are pleased and proud to publicly acknowledge their efforts in such a special and unique way.”
Beta Gamma Sigma Chapter 308 faculty advisor Prof. Elizabeth Purinton-Johnson, Vice President Alexa Gherlone ’15, SoM faculty member Prof. David Gavin, and Associate Dean Geri Wildenberg take part in the honor society’s formal tapping ceremony last month.
Ethics Week — five days set aside each semester for SoM students and faculty to explore the often-thorny questions of ethical behavior in business — took place from March 30 through April 3. The program is sponsored by the school’s chapter of the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society.
Along with classroom discussions, eight special programs were held during the week. The highlight was a lecture by Prudential Annuities Vice President and Business Ethics Officer Kimberly Tabb. A member of the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association, Ms. Tabb works in the company’s Shelton, Connecticut office.
A number of thought-provoking discussions were also on the schedule. Prof. Gayatree Siddhanta Sarma led a talk entitled “To Bribe or Not to Bribe.” Prof. Melinda Weisberg and Prof. Larry Weisberg asked the question “When Do Companies Cross the Line in Marketing?” Prof. Pamela Harper moderated “The Business Case for Ethics,” while Prof. Steve Rossi gave a talk entitled “I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willy Again.”
Several films were shown and then critiqued as part of the week’s activities. Prof. Ann Davis, along with members of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the economics honor society, presented Commanding Heights, a documentary about the rise of free markets and globalization during the last century. Prof. Davis also presented China’s Century of Humiliation, a 2011 documentary concerning the 19th-century interactions between China and Europe. Based on Arthur Miller’s 1947 play, the film All My Sons — which describes the destruction of two families caused by their patriarchs’ shady business dealings — was screened by Prof. William S. Brown.
Discussing ethical questions is a vital part of a business education, say Prof. Joanne Gavin, assistant dean of undergraduates and faculty advisor to the Ethics Bowl team. “Ethics Week is important because it exposes our students to professionals in many different careers and industries as they describe ethical challenges in their field. It helps them see how people are actually facing and dealing with ethical issues in their jobs.”
A presentation of the 2013 documentary film Let the Fire Burn was held in the Hancock Center on March 25. About 20 people attended the screening and subsequent panel discussion, which featured Marist criminal justice Prof. Anita Butera; Prof. Joanne Myers, chair of the political science department; and writer/activist Darnell Moore.
Using archival footage, the film examines the 1985 standoff between a black liberation group called MOVE and the Philadelphia Police — a confrontation that resulted in the deaths of 11 people, five of whom were children. “The documentary connects to varied issues across a wide array of academic disciplines within public administration, business, criminal justice, social work, and political science,” says Prof. Tia Sheree Gaynor, assistant professor of public administration and an event organizer.
Audience members expressed “disbelief” at the city’s handling of the situation, Prof. Gaynor says. “Many were angered and frustrated, making connections between the standoff in Philadelphia to instances of administrative aggression against community residents, particularly those considered 'other' in America.”
One student was unhappy that a more-diverse group of people was not on hand for the screening. “He commented that the audience make-up was a reflection of the extent to which the overall Marist community believes these issues to be important,” says Prof. Gaynor.
The screening was presented by the Center for Multicultural Affairs in conjunction with the School of Management.
Candidates for the Master of Public Administration degree presented their capstone projects to fellow students and several faculty reviewers over the weekend of March 7-8 on the Marist campus.
The 12 student presenters are part of the New York City cohort; most of them are police officers, says Prof. Tia Sheree Gaynor, who teaches Innovation in Public Administration, the capstone class. “We design the class for students in the on-the-ground program by having them do ‘bookend’ weekends on campus. The first weekend is a boot camp, to get them ready to write their capstone paper; the last weekend is the presentation of everything they’ve done for their final project.”
The students’ assignment was “to identify a problem within a public organization, and then develop an innovative solution that addresses that problem,” says Prof. Gaynor. “There were a lot of interesting projects. One student’s innovation was to develop a policy to govern how the NYPD implements body-worn cameras. To address the issue of driving and texting, another student proposed having a ‘text car’ equipped with a camera, which would drive around taking pictures of people texting — and then mail them a ticket for texting while driving.”
Evaluators for the presentations included MPA faculty members Prof. Jay Bainbridge, Prof. Jim Melitski, and Prof. Anne Zahradnik. “Evaluators ask questions,” says Prof. Gaynor, “but they don’t impact students’ grades. They are there to assess the program.”
Prof. Gaynor had nothing but praise for her students. “Overall, I think they did a great job. It’s a lot to do in eight weeks — a 40- to 50-page paper, with an assessment piece, appendices, research and citations. They all worked really, really hard — and I could really tell.”
It’s a safe bet that most MPA students don’t expect to be asked to play a video game as part of their academic work. But in Prof. Anne Zahradnik’s Global Issues in Public Administration course, the students do exactly that.
In the game, called Democracy 3, each player is in the position of president (or prime minister) of one of six real-life countries, and makes all the decisions on how to run the show. Sounds easy, right? Well, maybe not.
“The game is a very complicated, multifaceted simulation,” explains Prof. Zahradnik. “You’ve got external and domestic economic factors, public interest groups, the internal politics of the cabinet, and the president/minister’s own goals and objectives. There are security concerns that you have to pay attention to while you’re trying to balance the budget, fix the schools, solve pollution problems, deal with social issues and crime. And there’s also the danger of being assassinated. Quite a few of the students are — but we don’t take it personally.”
For the assignment, students must play the game a total of eight times, acting as head of state twice for four of the countries. From a gamer’s perspective, the goal is to be reelected; but Prof. Zahradnik is more interested in the process than the result. “What I like about the game is that it’s so complex. It gives students a perspective on all the different factors that come at you when you’re a policy maker; most of our students are in policy implementation positions, and this gives them just a tiny taste of what it’s like to be a policy maker. The simulation makes it clear that, because of cultural differences, an ethical decision in one country isn’t necessarily considered an ethical decision in another country. You just can’t take your bag of priorities and ethics and cram it into another cultural’s decision-making process.”
A final reflection paper, in which students discuss how what they’ve learned in class is reflected in the game, determines their grade. “Democracy 3 allowed me to lead a nation the way I had always envisioned a just, moral, and ethical leader would,” says student Jennifer Guzzardi ’16. “However, once I did, I realized that I knew little about the role of a leader and much less about the role of a policy decider. Overall, the assignment was an eye-opening experience. It dissolved the belief that ‘I could do it better,’ and helped me to understand that the role of a leader is much more complex than I had originally thought.”
Spring break: for many students, the term refers to a week of partying on a sunny beach. But four SoM seniors spent part of their break not in Cancun, but chilly Manhattan, where they attended the G.A.M.E. (Global Asset Management Education) Forum on March 19-20. Organized by Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, the conference drew upwards of 1,000 participants from more than 20 countries, who learned about investment management from speakers including Goldman Sachs Senior Investment Strategist Abby Joseph Cohen, CNBC’s Jon Najarian, and David Darst of Morgan Stanley.
The four students are all involved with Greystone Funds, Marist’s student-managed investment funds program. Assistant Professor of Finance Brian Haughey, who attended the conference with the group, was impressed by the agenda. “The students got to hear leading industry experts in keynote talks, and were also able to attend breakout sessions where they could ask questions of speakers. The topics covered included equities, fixed income, alternative assets, derivatives, private equity and technical analysis.”
"The forum was extremely beneficial,” says Mark Stellwag ’15, a student manager in the Greystone Equity Fund. “It provided me with an immense amount of knowledge regarding the market and different macroeconomic factors affecting it today. In addition, it helped to open my eyes to global economics, emerging markets, alternative assets to equities, and different practices in investment management. It was hands-on learning from experienced individuals in the field."
Prof. Haughey concurred with Stellwag. “The students learned a lot, but they also realized how much they have been learning in their classes at Marist and how well-prepared they are for careers in finance.”
Marist seniors and Greystone Funds participants (from left) Cody Capps '15, Mark Stellwag '15, Dan Sheldon '15, and Anthony Posillico '15 flank Prof. Brian Haughey (center) at the G.A.M.E. Forum in New York last month
A new member of the SoM’s Board of Advisors, Stento is the senior financial advisor and first vice president of wealth management at Merrill Lynch Global Wealth and Investment Management in Albany. In this position, he works with high net-worth individuals as well as nonprofit organizations and businesses. A 1990 graduate, the Binghamton native played soccer throughout his four years at Marist; having completed more than 15 triathlons, he admits that “athletics is at the core of my life.” Stento lives in Delmar with his wife of 20-plus years, Judi; children Emily, Lindsey, and Matt; and “fourth child” Hudson, a black Labrador retriever.
Q: Does being an endurance athlete help you in your business career?
A: Yes, my competitive skills may be waning, but you have to maintain a strong body and a strong mind. When the two are out of sync, that’s when bad things happen. When you’re physically sound, that brings mental sharpness — and vice versa. I think it gives you a competitive advantage.
Q: As a student, were you interested in financial management as a career?
A: The seeds were planted in my mind as a young boy. I remember my dad saying, “I can see you being a banker someday.” I mowed a lot of lawns, raked a lot of leaves, shoveled a lot of sidewalks; I was always coming home with a lot of cash — and he always asked for half of it, to put in the bank for me. The other half went into my shoebox under the bed, and I was always counting and sorting it. Maybe that’s why he could see me as a banker.
I studied business, knowing that it could lead in that direction. I had a lot of older family members who I looked up to who were in the business world, they showed me the way if you will.
Q: What was your first job out of college?
A: During my senior year, Career Services brought in all types of on-campus recruiting — and I took full advantage of that. I interviewed with several firms, had several offers, and accepted a position late in the fall, so I had a job lined up before spring semester even started. I went to KeyCorp in Albany, into a management associate program. I got a head start in a leadership role learning all facets of financial services. I was there for 13 years, and built a great base.
Q: How did your time at Marist prepare you for what you’re doing now?
A: I think it was a combination of many things. I was focused on my education, and I got a lot of value out of it because the classes were so small and the teachers were so accessible. Playing in a varsity sport for four years — that’s an instant network, I’m still the best of friends with so many of my soccer buddies. And I was there in the ’80s when Rik Smits was there — he kind of put us on the map. It was a rich, well-rounded experience.
Q: What are the pros and cons of being a financial advisor?
A: It’s dealing with people’s lives, so it’s extremely rewarding and extremely challenging. Those are the upsides and the downsides. It’s like being a doctor on call: you’re always thinking about people and helping them manage their lives.
It’s a career based on your reputation and character. You have to be able to work with different personalities and multiple generations. At the end of the day, it’s all about the trust they have with you. If you build that trust, you’re going to have a mutually beneficial relationship for a long time.
Q: What advice can you give to this year’s graduates?
A: I tell students that you don’t have to get the perfect job coming out of college. You want to get the job that builds the foundation that you’ll rely on for the rest of your career. I didn’t make a lot of money in the training program, but it wasn’t about the money, it was about getting to the right place where I could learn as much as possible.
A native of the Midwest — “first Kentucky, then St. Louis, southern Illinois, and eventually Wisconsin” — Assistant Professor Melinda Weisberg came east in 2002 when her soon-to-be husband Larry Weisberg, a Dutchess County native, returned home to his roots. She began teaching at Marist in 2013 as an adjunct after a long career working for nonprofit organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Ministry of Danbury, Connecticut; and — most recently — as the director of organizational development and public policy for Astor Services for Children and Families in the Hudson Valley and Bronx.
Although she enjoyed her leadership roles at these organizations, “I didn’t really see myself doing this when I’m 70,” she says, “although I want to be doing something. I thought to myself, ‘I really want to teach at the college level.’ So I went back and got my doctorate through the online program at the University of Maryland.”
Currently, Prof. Weisberg offers classes in Organizational Behavior, Human Resources Management, and Business 100. “I have a passion for teaching,” she says. “I enjoy the interaction with students, the pleasure you feel when that light goes on for them. I try to get them to realize that, yes, you have to know accounting, finance, all of the skills and technicalities, but this is called ‘management.’ If you are going to manage people, you’ve got to be able to understand how to motivate and inspire them.”
Among the qualities she most admires about the college is “the sense of community and openness here,” Prof. Weisberg says. “People may not always agree with each other, but their focus is on ensuring that the students have the highest quality education possible. And I feel very embraced by the other faculty, they’re just great.”
Along with her academic duties, she and her husband are partners in a firm called CG Consulting for the Common Good, which offers human resources services to nonprofits and human services organizations. And she is a New York State delegate to Vision 2020, a Drexel University-based coalition working towards women’s economic and social equality by the year 2020. “I want to see what kind of piece I can be of the future that’s good,” she says.
Not surprisingly, the professor admits that she has had precious little spare time recently. But after plumbing repairs caused the destruction of the landscape at her Pawling home, she’ll be getting her hands dirty this summer. “I’m a gardener,” she says. “I’m looking forward to putting in an organic garden, and planting some flowers. I like to piddle around doing that.”
As our interview ended, Prof. Weisberg let slip a little secret. “Wanna know why I really like Marist? Because I can wear my red and white from Wisconsin! Go Badgers!”