Congratulations to our very own Michael G. Kiflezghi, a VCU School of Business student pursuing a dual-degree in Information Systems and Bioinformatics. Michael received the Black History in the Making award from the Department of African American Studies at VCU and is currently a semifinalist for a Fulbright scholarship.
Michael shared, “I transferred from Northern Virginia Community College to matriculate into the Information Systems (IS) degree at VCU. After a year in the IS department, I discovered another passion: molecular biology. I decided that I’d pursue both fields in the form of a dual degree in IS and Bioinformatics.
I was subsequently accepted into the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development research training program (IMSD). During my time at VCU, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students three times and the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting once. I also spent a summer at the University of Oregon conducting research as part of an undergraduate research training program.
Through the help and guidance of the Honors College I applied for and became a semifinalist for a Fulbright to spend a year working under Dame Linda Partridge at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging. It’s my goal to research the biology of aging after undergrad in the form of a Ph.D. Being at VCU has literally changed the course of my life and opened so many doors for me allowing me to gain valuable research experience and business/IT knowledge through Bioinformatics and IS.”
From local innovation to global disruption: Richmond Companies that are redefining their industries.
That was the exciting topic the evening of November 10th, where Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business Dean, Ed Grier, and Impact Makers’ Vice President of Business Strategy, Rodney Willett, welcomed guests to an energetic reception at local business, Impact Makers.
The reception featured guest speakers from four local firms, including: Peyton Jenkins, Co-founder of Alton Lane; Avrum Elmakis, CEO of Best Bully Sticks; Rebecca Hough, CEO and Co-founder of Evatran; and David Cuttino, Co-founder of Reservoir Distillery. The discussion was moderated by VCU School of Business’ Executive Director of Entrepreneurship Programs, Jay Markiewicz. Over 125 Investors Circle members and friends of the VCU School of Business were in attendance to participate in networking and hearing from these innovative corporate speakers.
Dean Ed Grier began the program by speaking about the importance of the Investors Circle and its donors, and also thanked faculty, staff, and School of Business Foundation Trustees who were present. Dean Grier also introduced moderator Jay Markiewicz who led the panel in several rounds of word association, including “responsibility” and “failure.” This unique and fun program format lead to audience involvement as they were asked to toss out new words for association from the panel. Attendees were treated to many interesting insights into what makes these four disruptive and innovative companies tick. VCU School of Business Executive Director of the School of Business Foundation and Corporate Relations, Laura Kottkamp, closed the evening with motivational and grateful remarks.
All in attendance, including student and staff volunteers, networked over the length of the event in riveting conversation. Prior to the formal program, guests were able to learn more about each of the local companies by visiting displays around the event space. Offerings included mannequins wearing custom suits produced by Alton Lane, a video from Evatran about wireless charging technology, a table with some of the top selling dog treats from Best Bully Sticks, and a sampling station of bourbon and rye and wheat whiskey from Reservoir Distillery. Some of the insightful thoughts that could be overheard by the attendees included the state of local business, importance of community involvement, and expanding business globally. Overall, it was a very engaging and educational evening with a plethora of networking opportunities for the many in attendance.
Individual membership costs for the Investors Circle begin at $1,000 and Corporate at $2,500. For more information, please visit go.vcu.edu/InvestorsCircle or contact Katy Beishem at 804.827.0075 or email@example.com
Caley Cantrell is a faculty member at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter and head of the strategy track. Prior to transitioning from adjunct faculty to full-time faculty, Caley built an impressive résumé working for such prestigious agencies as JWT and The Martin Agency. Her position at the Brandcenter blends her experience in the ad world with academic rigors challenging current graduate students in the program. She has worked with student teams on projects for Goodwill Industries, Audi of America, C-K, The Ritz-Carlton, Tribeca Film Festival, Oreo and The Department of Defense.
Caley has been a consistent donor to the Brandcenter for more than five years, including making gifts to fund annual scholarships and designating the Brandcenter in her estate plans. In 2014, she took her commitment to her students one step further and endowed a scholarship for students in the strategy track.
Why do you give?
Working closely with students as I do, you see that they’re investing a lot of time and money in being here. Most quit their jobs to come to the Brandcenter because it’s such a demanding and immersive program. I’m proud that I’m able to give students a “leg-up” on their education.
I think I was like a lot of people who thought that making an ongoing donation was beyond their checkbook. I didn’t think I could make what I thought was a significant enough donation, but as I found, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought. When you think about students who are making sacrifices to pay their tuition, even a little bit can help make a difference for them.
Before I endowed the Cantrell Scholarship, I had been giving to Brandcenter annual scholarships. After my mom passed away in 2013, I decided I wanted to create something with permanence that would also honor my mother, whom had been an educator. An endowed scholarship did both, and as a faculty member I believe in our program, so I decided to put my money where my mouth was.
Did you have any experiences as a faculty member that helped to inspire your philanthropy?
We’re a small program, so I’ve been able to build strong relationships my students over the years. Overall, a lot of students come into this program with a sense of what they’ll be doing, but it’s still pretty uncertain. Over the course of the two years they’re with us, you see them struggle, and then they turn a corner where you see them click and develop this confidence; I look forward to seeing that change.
Every student is different. Some may be very confident in their work, but scared to present, or they may have ideas and just need organization; I find that growth to be fascinating to watch.
Do you have any advice for current students or recent graduates?
We have a very supportive alumni base who are eager to participate in our program and interact with our students. I want to encourage our alumni to please keep it up, as you cannot underestimate, what might seem like an easy piece of encouragement, can do to motivate a current student.
Read about previously featured friends and alumni:
VCU School of Business Information Systems Professor Allen Lee‘s recent comment on a Humans of New York Facebook post garnered 24,000 likes and sparked a discussion nearly 400 replies long. In response to a young Asian woman trying to be more assertive at work, Lee wrote:
“As a teacher who is Asian American and who has Asian students and Asian American students, I tell them this: Someday, here in America, you will find that you are just as assertive as any white American, just as I did. However, it took me years to get to this point. All those intervening years, I could have been saying things, but I let my politeness get the best of me. Finally, I just learned to say: “Excuse me, I’ve been trying to say something for the last 20 minutes, but people keep on interrupting me, sometimes by simply talking louder than me after I’ve already started talking. I would like to say something. May I speak?” And it always works. I tell my students that they can wait 20 years to give this a try, like I did, or they can do it right now. It’s a shame that we Asians and Asian Americans are treated as if we are invisible (and inaudible!), but we cannot change other people. However, we can change how we respond to them. I am a full professor, I just had to do this in a meeting two weeks ago!”
Here’s more from Professor Lee reflecting on the discussion and his experience:
Q: Why do you think your post resonated with so many people?
A: The problem of not being allowed to speak or, to be blunt, the problem of being silenced, is common to so many people — not just Asians and Asian Americans, but also other people of color in Western societies and to women across the board. In identifying with my story and seeing a solution, members of all of these affected groups responded with “likes” as well as their own rich commentary. And because I could see photos of who “liked” my post, I saw that many white women and white men liked my post too. It is a great feeling when people understand.
Then, there are the people that my post did not resonate with, but irritated. Many appeared offended that I explained the problem in terms of race and they said so in their comments. At one point, I responded: “It is more likely for people of privilege to feel this way – people who are so privileged that they don’t have to think about race as a factor because, for them, it isn’t. This is exactly why white privilege is called a privilege. (However, they enjoy this privilege not because they are white, but because they are the majority.)”
When I posted my original comment, I was only thinking about saying something to the Asian woman featured in this episode of Humans of New York. I never gave any thought to the possibility that my words would be interesting to anyone else, much less read by 24,000 people. A good question is: If I had realized that, would I have talked about race as candidly? Yes, and I would have emphasized it more so as to encourage people to take responsibility and not just exercise privilege.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from the discussion?
A: Taking exception to my singling out white values and expectations, one commenter responded: “White values and expectations? What about American values and expectations? Pardon me, professor, but your statement just struck ME as being quite ethnocentric and racist.” I hope people will take away my answer to him: “Not all white values and white expectations are American values and American expectations. The United Stares is a diverse society. We become American by respecting each other’s different values and expectations, not by imposing our own on others.” Over 50 people have “liked” this reply, including white people.
Q: How did it feel to have this whole conversation online? Do you view social media any differently now?
A: It is exhilarating that I have been able to share my lesson with so many people, so quickly, and so costlessly. I said this in one of my replies: “As a teacher, I want students to learn from my mistakes so that they don’t have to repeat them, and so that they don’t have to waste so many years of their own precious lives to relearn the lessons I’ve learned. Just take the lesson — and apply it NOW. That’s how every generation of people can become better than the previous generation.”
Q: What will you take away from this experience?
A: It makes me reflect on the fact that VCU has provided a conducive environment for me to hone my philosophy of diversity and equality. What I am taking away from this experience is the encouragement that, because my voice is being heard, I can and will continue to speak out, at and beyond VCU.
And with over 24,000 Facebook “likes” vastly outnumbering my Google Scholar citation count of just over 8,000, I will take away the lesson that I should not limit my outreach efforts to just my research.
Professor Jason Merrick, featured in this month’s “Innovative Education” issue of OR/MS Today magazine, discusses his focus on students’ learning rather than his teaching. Merrick writes:
I found that my teaching really improved when I relaxed and concentrated on the students learning, not my teaching. I personally get a lot of energy from seeing my students do thorough and careful analysis that helps them in their careers and personal lives. Operations research and decision analytics can have a tremendous impact.
“I always wanted to be an inventor,” said Joseph “Fitz” Maro, a Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter alumnus. “I used to watch a lot of infomercials as a child, and I thought to myself ‘This is what I want to do,’ so I did.”
Cannes Lions, an annual international festival for people working in creative communications, advertising and related fields, was a natural draw to an inventive person such as Maro, who has entered various contests over the past few years hoping to land a trip to the event.
This year, Maro entered and won the inaugural Campaign US Fearless Thinker contest, which asked the question, “If you had the floor at Cannes, what industry-changing idea would you share?” The award granted him a week in France for the festival – which was held last month – where he wrote a diary published on the Campaign US website.
Maro thinks his belief in the message behind his entry, and his strong desire to attend, sealed the deal in this year’s contest. His winning video pushes for advertising to constantly embrace new technologies through remixing and collaboration, using the music industry and Paul McCartney to make the point.
Maro believes McCartney’s constant artistic evolution has allowed him to remain relevant in popular culture for five decades. By knowing what his fans listen to and selectively collaborating with contemporary artists, McCartney created a personal brand that has outlasted the British Invasion of the ’60s.
“If we’re all about keeping our brands and companies relevant then we need to embrace technology in a similar way,” Maro said.
Maro says his professors and colleagues at the Brandcenter helped him see the value of not just learning the concepts of branding and advertising, but expanding his knowledge and keeping an open mind to new ideas and technologies.
He credits the Brandcenter with having a strong culture of collaboration in which everyone from faculty to students tries to make things that change the world. Even though the work was hard, it paid off and helped him get where he is today, Maro said.
“When I was there I heard a term ‘coopetition,’ a combination of cooperation and competition,” he said. “I think that really defines the work everyone does at the Brandcenter.”
After his trip to Cannes, Maro plans to continue his push for businesses to adapt with the technology of the times.
He advises students and those who want to get into his line of work to embrace the struggle. It takes hard work to make your dreams come true.
“You know, I’m still young, too,” he said. “I go to work early and clock out late, that’s how you have to do it.”
Featured image up top : Brandcenter alumnus Joseph Maro recently attended Cannes Lions, an annual international festival for people working in creative communications, advertising and related fields.
Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at http://newsletter.news.vcu.edu/ and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday. VCU students, faculty and staff automatically receive the newsletter.
In March, a delegation from the United State Olympic Committee spoke to students at Virginia Commonwealth University. The delegation was made up of former Duke star and Olympic Gold Medalist Christian Laettner, April Holmes, a Paralympic Gold Medalist, and Peter Johnson, former CEO of Sports & Entertainment at IMG. During the day-long event, the group interacted with graduate and undergraduate students throughout the University from the Center for Sport Leadership, the VCU School of Business and the VCU Brandcenter on topics such as the meaning of leadership and managing your personal brand.
The visit provided a unique opportunity for students to meet with leaders in the athletics world and learn personal stories of struggle and triumph. “People have to see in you work ethic. People have to see in you that you are willing to work, not just be a dictator. You need to show people that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do what you have to do to get where you need to go” said Holmes. After losing her leg in a train accident in 2001, she went on to win a gold medal in track and field at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China. Laettner advised the students, “You have to be tough, you have to be resilient…you can’t be afraid of failure.”
The day closed out with a reception for the delegation at the Tommy West Club in the Siegel Center with about 75 VCU supporters and friends in the Richmond community. Laettner, Holmes and Johnson were joined during the program by Tanya Hughes, a high jumper who competed in the 1992 Barcelona games and now lives in Richmond.
Walt Glover, a VCU School of Business alumnus and CFO of the USOC, was unable to attend the event. “I’m grateful that we were able to make this visit happen. It was a wonderful opportunity for Team USA athletes to enrich the education of current students at my alma mater as well as raise awareness for both the USOC and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation in the Richmond community,” said Glover.
Kenneth Daniels, Ph.D., professor of finance, School of Business has been invited to speak at the prestigious Sovereign Investor Institute Investor Roundtable in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 25–27. The Sovereign Investor Institute represents sovereign wealth funds from around the world and allows funds managers to engage in open dialogue about the current investment environment.
Fifty-seven delegates are scheduled to participate in the roundtable, including representatives from such various institutions as Bank of Tanzania, Bank of Uganda, Reserve Bank of South Africa, Nucleos Instituto De Seguridade Social (Brazil), FMO Netherlands, Regents of the University of California, Oxford University, Barclays Africa Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers and T. Rowe Price International.
Daniels will serve on a “spotlight session” panel discussing Government and Shareholder Rights along with:
Scott E. Kalb (Instigator)
Sovereign Investor Institute
Daniel Malan (Presenter)
Senior Lecturer, Business Ethics; Corporate Governance
University of Stellenbosch Business School
Dr. Renosi Mokate (Questioner)
Board Chair, GEPF
Executive Director, Graduate School of Business Leadership, UNISA University
Daniels, chairman of the board of the Richmond Retirement System, has participated in several investor roundtables sponsored by institutional investors. Virginia Commonwealth University’s participation in such internationally sponsored events signals the rising quality of the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at the School of Business.
The annual Thalhimer Scholarship Luncheon was held at The Jefferson Hotel on Friday, February 6th, 2015. The Charles G. Thalhimer Family Endowment was established at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business through a generous gift from the family in 1986. In addition to supporting the Thalhimer Executive-in-Residence and the Thalhimer Scholar-in-Residence programs, the endowment awards two merit scholarships annually, one for a top graduate student and one for the top undergraduate student.
Mariam Bello, this year’s recipient of the undergraduate award, is a senior with dual majors in accounting and finance. While at VCU, Mariam has been involved in many student organizations including Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Honors Society, Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society, and the Business Student Ambassador program. In addition to holding leadership positions in three student organizations, Mariam tutors at the VCU campus learning center. After graduation this May, Mariam plans to take the CPA exam, and hopes to live and work abroad in the future.
Miles Dumville, this year’s graduate recipient, is currently pursuing his MBA at the VCU School of Business. In addition to his full-time coursework, Miles has served on the School of Business Strategic Planning Committee as well as the Master’s Program Committee. He was also recently invited into the Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key academic honor societies. His interests include marketing, finance, real estate, the outdoor industry, the hospitality industry and not-for-profit humanitarian and conservation organizations.
Both scholarship recipients attended the lunch, as well Dean Ed Grier and members of the Thalhimer family, including Harry Thalhimer and his wife Marcia.
Rose Gilliam graduated with honors from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business in 1995. She earned a bachelor’s degree in finance after seven years of hard work and balancing school with a full-time job and a family. Today, Rose is Argent Credit Union’s CEO/President and oversees a $205 million dollar organization with over 23,000 members.
A loyal donor to the School of Business annual fund, Rose has consistently increased her giving each year and has been a member of the Investors Circle for the past five years.
Why do you give?
I was born and raised in Chesterfield County and I’ve enjoyed seeing VCU grow and change for the better. It’s been good for the community and everyone that has been through VCU. When I give back to VCU it feels like a way to help provide opportunities for current students and give back to the community at the same time.
The VCU da Vinci Center is a perfect example of one of those opportunities and something that the School is doing to make students more well-rounded and marketable. When you get into the working world, you need to be able to work with other disciplines. Programs like the da Vinci Center also help current students to gain experience working on a team and help them to see the bigger picture of a project.
Progressive education opportunities such as this make me proud to be a lifetime member of the VCU Alumni.
What was your experience like as a student?
I was at VCU for one year before getting married, and I ended up choosing to leave school because it seemed like too much at the time with full-time school, a part-time job and being a new wife. When I finally went back to school, it was because I knew I needed a degree to advance in my career. Originally I had planned to focus on accounting, but at the urging of my mentor at Argent, I went with finance because it allowed me to have a more complete look at the whole organization.
It was a long road to my degree with a lot of sacrifice and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, my parents and my in-laws. I went to school at night and took a couple courses each semester. I appreciate every single class I was able to complete. It took me seven years to finish my degree, but it was worth it.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Take advantage of opportunities for internships or part-time jobs in your field of study. It will help prepare you for the real world. Learn everything you can and don’t take your education for granted. It will give you tools that will help you in your career and in the future.
Read about previously featured friends and alumni: