newsId: C4F9EFA9-5056-AF26-BE60EE2C08383F63
Title: Teamwork on the Court and in the Classroom: AU Men's Basketball
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Abstract: Two thirds of the AU men's basketball team are Kogod students, creating community on and off the court.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 02/26/2015
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Business, much like basketball, is a team effort. Both require teamwork, value strong communication and depend on quick decision-making skills. Whether it’s down to crunch time with seconds left on the clock during a game, or in the classroom, the AU Men's Basketball team is prepared for success.

"Kogod is a lot of teamwork and we're definitely used to that," said senior guard John Schoof, BSBA '15.

As a freshman, Schoof decided he had an interest in business and many of his teammates were also in Kogod. He ended up loving the classes and sticking with it, specializing in finance.

"When I was an underclassman my teammates would always help me out with what classes to take, what the specializations were all about, and I’ve tried to do that with the younger guys," he said. "I'll preach all good things about Kogod to the underclassman on my team."

Two-thirds of the AU men's basketball team are students in the Kogod School of Business, bridging the gap of teamwork on the court, to teamwork on the road and in the classroom.

Jesse Reed, BSBA '16, and 2014 Scholar Athlete of the Year, also sees the similarities between his teammates and classmates on and off the court.

"An athlete and a businessman are similar. It requires a lot of teamwork and a lot of networking—qualities of hard work and perseverance go on the court too."

Sophomore guard Charlie Jones, BAE '17, has found this support from his teammates in the same classes to be extremely helpful, especially when the team travels during the season.

"Sometimes we share notes and tips in classes, especially when we miss class. We help each other out to make sure we are on track and not falling behind," he said.

The business of entertainment is an area of interest for Jones, which makes delegating enough time to study and get it all done not a huge sacrifice.

Although the balance of full time student and full time athlete is no easy feat, Reed credits the support of Kogod professors who are willing to work with him and his teammates and always understand when they need an extension or to reschedule an exam.

"It's tough but rewarding being in Kogod and on the basketball team," said Reed.

A Community Behind Them

For the players, having the support of Kogod is a source of encouragement for them.

At This Saturday’s home game against Bucknell, the school is sponsoring an Inaugural Kogod Appreciation Day in celebration of the upcoming 60th anniversary for the Kogod School of Business.

"I love the idea of the Kogod community game. There's nothing better than a packed game, it gives fuel to the fire. Especially coming from the Kogod community," said Reed.

"I think it's awesome, because we have so many guys on our team in Kogod and they help us out a lot. They are both understanding and supportive of us even after the semester they remember me, follow the team and ask how the season's going," Schoof said.

The game is also Senior Day, honoring the four seniors on the team—Pee Wee Gardner, BSPH, Kyle Kager, BSBA, Kevin Panzer, BSPH, and John Schoof, BSBA.

Join the Kogod community this Saturday, February 28th at 12p.m. in support of the reigning Men's Basketball Patriot League Champions as they take on Bucknell at the last home game of the regular season.

Admission to the game is FREE for all current Kogod students with a valid AU ID.

Tickets exclusively for Kogod faculty, staff, alumni and family members of current students are available at the discounted price of $7.50 for end zone seating and $15.00 for premium sideline.  

Buy tickets online at AUeagles.com/Tickets and use code Kogod15.

After the game join us for a casual reception with light snacks in Kogod. RSVP required by clicking here.

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Title: Drive Into the Future: Annual Case Competition Examines Ride Sharing Company Uber
Author: Laura Herring
Subtitle:
Abstract: Students explore strategic marketing plans and campaigns in this signature Kogod event.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 02/13/2015
Content:

How does a company grow when it's already at the top of its game? That was the question posed in the 23rd Annual Kogod Case Competition. Students were tasked with developing a strategy to continue to grow the success of ride sharing company Uber in Washington, D.C., over the next five years.

More than 150 students participated in the annual event. Proposals ranged from instituting customer rewards systems to branching into new customer bases.

"The prompt was definitely geared toward creating an effective marketing strategy," said Ina Bonnier, BSF '16. "That was probably the most challenging for me as a numbers person."

Bonnier and her teammates, who made up SFGB Inc., focused their efforts on securing Uber's place as the preferred ride sharing company in the region.

"Uber is leading in the market right now, but we wanted to ensure that for the years to come," said Nishant Shrikhande, BS/CAS '16. "Our recommendations are designed to keep ahead of the competition."

Students weren't the only ones who found the case's lack of quantitative information somewhat difficult. The more than 60 judges found themselves challenged by the prompt as well.

"This case was certainly more vague than others in the past," said Farzad Shirzad, MBA '02. "That makes it difficult, but also more interesting because there are many ways to approach the problem."

Shirzad, who had competed as a student, enjoys judging the competition and giving back to his alma mater.

"I learned a lot from [the Case Competition] as a student and I'm continuing to learn as a judge," he said. "I also hope I bring a bit of empathy to the role as I recall working on little sleep and the stress involved as a student."

Student teams had 72 hours to prepare for the competition, from the case's release just before midnight on Wednesday, February 4, to the start of round one at 9 a.m. on Saturday. But despite the intense schedule, the teams enjoyed themselves.

"It was exhausting, to be sure," said Katerina Trajkova, MSMKTG '15 and a member of a winning team. "But it was also the most rewarding experience I've had so far at Kogod."

Teams for the competition are divided into three divisions based on student age:

  • Massachusetts: Teams comprised only of undergraduate freshmen and sophomores by credit hours.

  • Nebraska: Teams primarily comprised of juniors and seniors by credit hours, may include up to two underclassmen and no graduate students.

  • Wisconsin: Teams primarily comprised of graduate students and up to two juniors and/or seniors.

Judges could award up to 60 points to each team, divided among the categories of: Critical Issues; Evidence; Recommendations; Questions and Answers; Delivery; and Overall Impression. The winning teams of each division received $175, second place teams $125, and third place $75.

Winning the Day

Massachusetts Division Final Rankings

  • First Place—Millennial Management: Sophia Baneth, BA/SPA, ‘17; Kiersten Gonzalez, BA/SIS, ’18; Elizabeth Lilley, BA/SIS ’18; and Laith Shikir, BA/CAS ’17.

  • Second Place—MJ+H Consulting Group: John Atiyeh, BA/SIS ’17; Harry Glenn-Finer, BA/SIS ‘17; Joti Judge, BSBA ’18; and Matthias Ng, BA/SIS ‘15.

  • Third Place—MSM Consulting: Wilson McDermott, BA/SIS ‘18; Robel Minassi, BSF ‘15; and Dasha Savchenko, BA/SIS ‘18.

Nebraska Division Final Rankings

  • First Place—Case 00: Kylund Arnold, BSBA ’15; Sophia Barnes, BA/SOC ’16; Matteo Garofalo, BSBA ’16; Alexander Niu, BS/CAS ’15; and Virginia Zhao, BSA ’15.

  • Second Place—The Sapphire Group: Jonathan Beatty, BA/SIS ’15; Nkemdilim Chukwuma, BSBA ‘16; Yasmine Creese-Brown, BSA ‘15; and Heidi Friedrich BSA ‘15.

  • Third Place—BCCD Consulting: Cody Guyer, BSF ‘16; David Horowitz, BSBA ‘15; Casey Long, BSBA ‘15; and Benjamin Marks, BSA ‘15.

Wisconsin Division Final Rankings

  • First Place—GMA: Siwaree Indradat, MSMKTG ’15; Alyson Mucha, MSMKT ’15; Tom Shelly, MSMKTG ’15; and Katerina Trajkova, MSMKTG ’15.

  • Second Place—Omega Solutions: Iryna Casteel, MBA ‘16; Kendra Clark, MBA ‘16; Elizabeth Doane, MBA ‘16; Cathryn Panganiban, MBA ‘16; and Ekaterina Shok, MBA ‘16.

  • Third Place—BCHNS: Steve Beam, MBA ‘16; Mehdi Charfi, MBA ‘16; Nadia Noor, MBA ‘16; and Nithin Srinagesh, MBA ‘16.
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Title: By the Numbers: Breaking Down the 23rd Kogod Case Competition
Author: Laura Herring and Sam Kauffmann
Subtitle:
Abstract: From the students registered to the time spent preparing, a look at the 23rd annual Kogod Case Competition.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 02/05/2015
Content:

This year's client for the annual Kogod Case Competition is the internationally known ride-hailing service Uber.

Uber first launched in Washington, D.C. in December of 2011, and within a year we were the company’s third largest market, behind San Francisco and New York. Although the city already had multiple transportation services like cars on demand, the Metro and taxi cabs, Uber flourished due to residents' dissatisfaction with the available services.

A recent study named the Washington, D.C. metro region the most Uber-friendly city in the world. However, as Uber’s popularity grows so does its negative press, including charges of sexism, hostility towards journalists, and criticism for its "surge pricing" that increases rates in times of higher demand, to name a few.

This year's challenge is for students to develop a strategy that will continue to grow Uber's success, specifically in the D.C. market, over the next five years. Uber's senior management team has asked that teams focus on both increasing ridership and on protecting the Uber brand.

The competition will take place on Saturday, February 7, 2015.

Case Competition Infographic
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Title: Campbell Brings Strategic Expertise to Entrepreneurship Program
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Abstract: The AOL Senior Vice President to join an innovative group advising the new MA in Media Entrepreneurship at American University’s School of Communication.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 02/03/2015
Content:

Caroline Campbell, Senior Vice President, Brand and Communications, at AOL Inc. will join an exciting group advising the MA in Media Entrepreneurship at American University’s School of Communication.

Campbell joins six other Washington-area start-up leaders in the Accelerator Group. The panel helps to grow the program, mentor students and build the curriculum of the unique MAME program that launched at American University in 2012.

Known for being strategic, creative and results-driven, Campbell is responsible for all AOL B2B communications; supporting corporate initiatives including quarterly earnings, executive leadership hires, speaking platforms, issues management, and competitive positioning; and all legal, privacy and policy initiatives.

Campbell has over 22 years of experience in communications, having spent time on both the agency and corporate side of the business. Prior to joining AOL, Caroline was a Vice President at Porter Novelli (an Omnicom Group co.), leading HP's Imaging & Printing Group's Graphic Solutions Business, globally. Caroline has also served as Senior Manager at Google on the Global Communications and Public Affairs team, leading the media outreach for Fortune 500 companies who were using the Google & YouTube platforms in innovative and creative ways. Working directly with the president of Advertising & eCommerce for North America, she was responsible for preparing them for media interviews and various speaking engagements, as well as planning and execution of media events. She has also held senior roles at ING Financial Services, Ketchum Inc., and GCI Group.

The other group members are Jim Brady, the founder and CEO of Stomping Ground; Lynette Clemetson, NPR Senior Director, Strategy and Content Initiatives; Jen Consalvo, COO and co-editor of Tech Cocktail and co-founder of tech startup Shiny Heart Ventures; Vijay Ravindran, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer in Graham Holdings, and Tom Weithman, Vice President and Managing Director of CIT Gap Funds.

Learn more about the MAME program

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Title: Global Learning Trip Provides First-Hand Experience in International Business
Author: Laura Herring and Mike Stankiewicz
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kogod students traveled to Kenya to experience the business culture of one of Africa’s biggest economies.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 02/02/2015
Content:

Kenya has a GDP of $55.24 billion, according to the World Bank. Conversely, the U.S. GDP is $16.7 trillion, exponentially larger.

A group of 15 Kogod students, both graduate and undergrad, visited Kenya as part of an AU study abroad business experience and saw this disparity first-hand. Part of Kogod's IBUS 244/744 course offered every year, the students traveled to Kenya to observe and experience an accelerated economic development of an emerging market.

Business in Kenya 

During the trip, which lasted from January 3-10, students visited Vision 2030, Nation Media Group, KenGen's Geothermal Plant, and Safaricom, the leading mobile network operator in Kenya, among other sites of interest.

Travel is preceded by several on-campus class meetings to learn about the business environment of the region and begin research on the companies the group will visit, along with preliminary work on the research projects the students complete upon return from the program.

Ritanch Hans, MSSM '15, described KenGen's Geothermal Site visit as his favorite business experience.

"While the site is very expensive to manage and operate, it is much cleaner and a more renewable energy than oil or coal," Hans said.

Christopher Evanson, BA/SIS '15, Kogod minor, spoke about his experience with money and commerce in Kenya. He discussed M-pesa, a micro-financing service.

"M-pesa allows you to deposit money stored on your cell phone and transfer money through secured messages," said Evanson.

For Professor Tomasz Mroczkowski, the faculty advisor on the trip, these two businesses were perfect examples of Kenya’s ingenuity.

"We saw a broad range of ideas and achievements from the Kenyan businesses," he said. "Each of them was well-adapted to the country and its needs and that's what these trips are for."

In the past, Kogod has offered IBUS 244/744 trips to Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, but this was the school's first program in sub-Saharan Africa. Mroczkowski has led more than a half-dozen of these trips, but the experience in Nairobi was one of the best.

"There was a kaleidoscope of things to see and learn from, both for me and the students," he said. "From business to nature, society to culture, we experienced a great deal in a short time and it was an invaluable experience."

In addition to local businesses, the group also visited the Kenyan National Assembly, The Ol Pejeta Nature Conservancy, Hell's Gate National Park, and Lake Naivasha.

The Kenya program received a very large enrollment for a study abroad course. In addition to the array of businesses and cultural sites, the Kogod students also spent time at the American University AU Abroad Program office in Nairobi. 

"It was always my dream to go to Africa," said Hans. "If I can get class credit why not do it?"

Evanson, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, said he never misses taking opportunities overseas to better immerse himself in the culture of the world.

"I'm very happy that AU offers an experience like this that allows us to go out and integrate with different communities, which is an experience that money can’t buy."

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Title: Kogod’s 60th Diamond Anniversary: The Mervis Family Difference
Author: Sam Kauffmann
Subtitle:
Abstract: Ronnie Mervis, Co-Owner and CEO of Mervis Diamond Importers speaks on “Reflections on the Diamond World: Reality or Perception” at the Spring 2015 Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 01/29/2015
Content:

Diamonds are much more than bubbles of carbon hardened into solid crystal, says Ronnie Mervis, Co-Founder and CEO of Mervis Diamond Importers.

"The diamond is the ultimate symbol of love. Love is the reason for the diamond industry."

The diamond has long been a cultural sign of love, marriage and stability. The decision to purchase is an emotional one, which is what brings clients in love to spend money on what may be one of the most meaningful purchases of their lives at Mervis Diamond Importers every day.

On January 21, Mervis, kicked off the celebration of Kogod's 60th, or Diamond, Anniversary as part of the Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series, speaking on "Reflections on the Diamond World: Reality or Perception?"

The Mervis Family Difference

When Ronnie Mervis and his brother, Zed, decided to expand the family business from South Africa to America, they started with virtually nothing. What first began as a small business, bringing in one diamond at a time slowly turned into a diamond wholesale business. However, the brothers soon decided retail prices were too high and took a risk that ultimately launched their success, changing the way diamonds are sold.

"We decided, no one pays retail anymore, why should you," said Mervis.

The Mervis brothers went against all conventional business wisdom and opened up destination offices, focusing on the luxury experience of buying a diamond. Client consultations are appointment based only, and sales associates are trained to educate their clients based on their personal needs. They market themselves as super specialists, selling diamonds only—not jewels or watches.

"We went against all conventional business wisdom, embraced the taboos and it paid off," he said. "Someday all diamonds will be sold the Mervis way."

In addition to its flagship location in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Mervis Diamond Importers has locations in Washington D.C. and Rockville, Maryland.

"We're in a happy industry. The only incurables we deal with is the incurable romantic."

Mervis Diamond Importers has sent 50,000 brides down the aisle with their diamonds.

Advise to young business people

As the nature of the diamond industry changes with Internet competition, Mervis remains confident that the only way to secure the best quality for the best price is to buy diamonds in a physical store. However, the company does look to adapt to online advertising and social media to deliver their company message.

Jonathan Mervis will be the third generation to continue growing Mervis Diamond Importers, and is currently working to expand the company’s online marketing presence. His YouTube channel features videos where Ronnie explains many common questions about the diamond buying process.

Ronnie Mervis is also a staunch advocate of radio advertising, crediting the power of telling his own memorable stories as the best form of advertising. Mervis writes, records, and produces his own radio ads that are known around the Washington D.C. area.

For young entrepreneurs, Mervis closed his speech with advice of finding your passion, no matter the job description.

"Make sure that whatever you do, you love it," he said. "Make sure that you are the diamond that sparkles the most."

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Title: Going Abroad? Meet Pronunciator
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Abstract: The Library now offers Pronunciator—free language-learning software with a host of useful features.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 01/16/2015
Content:

Planning to study abroad and wondering how you're going to going to find time to brush up on your language skills? Looking for a convenient way to structure your study time? Simply love languages and want to try learning a new one? Meet Pronunciator, our new online language-learning tool. Pronunciator offers instruction for 80 languages that can be taken from any of the 50 starting languages. This range of permutations means that a Spanish speaker can learn Chinese, a Thai speaker can learn Russian, or a Japanese speaker can learn German (just to name a few).

Pronunciator focuses on the language of everyday situations, so you can begin with the essentials, like food or transportation, and then build on that foundation at your own pace. With Pronunciator by your side, you'll be able to ask for directions, order a drink, and communicate with your host family in no time!

Pronunciator's free mobile app for iPhone, Android, and Kindle Fire lets you take your lessons with you. It also features thousands of downloadable audio lessons and phrasebooks, so you can access the tools you need—even while you're offline.

One of Pronunciator's most useful features is the real-time pronunciation analysis tool. All you need is a microphone and Pronunciator will help you test your accent. Especially useful If you're learning a tonal language like Chinese, where pitch can completely change the meaning of a word. Use Pronunciator to help you avoid ending up at a book store, when you really want to visit the library.

If you're planning a trip make sure you check out one of their 8-week travel-prep courses. You'll be conversational before you know it. Bon voyage!

Tags: Library,Library Services,New at the Library,University Library,Languages,Center for Language Exploration, Acquisition & Research (CLEAR),Kogod School of Business,Study Abroad,Abroad at AU,AU Abroad,World Languages and Cultures,Language and Area Studies (w/ College of Arts and Sciences),English for Speakers of Other Languages
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Title: The Best Kogod Stories of 2014
Author: Laura Herring
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kogod’s most popular stories of 2014 reflect a year of new programs and initiatives, along with student accomplishments.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 01/05/2015
Content:

2014 was a banner year for the Kogod School of Business. We launched a new Entrepreneurship Initiative and a new Master of Science in Analytics degree program. Our students were recognized for their academic success and community involvement at a national level, and so much more. We asked you to vote on your favorite stories from last year and the results are in.

No. 1: New entrepreneurship initiative to include student incubator, venture fund

No. 2: MBAs, designers, doctors create medical prototype for children

No. 3: Inaugural PMBA cohort studies business in Argentina, Ururguay

No. 4: Kogod group wins national award for empowering women in business

No. 5 (tie): More data? No problem. Kogod prepares professionals with new masters of science in analytics degree and Kogod alumna to begin Fulbright in Mexico

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Title: Aces: Volleyball Star Honored by Patriot League
Author: Alexa Marie Kelly
Subtitle:
Abstract: After overcoming adversity as an underclassman, volleyball star Monika Smidova shines at the top of the Patriot League.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 12/18/2014
Content:

If it had been up to her father, Monika Smidova would have been an ice hockey player.

Smidova, BSBA '15/MSF '16, grew up in the Czech Republic, where ice hockey is the most popular sport. Her father, a former hockey player himself, hoped she would follow in his footsteps, but instead, Smidova found herself interested in volleyball. She fell in love with the sport and it eventually took her around the world and to the top of her league as a setter on the American University women's team.

A Big Year

This season was a big one for Smidova. She won the Patriot League Player of the Year award and the Setter of the Year award for the second year in a row. She excelled in the classroom as well, earning the league's Scholar Athlete of the Year award and a spot on the Academic All-American team.

For Smidova, her achievements are always a team effort.

"I certainly wouldn't be where I am without all my teammates who keep pushing me forward to make our team better," she said. "Scholar Athlete of the Year is a great honor, and thanks to all the support I get from [and] from Kogod and from everyone, I was able to do well in my classes."

Smidova appreciates her Kogod professors for understanding her hectic schedule as a student athlete.

"Every professor I ever talked to and needed a different day of turning in my paper or doing a certain project, they were always very flexible and helpful to me," she said. "Kogod overall includes great professors coming from all different backgrounds who also understand the student athlete responsibilities and limitations that we have."

Staying the Course

Her many honors are a counterpoint to Smidova's struggles while at AU as well. As a freshman, she struggled to learn English and keep up in her classes. But she thanks her teammates for pushing her to where she is today. They helped her practice her English, and she was able to pick up the language within a few months.

Then during her sophomore year Smidova faced her greatest challenge yet, when she tore her ACL during practice. Frustrated, she sat out the season, but continued to work hard academically. Smidova was selected for the league's academic honor roll that season.

"[But] everything bad turned out to be something good," she explained.

By not playing her sophomore season, Smidova will be able to play on the team next year, as a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) student. She already has taken masters classes and enjoys the classroom environment.

"The way professors teach [graduate] versus [undergraduate] is a little different," she said. "In grad classes, it's a more mature approach to students because they [expect] that you will do it by yourself, and it's up to you if you want to study it or no. The exams are hard, and I enjoy it."

Smidova may not jump into a finance career right away, however. She plans to play professional volleyball in Europe after graduating with her MSF. There she would be closer to her two sisters, who are back home in the Czech Republic. Smidova cheers them on in their own volleyball efforts.

"I try to follow them on the videos and try to be with them as much as possible, so staying in touch with my family is one of my biggest hobbies," Smidova said.

When not practicing, studying, or Skyping with her family, Smidova spends time with her teammates. It's the connections with her fellow players that Smidova will remember most about college.

"I [will] remember us touching in the middle of the court in the huddle," she said. "I [will] remember the faces and the feeling that I felt during those [moments], and it's not like any championship point or me scoring or my teammates scoring, it's the team effort that we put into it that I remember."

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Title: Not For the Faint of Heart: Whistleblower Impresses Difficulties of Fraud Investigation
Author: Laura Herring
Subtitle:
Abstract: Whistleblower Cynthia Cooper impresses the need for ethical behavior in her speech at the Annual Lecture on Fraud and Forensic Accounting.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 12/10/2014
Content:

Good people can make bad decisions.

They don't correct the cashier when they receive too much change. They can drive home after one drink too many at dinner. Or they can keep quiet when something seems wrong.

Good people keeping quiet is how individuals become complicit in crime, particularly white-collar crime, according to Cynthia Cooper.

Cooper, a former vice president of WorldCom and a fraud whistle blower, shared this assertion at Kogod's Annual Lecture on Fraud and Forensic Accounting last month.

"Not standing up to pressure from above and going along with improper requests is the first step down the path," Cooper said. "And when individuals don't have their own moral code, their own sense of ethical behavior to stand on, that's when bad decisions can have lasting effects."

Blowing the Whistle

In 2002, Cooper led her team of internal auditors at WorldCom, the largest long-distance telephone provider at the time, in uncovering billions of dollars' worth of fraud. Their investigation and findings turned out to be the largest case of corporate fraud in U.S. history to that point.

According to Cooper, taking the lead on an investigation at her own company, headquartered in her own hometown of Clinton, Mississippi, was one of the most difficult things she's ever done.

"These people [we investigated] weren't strangers. They were members of our community; our neighbors, members of our church," she said. "It made it difficult to separate our emotions from the facts, but that’s what we had to do."

Learning to trust the facts and to develop a personal code of conduct is what got Cooper through the investigation and its fallout. It's this personal code that she impressed upon the audience more than anything else.

"Just like corporations have mission statements, so should individuals," Cooper said. "It's important to think about what you want your life to mean and use that to define your values and live by them."

"When people go against their personal values, that's when their lives start to unravel from the inside. That's what we see happen in so many cases of white collar crime."

Rethinking Fraud

Cooper's frank discussion of life as a whistleblower and how she found herself leading an investigation as an internal auditor opened the eyes of several in the audience.

"Before tonight I'd always assumed I'd get my CPA [license]," said Jessica Castrignano, BSA/MSA '16. "But now I'm going to look into getting a Certified Fraud Examiner [license] as well."

Castrignano wasn't the only student to begin rethinking career options. First-semester accounting student Sahilen Shah, BSBA '17, had never given much thought to the roles of internal auditors or even accountants beyond tax season.

"It was really fascinating to see such tangible applications of accounting and especially of a type of accounting I had never heard of before," she said.

Getting young people to start asking questions and be interested in uncovering the truth is Cooper's goal.

"My hope is that [my talk] is just the beginning of the conversation," she said. "This is the next generation of fraud examiners and accounting professionals; we need them to keep thinking about these hard decisions."

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Title: Social Innovation with a Global Focus: How Tighe Wall makes an impact
Author: Nina Cooperman, SPA/MPA '15
Subtitle:
Abstract: Tighe Wall, Kogod/MBA ’11 shares his thoughts on his time at AU and how his experience at Kogod helped him find a career with a truly global reach in social and digital strategy.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/05/2014
Content:

As an editor and writer for the Princeton Review, Tighe Wall, Kogod/MBA '11, edited the guidebook to the 191 Best Business schools. When it came time to select a graduate program for himself, American University's Kogod School of Business was at the top of his list. Now, as a managing consultant in the social business global center of competence at IBM global business services in London, Tighe credits AU's global perspective to his success. Coming to AU, he says, gave him the opportunity to "build a small international business base in the U.S. and gain entrepreneurial skills."

During his time at Kogod, Tighe worked as an innovation and entrepreneurship research assistant with Professor Stevan Holmberg and interned with IBM. He says his experience "supplemented what I was learning with real world experience. AU has a real campus and all of the other attributes of living in the city are at your fingertips." 

Tighe continued to excel at Kogod and, as the commencement speaker for the business school's graduate students, urged his classmates to "keep taking chances and embrace new experiences."

His work caught the attention of the social business group, a small global group consisting of experts in the field within IBM who shape the company's point of view on the application of social networking tools and culture to business roles, processes and outcomes. He now works in London and has a portfolio of clients all over Europe.

Though he's moved to London, Tighe stays connected to the university. He is a member of the Alumni Board and serves as an alumni admissions volunteer. He sees these opportunities as ways to give back to the university, and as someone who went to AU for graduate school at Kogod, he brings a unique voice to the group.

According to Tighe, "Going through Kogod changed the way I think of the larger business community and global business. It broadened my perspective and fundamentally changed the way I understand how the business world works –the curriculum and the professors and thinking of business functions as a piece of how a larger organization operates." That global perspective has paid off.

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Title: Luchs Family Scholarship Recipient Molly Fallon Reaps Rewards of Hard Work, Giving Back
Author: Mike Rowan
Subtitle:
Abstract: Her appreciation for debate aside, Molly Fallon can agree with her scholarship donor on one of their core values—the importance of giving back and paying it forward.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/29/2014
Content:

As commencement festivities took over campus and fellow classmates fondly reminisced about the best times of their college years, Molly Fallon, Kogod/BSBA ’14, recalled a different kind of memory—arguing.

Not just any kind of arguing, however. “I’ve really appreciated the disagreement and the debate that some of these classes have spurred from us,” said Fallon. “We’ve begun to disagree with one another in very constructive ways and bring some of our convictions forward.”

A Des Moines, Iowa native concentrating in marketing and finance, Fallon was chosen as the undergraduate speaker for the Kogod School of Business 2014 commencement. “Ironically, my fondest learning moments are not about agreement,” she shared with the Bender Arena crowd of faculty, family, and her fellow graduates. “While we might seek comfort in group settings, what we actually need is discomfort.”

For all her talk of discord and dissent, Fallon proved herself a natural collaborator in her time at AU. As a peer consultant in the Kogod Center for Business Communication, she assisted Kogod students with business writing and presentation skills. She also served as treasurer for the sorority Chi Omega, and worked together with about 30 students to oversee a portfolio of $350,000 in AU’s Student Managed Investment Fund. On top of that, she earned one of the school’s most prestigious group accomplishments—her team took home first place in the 2014 Annual Kogod Case Competition.

Recalling the case competition, she admitted, “That should have been one of the most stressful weeks of my life but it really was one of the most fun, honestly. It was a really great moment to leverage everything I had learned in the past four years here and have fun with it.”

Fallon’s leadership skills and community-oriented spirit were rewarded when she was named a recipient of the Luchs Family Scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year. The application process for the scholarship asks students to provide evidence of deep involvement in the Kogod community. Humble, but attuned to the scholarship’s meaning, she reflected, “I think that my history of giving back to fellow students while at Kogod was something that identified me as a strong candidate.”

“I didn’t stand out in terms of numbers,” she shared. “To know that I was recognized for doing hard work, and that hard work wasn’t going unnoticed, [the fact that] it could be rewarded, and I could help myself through college by doing good work was a lot of positive reinforcement for me.”

A couple of days before giving her commencement address, Fallon had the opportunity to meet one of the benefactors of her scholarship, Kenneth J. Luchs, over lunch. The two found that they shared a passion for giving back.

“You can contribute in different ways,” Luchs said. “Money is only one way. Time is another way. Be a mentor to somebody.”

A strong history of civic engagement runs through Kenneth Luchs’ family. From the time his grandfather founded the family’s real estate business, Shannon & Luchs, in 1906, the family has been active in the growth of Washington, taking on leadership roles in various community organizations—a tradition that Luchs himself has carried on. A one-time American University student—taking night classes in real estate while he helped to run the family business by day—Luchs went on to serve on the AU Board of Trustees for 12 years. His afternoon with the recipients of his family’s scholarship marked 50 years—nearly to the day—since his father first introduced him to AU.

“I’d like [the recipients] to know that I’m available to be a mentor, and that I want them to be available as mentors to future students,” said Luchs. “It’s our duty to pay back whatever schools we’ve been educated at.”

Said Fallon after meeting Luchs, “He further instilled in me the belief that we can all do something to give back to those who have profoundly impacted our lives.”

Even as she found inspiration from getting to know her scholarship donor, Fallon had already been taking Luchs’ message to heart. While treasurer of Chi Omega, Fallon brought more scholarships to her sisters, stepping up efforts to identify and publicize existing opportunities, and creating new need-based awards by making minor budgeting adjustments. She has also taken it upon herself to be an advocate, often urging her sisters and students she advises as a peer consultant to apply for certain scholarships. She notes that students don’t realize what great candidates they are, and all they need is to know that the opportunities exist.

“I think that’s something really important—the idea of students helping students find and seek out scholarship opportunities,” said Fallon. “I am glad to have left that legacy.”






 

Tags: Center for Business Communications,Commencement,Giving,Kogod School of Business,Scholarship
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Title: Business & Public Affairs: A Perfect Marriage
Author: Phil Recchio
Subtitle:
Abstract: Ben, Kogod/MBA ’11, and Christina Macfarland, SPA/MPA ’11, entrepreneurially apply their skills in South Florida, while giving back to AU.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 05/15/2014
Content:

Ben, Kogod/MBA ’11, and Christina Macfarland, SPA/MPA ’11, came to AU together, shortly after getting married in their native state of Florida, to pursue their individual academic and professional interests. Christina’s passion for nonprofit work and supporting her community led her to pursue a Master of Public Administration and,a graduate certificate in nonprofit management, whereas Ben built off his undergrad business degree by focusing his MBA studies on real estate and finance. Since graduation, they have returned to their home state to not only put their degrees to work, but also spread word of AU’s excellence while galvanizing the Florida alumni community. 

This past February, Christina and Ben hosted more than 60 AU alumni, parents, and friends in their Palm Beach home, and had the chance to catch up with their old neighbor, Vice President of Alumni Relations and Development, Dr. Thomas J. Minar. Before Dr. Minar delivered updates regarding campus plans and alumni initiatives within the South Florida community, Christina reminisced about her time working in the AU development department for corporate and foundation giving, and Ben remembered hunkering down in their condo during the infamous Snow-maggedon storm of 2010. 

These types of close relationships serve as a beautiful model for how the Office of Alumni Relations and Development seeks to engage AU alumni, and Christina and Ben are no strangers to the world of philanthropy and volunteering. Christina is a board member for the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, where fellow master’s alumna Jillian Vukusich, CAS/MA ’04, serves as vice president for community investment.  

Christina continues her educational pursuits, and is a recent graduate of "Leadership Palm Beach County," which kept her up to date on the latest trends in philanthropic and non profit leadership. This is especially important for those as involved in their communities as she is. She volunteers and has served on numerous committees for The Flagler Museum, March of Dimes, Historical Society of Palm Beach County, the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Presently, Christina performs research and writing for Women Corporate Directors, the only global membership organization of women corporate directors which serves as a catalyst for thought leadership and networking.

In addition to serving on his high school’s alumni board and helping to recruit great students to AU, Ben founded a local publication, Palm Beach Philanthropy, to showcase and educate the public to the diverse causes being supported right in their backyard. While philanthropy has always been a passion and a practice for the Macfarlands, Ben also puts his MBA to work running a boutique asset management firm that focuses on investing family office and institutional capital into self storage, student housing, and other special situations in real estate. The firm, where Ben serves as a partner and chief investment officer, has successfully acquired over two million square feet of real estate in the last two years.

The Macfarlands' collective energy and productivity is even more impressive in light of the fact they’ve accomplished so much all while raising their blossoming family. While their two young girls are a handful at home, Ben and Christina have a long standing history of supporting each other through thick and thin. While on campus, they could be seen attending a kick-off event to help rally support for Christina’s successful run for Editor-in-Chief of the SPA journal The Public Purpose, and nowadays they work to balance their busy schedules of business and board meetings with family meals and outings. 

Thankfully, the Macfarlands have continued their tradition of support as alumni by hosting the recent event for the South Florida AU Eagle community. As for the beautiful marriage of Ben’s business degree and Christina’s nonprofit policy focus, its power can be encapsulated by an Arthur Fried quote: “Private philanthropy is the last frontier of unconstrained freedom for private action in the public good.” AU is lucky to count this entrepreneurial and philanthropically minded young couple among its alumni family.

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Title: Building Upon a Family History
Author: Mike Rowan
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Abstract: After her valuable AU experience—and now her daughter’s—Mary McCarthy Hayford and her family are helping lay the groundwork for the university’s next generation.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/27/2014
Content:

Stroll along the west side of the quad, passing Frisbees floating across the grass and cheerful student organizations camped outside of Mary Graydon, and at either end of campus you will find a building that has been transformed within the last five years. Across the street from the Katzen Arts Center, the Kogod School of Business opened a 20,000-square-foot expansion in 2008. A few hundred yards down, next to Bender Library, stands the newly reopened McKinley building, the state-of-the-art new home of the School of Communication. Though housing separate schools, and situated on opposite ends of campus, there’s a strong thread connecting the two of them—the Hayford family.

Mary McCarthy Hayford, Kogod/MBA ’78, did her graduate work at AU’s business school, but when she attended, it did not yet bear the Kogod name. It was simply called the School of Business Administration. Classes were housed in the Ward Circle Building, and offices were in the cozy quarters of the Hamilton Building (known then as Hamilton Hall).

“I remember picking AU based on my perception that the administrators and faculty were more accessible,” McCarthy Hayford shares as she recalls her AU experience. “I look back not only on the great full-time professors in subjects which appeal to me, but also on several adjunct professors who imparted real world experiences. For me, that exposure to professionals working in industry was essential to seeing how the theoretical was applied in the real world, and to envisioning the type of career I would want to pursue.”

When the Kogod School of Business announced plans for its expansion campaign, Mary and her husband, Warren, signed on to help by making a major contribution to the building. Their generosity is marked by a plaque adorning one of the new classrooms inside, which displays their names.

Then, three years later, when the effort to renovate McKinley began, the Hayfords were there again, eager to give back once more, naming the facility’s new audio editing suite.

Why jump in to support another major project, especially when the family had so significantly dedicated themselves to an effort close to their hearts just a few years earlier? One reason is that their daughter, Margaret, SOC/BA ’13, just finished a very positive undergraduate career in the School of Communication.

“We feel strongly that SOC and AU provided Margaret with the experience she needs to pursue her career goals,” McCarthy Hayford articulates. “AU was one of few schools where she could study film and graphic design while still broadening her education in history, science and social science. She capped off her SOC experience with a semester in the film school in Prague where she worked with a small group to create a professional-quality film.”

In addition to Margaret, the Hayfords are parents to Amanda, a 2006 alumna of Oberlin College, and Warren, who graduated from George Washington University in 2012. Ms. McCarthy Hayford’s husband, Warren John Hayford, is the president and managing director of the software company RatioServices, and is a director of the Warren J. and Marylou Hayford Family Foundation, which his parents founded. The foundation has been instrumental in the Hayfords’ gifts to American University.

Though she has graduated—as have her children—McCarthy Hayford remains an avid learner. While embarking on a path toward starting a new career, she has been steadily auditing courses at the university. “Wherever that takes me, I hope to keep close ties to AU.”

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Title: Legal Eagle Utilizes AU Education to Establish Domestic and International Niche
Author: Milt Jackson
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU alumnus’ expertise in law impacts domestic and international cases.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/15/2013
Content:

Philadelphia attorney and Kogod class of ’71 alumnus Theodore “Ted” Simon is having a wonderful career. Among other achievements, he has obtained reversals in the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts. In addition to his longstanding successful representation of individuals and corporations locally, nationally, and internationally in state and federal trial and appellate matters (“white collar,” “blue collar” and “no collar”) he is a recognized authority on the subject of international extradition requests, and he has provided advice and counsel to multiple Americans abroad who have found themselves in challenging legal straits.

Accordingly, while accomplishing these achievements and elevating his law practice into a respected national and international niche – he also has become a “go-to guy” for advice and adept handling of high profile media driven cases - where he credits his AU experiences for assisting him to consistently achieve and maintain success.

After graduating from AU, and later, Temple University Law School, Ted joined the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and began to exercise his passion for litigation and criminal law. His drive, focus, creativity, and comprehensive approach eventually earned him a listing as one of Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best Lawyers in Philadelphia;” a selection as a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer,” and an invited membership in the National Trial Lawyers Organization (a group composed of the top 100 trial lawyers from each state).

Additionally in 2012, he was sworn in as first vice president of the NACDL, a position he relishes because it allows him to play a more specific part in ensuring justice and due process and at the same time recognizing the important and noble work of criminal defense lawyers around the country.

Communicating his passion for justice and due process is another of Ted’s many talents. His most recent appearance, as a guest on CNN and Soledad O’Brien’s “Starting Point” is a case in point. On the show, Ted presented an articulate and seasoned perspective on the complex legal considerations surrounding bail for Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius – who is currently accused of murder in South Africa.

He told O'Brien that Pistorius was a good candidate for bail. He is called upon as a legal expert by honing his speaking as a sought-after speaker for legal seminars across the nation and his numerous on-camera appearances on all major networks and shows including NBC’s The Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s The Early Show, Larry King Live, Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC’s 20/20, and NBC’s Dateline.

As a result of his recognized communications skills and legal ability, Ted’s client list has included Michael Fay (Singapore caning), Amanda Knox (college student acquitted of murder in Italy), boxing promoter Don King, Gregory Porter (college student accused but all charges dismissed in 2011 protest in Egypt), Chipper Jones (civil defense), New York real estate heir Robert Durst (favorable resolution of federal firearms offenses in Pennsylvania after acquittal in Texas murder and dismemberment case), NBA forward Dante Cunningham (dismissal of alleged drug and other criminal offenses), Drexel’s starting guard Derrick Thomas (dismissal of assault charges) as well as other clients involved in high-profile legal matters.

Ted credits AU for helping to provide a solid academic foundation for his success. He says, “I was just 16, leaving home for the first-time, and the American University environment, the teachers and classmates, soon to be life-long friends could not be more warm, welcoming and supportive. In hindsight it provided the absolute perfect opportunity to grow, excel academically, and provide a rich and enduring network of beloved friends that began the first day and happily remains so today.”

When asked about how he feels about the practice of law after nearly 40 years, he answered, “I feel the same, but more so - it is a gift to be a lawyer, providing care, assistance, and representation in some of the worst of times, whether a person is criminally facing loss of liberty or civilly and entitled to redress and compensation.”

In response to Ted’s appreciation of American University and for all the university has done for him, Ted recently offered his network, time, and support in assisting with planning of an alumni engagement event in downtown Philadelphia. The event was a resounding success due to the participation of Ted and other alumni.

While the law is clearly his personal and professional passion, Ted's continued relationship with his AU Zeta Beta Tau brothers is primarily a personal passion. He says “primarily” because privilege and privacy protects their confidentiality as even here he has been called upon professionally in “life-altering situations.” Ted couldn’t have been happier “to have their back when they needed it most.”

His relationship with the “ZBT Powerhouse of Excellence” brotherhood began when he attended AU and has only strengthened since then. Ted is everlastingly thankful and appreciative of his classmates who have remained truly supportive of his work, accomplishments, and resulting national and international presence in the law.

So the next time you hear the words, “legal expert” mentioned during a news broadcast, pay close attention. It may be that an AU alumnus, by the name of Ted Simon, is about to hold court.

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Title: Real-Life Experiences of AU Alumnus Hits the Big Screen in Blockbuster Hit Argo
Author: Stephanie Block
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University alumnus Mark Lijek, Kogod/MBA ’76, has lived quite the adventure—one big enough to create Hollywood Oscar buzz.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/12/2012
Content:

American University alumnus Mark Lijek, Kogod/MBA ’76, has lived quite the adventure—one big enough to create Hollywood Oscar buzz. Lijek was one of six employees lucky enough to escape the protests and attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Iran more than 30 years ago. Their story is the premise of the blockbuster movie Argo.

Lijek arrived in Iran in July 1979 and was only there a few short months before he nearly missed becoming a hostage. With his wife, Cora, by his side along with five others, the group became known as the “houseguests” of the Canadian Embassy for about 10 weeks before leaving the country posing as a film crew and making it back to safely to the U.S.

It was not fear as much as boredom that got the best of Lijek. “Boredom was one of the hardest things to face,” Lijek says. The group played scrabble, and he read many books, writing each title down as he completed it to help record the passing of time.

A recent story published on MyNorthWest.com chronicled details regarding the sequence of events leading to Lijek and the other officers escaping the embassy. Interviews with Lijek and other houseguests will be a special feature of the DVD release of Argo next year. However, as with any film, there is only so much time to share the story. “The movie is a slice of the real story which was why I wrote the book The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery,” Lijek says.

Lijek completed a Master in Business Administration at AU, attending class part-time in the evenings while he served in the United States Army during the day. “As an administrative officer for the State Department, I used my graduate degree a fair amount. It prepared me quite a bit,” he says.

Lijek moved to Washington, D.C. from Seattle to complete his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University. He retired from the Foreign Service to spend more time with his wife and children. He lives just outside of Seattle and keeps busy by promoting his new book and managing his website, marklijek.com.   

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Title: Alumni Offer an Unconventional Introduction to Shanghai
Author: Melissa Bevins '02
Subtitle:
Abstract: Jamie Barys and Kyle Long met while studying abroad and have turned their passion into a business.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 11/15/2012
Content:

When Jamie Barys, SOC/BA ’07, and Kyle Long, Kogod/BSBA ’07, studied abroad together in Beijing during their junior year, they left knowing that they wanted to return to China. 

Upon graduation, Kyle moved to Shanghai to teach. Jamie had a corporate job in Washington, D.C. for a while before deciding that it wasn’t for her and moving to Xiamen, China to work as a food writer. The two reconnected and decided to start a business together in Shanghai. 

Both recalled hearing the age-old advice that success comes with doing something about which you are passionate and decided that they wanted to love what they do. Jamie loves to eat. Kyle loves to run and eat. Both love finding off-the-beaten-path places and sharing their findings with friends and family. 

These shared passions led them to start UnTour Shanghai, an urban adventure tourism company specializing in unique and personal day tours, including jogging sightseeing tours, culinary tours, and cultural excursions. Jamie serves as the Chief Eating Officer while Kyle serves as the Chief Running Officer.

Jamie recalls that her first dinner in Beijing was a bad experience. She didn’t speak the language and couldn’t order, and the person who was ordering for her party decided to play a practical joke on the group. She wants to help others avoid that experience and to take the guesswork out of eating well in Shanghai.

“I know how intimidating it can be,” says Jamie, of traveling to a new city and trying to partake in the local foods without speaking the language. To avoid this and help tourists get off on the right foot, UnTour Shanghai provides all its customers with a welcome package that includes restaurant and dish recommendations in the neighborhood.

UnTour Shanghai offers a schedule of weekly public tours as well as several options for private group tours. All tours have a limited number of spaces, as Jamie and Kyle aim to keep them intimate and personalized. 

December 1 will mark the two year anniversary of UnTour Shanghai. Both Jamie and Kyle are excited to celebrate the milestone and look forward to what the future holds for the company they’re growing together.

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Title: Young Alum Builds on Valuable Relationships
Author: Rebecca Youngerman, SPA/BA '00, SPA/MPA '12
Subtitle:
Abstract: Rich Golaszewski, Kogod/BSBA ’07, has aspired to achieve since he first came to American University.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 10/10/2012
Content:

Rich Golaszewski, Kogod/BSBA ’07, has aspired to achieve since he first came to American University in 2003 as a freshman from Philadelphia.

He used that drive to launch a professional career in financial services. Golaszewski works in New York as a vice president at Nomura Securities International—a leading global investment bank—in Equity Derivatives sales and trading.
 
“The encouragement to go above and beyond has been especially valuable,” he said. “At Kogod, I learned the art of networking and the value of relationships, which has proved extremely beneficial in my career.“

On October 20, Golaszewski will receive the Rising Star Award, which recognizes young alumni who are already making significant contributions to greater society through professional or philanthropic work.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award; it truly means a lot…I continue to try to spend my free time on things that I really care about, and Kogod is at the top of the list,” Golaszewski says.

Golaszewski found his niche on campus through academics and a range of student leadership activities. Participation in the Student Managed Investment Fund (then the Kogod Finance Group) was particularly impactful. Gaining valuable skills in investment management and the stock market aided in building industry knowledge, and the leadership roles built softer traits such as public speaking and organization.

For Golaszewski, peers were mentors. He says, “The outgoing student body always had you thinking how you could do more to better your chances at landing the job you wanted, and this really resonated in me and motivated me to explore different industries through internships and challenging coursework.”

Golaszewski has found meaningful and lasting ways to give back to the university. Last fall, he helped conceptualize and launch the New York Finance Network, a new affinity group open to American University graduates working in the finance and real estate industries.

Golaszewski regularly connects with current students, offering guidance and advice about making the most of their time on campus and beyond.

He also has demonstrated his leadership through financial support of the school, and is encouraging others to do the same by serving as a signatory on the recent solicitation for the Kogod Dean’s Fund that was sent to nearly 1,500 fellow supporters.

Golaszewski’s Kogod relationships are very personal. He is the proud older brother of Jesse Golaszewski, Kogod/BSBA ’12, and is newly engaged to a fellow alum, Shannon Westfall, Kogod/BSBA ’07.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Board,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Relations (KSB),Alumni Update,Alumni Weekend,Kogod School of Business,Kogod Undergraduate Finance Group
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Title: Travis Lay: From AU Basketball Star to Alumni Board Member
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Once a leader on the basketball court, Travis Lay continues to lead AU as a member of the Alumni Board.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 08/10/2012
Content:

Most alumni remember Travis Lay, Kogod/BSBA ’08, as the men’s basketball captain who led the Eagles to the prestigious NCAA tournament for the first time in 2008, but Lay is incredibly accomplished both on and off the court. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from American University and continues to give back to his alma mater as a member of the Alumni Board. Lay also embodies the AU spirit of service by donating his time to Year Up, a local charity that provides mentorship to disadvantaged young adults.


Unsurprisingly, basketball was a major factor in Lay’s decision to attend AU. “I grew up in Maryland, right outside D.C., so [by attending AU], my family would be able to see me play. I also knew AU had a strong chance of going to the NCAA tournament. … The combination of that and AU’s strong academics and business school was exactly what I was looking for.”

Lay says the support of the AU community helped boost the team to the NCAA tournament in 2008. “It was encouraging to see the university really get behind us as we succeeded in my senior year. … People were proud of the AU basketball team. It was a unique experience – to walk around campus and have so many people recognize me. And it was great to raise the profile of American University to a national level,” he adds.

After graduation, he moved overseas and played basketball professionally, with stints in England and Australia. Lay elaborates, “I never had the opportunity to study abroad, as many AU students do, so that was a great experience for me to live abroad and play ball before settling down in my real career [in finance].”

Currently, Lay works for SC&H Group, where he helps businesses implement financial software tools. He is pursuing his certification in public accounting and credits AU and his externships as a student with Beers & Cutler and Deloitte for preparing him for the world of finance. He also was very close with the late Kogod Professor Sue Marcum.

In his spare time, Lay is a member of the Alumni Board where he represents the young alumni point of view. He also mentors inner-city young adults through Year Up, a charity that helps minority adults, aged 18 to 24, transition from high school to either higher education or a professional career. Lay says that while growing up, he often played sports with teammates from similar backgrounds as the young adults he mentors, so he can relate to them. He even shot hoops with one of his mentees: “I was in my business clothes at the time, but I told [the other players], ‘Just so you know, I’m not awful at basketball.’”

That’s certainly an understatement, but is typical of Lay. He is modest about his accomplishments, crediting God and luck for his accomplishments and skills on the court and insisting that the Eagles’ victorious 2008 season, culminating in the NCAA tournament, was a team effort – the product of four years of hard work and practice together. In fact, the moments spent with his teammates are his favorite memories of AU.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Relations (KSB),Alumni Update,Kogod School of Business,Athletics
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newsId: 8517B938-AE8D-F9FA-4D85778FD32D39F3
Title: Taking the World by Storm: Two AU Alumnae Inspired to Travel
Author: Heather Buckner, SPA/MPA '10
Subtitle:
Abstract: Imagine spending Christmas in Germany, New Year’s in Ireland, and your birthday en route from Austria to Italy all in the same year. This dream trip is two AU alumnae’s reality as they travel around the world for their “American Gap Year.”
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 01/14/2011
Content:

Imagine spending Christmas in Hamburg, Germany; New Year’s in Galway, Ireland; and your birthday on a train from Vienna, Austria, to Rome, Italy, all in the same year. This dream trip is two AU alumnae’s reality as they travel around the world for what they’re calling their “American Gap Year.”

The two 2006 AU grads are former roommates Laura Hockensmith, KSB/BSBA, and Stephanie Vavonese, SPA/BA.

Hockensmith had been working for Houlihan Lokey since the summer after her AU graduation, first as a financial analyst and then as an associate. Vavonese had been working for Accountants International since the fall after her AU graduation, first as an associate staffing consultant and then as a staffing consultant. They had both heard about Europeans and other young adults from other countries who had taken “gap years,” but knew few Americans who had followed suit.

“We were both at the points in our lives and careers where we knew we needed a change,” Hockensmith remarks. “We decided that it was ‘now or never’ to take this trip because of limited commitments at the time.”

As Hockensmith notes on their travel blog, “It’s a lot to give up (job, apartment, settled lifestyle, seeing family and friends regularly), but there is definitely so much to gain. This trip will allow me to visit new countries, experience cultures so different from my own, meet people that I would never meet elsewhere and also take some time for myself and develop new perspectives on who I am and what I want to do.”

The two have traveled to a long list of places in North, Central, and South America, Europe, and the Middle East already, as they’re over halfway through their year. Following stops in Mauritius and South Africa, they will next travel to several destinations in Asia before returning home in July 2011.

If you’re thinking that their trip has been all play and no work, think again. “On the road, every moment is a time to do something new, meet new people, etc.,” Hockensmith notes. “So far during our travels, we’ve met so many amazing people, some of whom we’ve met with again around the world after the initial meeting – inspiring us to change our initial itinerary.”

Hockensmith and Vavonese had several experiences traveling prior to this year-round trip, including several family vacations (both domestic and international), study abroad in France and New Zealand (respectively) while students at AU, and other travels together in the years since they met as students at AU.

Hockensmith and Vavonese met through the AU club crew team during their freshman year at AU and have remained close friends ever since. They remained active with AU, often attending events in the D.C. area. Hockensmith also served on the Young Alumni Chapter Board before beginning her travels and even though she is halfway around the world, has agreed to help serve on her five-year reunion planning committee for the Class of 2006 to be held in Washington, D.C. this October.

If you’re interested in getting involved with your class reunion, please e-mail reunion@american.edu with your name, grad information, and how you’d like to get involved.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Relations (KSB),Alumni Update,Alumni Weekend,Kogod School of Business,School of Public Affairs
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