The second Business Leaders of the 21st Century panel discussion held on Nov. 11 offered a crowd of students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn from successful SUNY New Paltz alumni and trailblazers in local business.
Comprised of business leaders in hospitality, banking, and agriculture, the discussion emphasized how nonlinear paths can often lead to professional achievement. Student questions ranged from those about personal motivation to concerns about the overall impact of career highs and lows.
The panel included three top-level business people, including New Paltz alumna Vice President of Turk Hospitality Group Shelley Turk ’86 (Business Administration) and Senior Branch Manager and Vice President of M&T Bank Sean Soliva ’04 (Business Management). Dr. Samuel Simons, president of product development and agricultural relations at Hudson Valley Fresh, also volunteered his time and shared his career high points with the crowd of eager students.
“I came to see Dr. Simons in particular,” said Diana Cruz ’16 (International Relations and Spanish). “He has such an interesting background as a medical doctor. And now, as a businessman he’s effecting change in a different way.”
Simon’s unconventional career path conveyed the panel’s unified message that the journey to success can often be unpredictable, but all stressed the importance of working hard and staying focused.
“When given the opportunity, I took risks,” said Solvia. “I raised my hand, I said yes. I worked harder and longer because I wanted to be successful and now it’s paid off.”
The event, hosted by the Office of Development, in collaboration with the Career Resource Center and the Provost’s Office, emphasizes how alumni participation is a key component to engaging current students and recent graduates.
“I am so grateful that many of our successful alumni are willing to come back and share their expertise with our students,” said Kristin Backhaus, dean of the School of Business. “Their experience and insight is invaluable to the College and it lets current students know that with hard work, anything is possible.”