Student Achievement

Marist Students Start Consulting Group to Help Local Business in Need

Kenneth Guillaume ’20
(From left to right) Jessica Cerbone ’21, Jacob Ruthazer ’21, Tenzin Tsundu ’22, Tyler Rimaldi ’21

Entering the spring semester of his senior year, Jacob Ruthazer ’21 had an idea to bring together a collection of students across Marist College to benefit a local Hudson Valley business. In collaboration with Professor of Strategy in the School of Management, Dr. Helen Rothberg, Ruthazer created a group of inter-disciplinary students to provide pro bono services to local Hudson Valley businesses.

The team consisted of: Jake Ruthazer ’21 (Business and Cognitive Science), Jessica Cerbone ’21 (Mathematics, Economics, and Data Science), Tenzin Tsundu ’22 (Business and Philosophy), and Tyler Rimaldi ’21 (Computer Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, and Information Technology).

Image of Tyler Rimaldi '21, Tenzin Tsundu '22, Jessica Cerbone '21, Jacob Ruthazer '21

(From left to right) Tyler Rimaldi ’21, Tenzin Tsundu ’22, Jessica Cerbone ’21, Jacob Ruthazer ’21

Ruthazer’s inspiration for establishing the Marist Consulting Group came from one of Dr. Rothberg’s Wednesday Wisdom Live sessions when she reminisced about the value she gained from hands-on consulting opportunities outside the classroom during graduate school.

“After sleeping on the idea for a few days, I sent Dr. Rothberg an email with a proposal of how we could create a similar consulting opportunity for students at Marist. I knew it was an ambitious proposal to replicate something she did as a graduate student. Thankfully, she shared the same excitement, and the rest is history. Students at Marist are privileged with the caliber of unique experiential learning courses such as Finance Electives in the Investment Center, The Silver Needle Runway Show, and North Road Communications. I am ecstatic that the Marist Consulting Group will now be added to that list,” Ruthazer said.

Expressing an interest in working in the local area, Ruthazer wanted to make a tangible change to his community and a business needing an outside perspective. “We wanted to do something meaningful,” Ruthazer said.

Having worked with Dr. Rothberg previously, Mid-Hudson Works accepted the help and extra sets of eyes.

Mid-Hudson Works

Founded in 1948, Mid-Hudson Workshop for the Disabled Inc. focuses on employing veterans and physically disabled veterans, which they remain committed to. Changing its name in 2017, Mid-Hudson Works specializes in providing support to businesses and promotes its mission of providing job opportunities to physically and mentally disabled veterans.

Executive Director, Robert Nellis Jr., welcomes the help from Marist. While the students do not pose as experts in the field, an outside perspective into the business model and financials is welcomed. “While we may know our business well, it’s great to welcome bright young minds in and let them come up with ideas for us. We never expected them to tell us anything new or shockingly different, but there is a wide variety of how you take things in and do an analysis,” Nellis said.

While the students are focused on their efforts for Mid-Hudson Works, their work and similar work from professional consultants sometimes come too late but are always welcomed. “A lot of our needs are immediate. If we’re not functioning well in one area, the need is immediate. Working at someone else’s pace is hard,” Nellis said. “I was pleased with what they did.”

Ruthazer and Dr. Rothberg strived to help a business in the Hudson Valley that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Mid-Hudson Works really needed us. I felt it was important to focus our efforts locally during the pandemic. This is a wonderful business that employs veterans and people with disabilities,” Rothberg said.

The team unanimously agreed that working with students from different schools helped tremendously throughout the year and contributed to their findings. They presented their recommendations and implementation strategy to the Mid-Hudson Works’ Board of Directors, which were adopted. Their work will help the organization accomplish its goal of creating financial stability. “This is going to advance the dialogue with my board members and my customers, so thank you,” Nellis said.

Nellis and the Board of Directors complimented the student consultants’ professionalism and sophisticated recommendations. At the beginning of the school year, the consultants outlined their purpose with Nellis and Rothberg, which was determining how Mid-Hudson Works can become profitable to ensure the mission of employing veterans is fulfilled for years to come. The four students embraced change and adapted how they approached the problem multiple times from their initial proposal.

The consultants reached their findings and recommendations by researching the organization and industry, interviewing employees, observing existing processes and workflows, and performing a multi-year data analysis of every customer and source of revenue. The cumulation of the consultants’ findings helped them create a thorough financial analysis with a proposed pricing strategy for customers based on revenue tiers.

Practical Experience

Gaining hands-on experience with a local business allows the students to take what they are learning and use it in the field. “This was my first experience applying what I have learned in the classroom to a real-life scenario. I gained a lot from this consulting project and am proud of the impact we made for Mid-Hudson Works,” the incoming SGA Student Body President, Tsundu, said.

Being able to come together as a team with knowledge in varying disciplines made the students involved immediately jump at the opportunity to start a consultancy. “When I received Jake’s message about this opportunity, I knew I had to do it. It was a great way to give back to the local community,” Rimaldi said.

Cerbone echoes Rimaldi’s eagerness to be involved in the consultancy and the positive experience working with a local business in need. “Working on this was fun. We came from different disciplines and brought a blend of various backgrounds to the project. Mid-Hudson Works was great; they treated us like adults and were very responsive about providing the information we needed to do the analysis,” Cerbone said.

The students were able to walk away with practical hands-on experience that helped them grow professionally and prepare for life after Marist.

“This project taught me the value of being ambitious and the ability to then take a step back and see what can actually be accomplished,” Cerbone said.

Rothberg concludes with an appreciation of what Mid-Hudson Works does for local veterans and for her students after multiple Marist collaborations. “My heart is close to this cause, and I appreciate the opportunity we had,” Rothberg said.

Asset Publisher