Student Leadership

Day 6 - They Said I Was a Leader...Here's What Happened Next


leadership, marketing, college, professors, FDU, fairleigh dickinson university, ann huser, hart singh, real-world I am a big believer in exposing college students to real-world experience. Throughout my college courses I was lucky enough to have two amazing professors that followed this belief: Ann Huser and Hart Singh.

I met Ann Huser my fall semester sophomore year when I enrolled in the “Principles of Marketing” class. This class opened my eyes to marketing and helped me decide to declare my major. Professor Huser worked for several large companies including General Foods (now Kraft Foods). Every class she would explain how what we were learning in our textbooks related to real-world experience.

The senior seminar class I took with her was one of the top 2 courses I enrolled in. We worked with Ciao Bella Gelato (with whom I also interned) to come up with a retail brand extension and campaign. When we had it all planned out, we then presented it to their Director of Marketing and Director of Sales. We learned about Ciao Bella’s competitors by visiting high end stores like Whole Foods, analyzed current market share data, and she taught us how to create a report the same way she created reports for Jell-o.

Professor Huser wasn’t just a teacher though. She became our advisor as the five of us (Mike, Sarah, Krystal, Kathryn and I) started the Marketing Mix - FDU’s first ever marketing club. We planned monthly speaking and networking events, recruited members, and wrote our own constitution. During my sophomore year, I was comfortable being a founding member and doing what was asked of me.

However, after my conversation with Ray, Nat and Sarah about my leadership potential, I had a whole new outlook on this club and my ability. Since our club was just established a little over a year earlier, several of our e-board members concluded that our current President would remain President and we would not hold elections. As an e-board member with a whole new outlook on how we could make this club even better, I couldn’t let this happen.

Instead of sending a very frustrated email to Professor Huser at 12am, I slept on it and emailed her that morning asking her to call me. That decision alone, impacted the next 6 months of my life. I discussed with her over the phone the ideas I had for the club, my leadership ability to get us there, and how we need to give other members (including myself) a chance to run for President. To this day, I know that if I emailed her rather than calmly and professionally talked to her on the phone I wouldn’t have had the same outcome. Long story, short, she agreed, organized a proper election for all e-board positions and I started my “campaigning.” Needless to say, I gave one of the best speeches of my life and became the first officially elected President for the Marketing Mix.


The second step towards student leadership was taken.


My other professor, Hart Singh, taught in the Entrepreneurship program. He was a successful entrepreneur himself creating innovative software solutions for Intuit, Quickbooks, and launching new technologies to help municipal government. Every class he ran felt like a start-up.


However, I remember the first day of his class senior year: the room was filled 15-20 seniors in the business program. Professor Singh’s aggressive syllabus and required readings alone scared off 2-3 students. He had high expectations of his students: create a business model,  write and present a thorough business plan, and keep up with the weekly readings and writings. Sure enough another 3-5 students dropped out. I am so glad I decided to stay in his class because I still go back to the things he taught us everyday.

  • He helped us create working cash flow models in excel (that I still use today)
  • Critiqued our business plans with a fine tooth-comb.
  • Stopped us in the middle of our presentations and made us start over if we used a filler, were unsure of ourselves or lost the audience.

Given the new leadership skills I was learning, and my new outlook on life, this class resonated with me on a much different level. I saw myself as a leader now, so I could envision myself as an entrepreneur one day. That’s the beauty of college. The work we do outside the classroom sets our students up for success inside the classroom.


How they inspired me:

If it wasn’t for both Professor Huser and Professor Singh I wouldn’t have grown to love marketing and entrepreneurship. Even though I didn’t go the traditional corporate marketing route, the skills I learned in their classes have been utilized every day.


What they taught me:

They taught me to challenge the expectations that people set for me, and always try to push beyond them. They also taught me how to set ambitious expectations for myself and gave me the tools to reach them as long as I am willing to put in the work.



1. If you’re passionate like me, there will be days when you want to fire off that email out of frustration. That’s ok! But, if you have something meaningful to say, hold off on sending an email. Pick up the phone or better yet, meet with the person face to face. You’ll be surprised by how positive the outcome can be.

2. When the bar has been set high, hustle. Work hard to set the bar even higher for the next person.

Day 5 - The First Big Pivot: How a Conversation Changed the Trajectory of my Life


FDU, college, student leadership, award, college award, orientation, orientation leaders, OL's, leadership, leadership workshop, college training, training, student training, keynote The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college I pushed my comfort zone to work as an orientation leader at FDU. I had no idea what I was getting into and the critical point that was about to shift my college career from good to great.

I remember when I was a first-year student and my orientation leader, Mark Bullock, said “The more you put into college, the more you’ll get out of it.”  During my first two years in college, I didn’t quite grasp what Mark meant by that statement. However, by putting myself out there and later becoming an orientation leader it slowly started to make sense. Immediately, I had 15 new friends that summer and we all lived in a string of suites in Park Ave (real-world style).

Our group was inseparable: we worked 8am-5pm together, played volleyball after work, went to concerts together, and sure enough behaved like college students that had a campus to themselves at night (swimming in the fountains and such).

Growing up as a shy kid, I finally felt like I was coming out of my shell, putting myself out there, and suddenly had several groups of friends where I could be myself.

Unconsciously, I was becoming a leader.

Waking up early, setting up tables in the student center without being asked - check.

Running corney ice breakers by myself - check. Ability to work with several different personalities - check.

Get on stage in front of hundreds of first year students twice a week - check!

However, halfway through the summer, there was a  moment that I started to realize I may have had a special skill set. Orientation was led by Sarah Azavedo (Director of Student Life) with Ray Flook and Nathalie Waite (both Assistant Directors). One morning, Sarah wanted to meet with me early before that day’s sessions. I, of course, thought I was headed to the boss’ office because I had done something wrong.

That was not the case - she told me there was a student attending today’s sessions that had a disability. She personally wanted me to be at her side for the next 48 hours to make her feel welcomed, help her get around campus, and connect her with other peers. Part of me was terrified and the other half was shouting “yes, I’ll do it!” in my head.

Well the adrenaline kicked in, I said yes and I met Anna at 8:30am that morning. Anna was an incoming first-year and only two year’s younger than me. Her energy and personality was exhilarating and contagious. She was so excited to be at college and meet new people - she couldn’t get enough of it. Later that day, I remember Courtney had a 30 minute break, joined Anna and I, and we gave her a private tour of campus. That is when we really got to know Anna.

It turns out, she was in a car accident when she was younger and she had relied on getting around in a wheelchair for most of her life and she had a slight speech impediment. I didn’t see that - I saw a young girl with a lot of ambition and excitement. I really feel like she came out of her shell because we treated her like a human being. It was one of the most rewarding days that summer, and Courtney and I still reminisce about this story.

What happened next was the real tipping point for me, and it had a major influence on why I got into student affairs.

The first week of September, Sarah, Ray, and Nat held one-on-one’s to provide feedback and get suggestions for next year from each orientation leader. I didn’t know what to expect and I definitely went into the meeting very timid. That changed quickly - I sat there and just a few minutes in, they said “Kevin, do you know you are a leader?” I was shocked at what they said and I answered the question “No, I never saw myself as a leader.” No one ever told me that before. When they said that, something clicked for me. Things haven’t been the same since that moment.

Nathalie demonstrated her belief in my potential yet again a few years later. This past semester, she hired me to present my slide design and presentation workshop to international graduate students at Steven’s Institute of Technology.

How they inspired me:

Ray, Nat and Sarah saw my potential. They saw something in me, but even better they shared what they saw. My outlook on life as I became more involved during my junior and senior year, turned into something completely different than my perspective as a timid new student on campus. The next few posts in my “How I Found My Niche” series will dive into how I became a leader.

What they taught me:

If you are an educator, leader or supervisor don’t let an opportunity to tell someone that they are a leader pass you by. My life would have been vastly different if they never told me about their perception of me in that one meeting. Even if they were thinking it, I would never have known unless they said something. Always take the moment to ‘say something.’


We are often our toughest critics, and will put ourselves in boxes. For instance, I put myself in the ‘shy kid’ box, I’ve seen students put themselves in the ‘not good at school’ box, and so on. Look outward for help on finding your niche. Ask others what they see in you. You may be surprised to hear what your supervisor, mentor, or friends think of you.


Skip the 4.0


Student leadership student affairs grades graduation college It is a hectic, stressful, hair-graying, frustrating, schedule-juggling, if-she-emails-me-one-more-time beautiful and life-changing experience. It is college and it is freakin’ awesome. They say that students nowadays are willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money to obtain a higher education that offers the “full college experience.” Let’s get one thing straight: I can tell you right now they don’t mean classes. Universities across the nation are raising tuition costs left and right because, among other expenses, they are competing with one another to offer all the different programs, services and opportunities young America is so desperately looking for.

Why, then, is so much emphasis put on academics? Although academic success is necessary, I mean, you are paying for it after all, the most important aspect of college is not killing yourself to get the best grade possible. It’s not pulling unhealthy all-nighters or being the first person to raise your hand after the professor’s every question. College life is about succeeding in the classroom while also participating in extracurricular activities that help to develop you as a student and as a potential employee. What matters is your ability to maintain that strong grade point average while also keeping up some sort of interactive, non-academic life. The ability to juggle your overall student experience - classes, work, clubs, fun - is what employers want to see because once college is over, you’ll need to juggle a whole lot more - work, bills, commute, life. And this is what you’re paying for.

 As a Rutgers student I was involved with the Student Life department since my college career began. I served on a few different student organizations and volunteer groups, both run by the Student Life department. Through my involvement with the department, I became an official member of the Student Life family, which at RU is a very highly recognized and respected group of talented, enthusiastic and innovative students. Along with Student Life, I was involved with Dining Services, Career Services and Athletics. Unfortunately, I had to graduate but – here’s the good news – unlike many post-grads, I graduated with a job offer.

My full-time job, however, was not earned from my degree or my course studies or my grades. I got this job because I had experience in programming, event-planning and leadership. Being involved in college can help you to learn many desired work-related skills such as time management, problem solving, and responsibility. But it can also do so much more, trust me. Becoming involved in organizations and clubs while in school can help you to build lifelong friendships, develop your leadership skills and most importantly build a strong, close-knit network of professionals for your job search. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

The first and easiest part about getting involved at school is that you get to make friends! It is highly likely that the groups you join will comprise students with similar interests, otherwise, why join the group? These settings are a great place to blow off some steam about school and have some fun while doing it. Not to mention, there is almost always free food at student events so you’ll even get a free meal every once in a while. Score! You can try new things like different cultural foods, recreational activities and explore new locations on campus. Although many organizations have obligations to meet and goals to accomplish, somehow it doesn’t seem so bad getting things done with friends.

Secondly, organizing different programs, meetings, and conferences can be very difficult even for professionals. Getting involved on campus will deliver you the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities required in the professional world. Even as an underclassman, you can find a plethora of leadership opportunities on campus from becoming a general member of an organization to starting your own club. These kinds of activities are huge resume boosters as they prove to potential employers that you are able to lead a group of students and act in a professional manner to complete a goal. As a student leader, other students will come to you for advice, suggestions and mentoring. Over the course of your years in school, you can move up the ladder and take on leadership responsibilities as you become more skilled. The progression in leadership will show employers that you are capable, reliable and dedicated.

Not only will you make friends and become a leader, you’ll have unlimited opportunities to network with the extremely talented professional staff at your school. As a student leader you can meet professionals from many offices including career services, academic advising, dining services and many, many more. The professional staff are excellent references and resources to have in your future as they will be the people you work very closely with to progress your student’s organization. These people will be able to vouch for your success as an involved student and employers will trust their expertise more so than, say, a professor who barely knows your name. Your place as an involved student will also get you to experience diversity, first hand. Interaction with other students, faculty, and staff, creates an opportunity to learn something about yourself, others and the world around you.

You may be thinking, “Why would I want to take on more work?” or “I don’t have time for anything else.” My argument is that when you’re doing something you love, work is not a job. Being involved at school shouldn’t be perceived as a chore. It is an amazing, life-changing opportunity to meet people who are both similar to and different than you. Your training and experiences will give you specific skills and abilities that employers are looking for. And you’ll significantly expand your network of references by interacting with professional staff members who care about you and your future. So I ask you today...please don’t be a 4.0 try-hard. Don’t be that kid. Be the kid who couldn’t ask for a better college experience.