Profiles of Success
Every Nichols student, alumni and faculty member has a story that says who they are and what Nichols has meant to them. Profiles of Success features students and faculty who show a commitment to excellence in business education and leadership. And taken together, these stories provide a meaningful and multifaceted perspective on the mission of Nichols College.
Jeff Solari: Leading Others to Grow
When Jeff Solari graduated from a technical institute in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree, little did he know that his career would take a turn in a direction from product engineering to sales and marketing.
After spending 10 years in product and project engineering, Solari realized that he needed a business background to advance into sales management at Incom, Inc., the world’s largest supplier of fused fiber optics.
That’s when he decided to pursue an MBA. He selected Nichols because of its solid reputation and the flexibility it offered. “Since I worked full time, I appreciated the flexibility of the Nichols program,” he says. “It provided a variety of scheduling options, regardless of one’s age or life situation.”
He also benefitted from the quality of the instructors. “The instructors are fantastic. As business professionals with successful careers, they are able to bring that experience into the classroom,” he says. “They care about students and the challenges they are facing.”
Pursuing an MBA has been a worthwhile investment for Solari. Since graduating in 2005, he has advanced to become Director of Sales and Marketing at Incom, Inc. “Having a technical background has helped me be a better engineer and understand my customers’ technical needs,” he explains.
However, it is in the area of communication where the graduate degree has made a difference. “Having an MBA has trained me to listen to customers’ needs more effectively and to communicate that information to my colleagues,” he explains. “Instead of gathering information on my own or learning it from our customers, I have been able to train others to gain this knowledge on their own--teaching them to be leaders and allowing them to find their own path.”
“It's a new me,” Solari says. “Having an MBA has allowed me to expand my role at my company and enabled me to help others climb to new levels of their own.”
Bob Fleming: “Bringing Real-World Experience to the Classroom”
GPS professor Bob Fleming believes in bringing real-world examples into the classroom. As the Vice President of General Merchandise for the Johnson O’Hare Company, a regional food and merchandise broker, Fleming has been on the ground floor as the company represents and markets new products. As a result, he is able to incorporate that experience into his management and marketing classes at Nichols.
It’s no wonder that his marketing class was excited about the opportunity to evaluate Gillette’s marketing plan for the new Fusion Razor before it was made public. Students were required to sign affidavits agreeing to not release any proprietary information and were given prototype product samples to evaluate. The project gave students inside information about the processes associated with introducing and marketing the Fusion Razor, says Fleming. “After the launch, students were excited to go into a store and to see the Fusion Razor product on the store shelves.”
With 39 years of leadership experience as an officer in the Coast Guard Reserve, part of Fleming’s goal is to create not just an academic learning experience but to incorporate his diverse background and life experiences to enhance textbook content.
Although he has been teaching at Nichols for 13 years, Fleming often sees himself as a facilitator in the classroom. Recognizing students’ needs and business experience, he tailors the class content to develop and build on that experience and allow students to contribute based on their business knowledge.
Fleming’s mentoring and teaching does not end when students leave the classroom. He recognizes that not all learning occurs in the classroom and as a result he strives to follow up with students after class. “Students often tell me that they are able to apply classroom knowledge and real-world experiences that we study back into their work experience,” he explains.
If students are able to do that, then he has reached his goal in teaching says Fleming. “If they carry something away from my class and apply it to their career and life, then I have achieved my objective. That’s the reward of teaching,” he adds.
Adriana Sanchez: Gaining the Confidence to Start a Business
When Adriana Sanchez began her MBA program at Nichols in 2010, little did she know that it would give her the confidence she needed to start GATES Institute, an academic travel business. “My professors encouraged me to pursue my goals. I never thought it would lead to becoming a business owner.”
Earning an MBA from Nichols has been just one step that contributed to her career growth. When Sanchez entered the program in 2010, she was working as an operations manager at a drug testing facility, Precision Testing Laboratories. However, half-way through the program, she was promoted to Vice President of Operations. In this position, she works on project improvement, project management, and logistics.
While in the program, Sanchez’s goals were to obtain more tools to make a difference. “When you work in logistics and operations, you have to become numbers-oriented and understand conflict management and organizational behavior. These are skills that make a difference as a manager,” she adds.
While Sanchez looked at other MBA programs, none offered the flexibility of Nichols MBA program which includes the option of hybrid, onsite, and online classes. However, Sanchez says she especially enjoyed the online classes. “The assignments were almost like being in the classroom. The instructors were supportive and engaged all of the time. The discussion from fellow classmates and input from the professors added value to the conversation,” she adds.
In addition, the International Business capstone course gave her a head start in developing her business. “I developed a business plan which was the same one I used to present my business to potential investors,” she explains.
It has been this practical experience and the qualifications of her professors that Sanchez values the most. “I appreciate the practical experience my professors brought into the classroom. Those teachers inspired me to apply everything I was learning to my position and in future business ventures. They have made a strong impact in my life,” she says.
Edward Romano “An unusual approach in his teaching”
Edward Romano sometimes takes an unusual approach in his teaching. Rather than always telling students what they should do as successful business professionals, he often tells them what not to do and which pitfalls to avoid as they progress in their business careers.
Why is Romano qualified to do this? As a seasoned attorney in the Rhode Island State and Federal Courts for thirty years, Romano has represented individuals and companies from several high profile cases. He has argued and briefed numerous cases in the Rhode Island Supreme Court and Massachusetts Appeals Courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and in the United States District Court for Rhode Island; including serving as co-counsel in the landmark case of United States vs. Vincent A. Cianci, Jr., et al. (the former Mayor of Providence).
While a primary focus in his legal career has been in the criminal law, defending white collar crimes and appellate work, he has also had experience in the areas of workers’ rights and compensation, business, insurance, and bankruptcy law.
As a result of his experiences, Romano is able to bring his perspective into his history, organizational behavior, business and government, and business law classes. “I often try to take general information from the cases and present the negative aspects of failures of regulations in some areas of business and government,” he says. “A number of these cases have demonstrated a lack of regard for the natural consequences of poor decisions.”
While Romano acknowledges that he has much experience and knowledge to share with students, he also recognizes the ways that students can learn from each other and expects them to come to class prepared. “I think if they just come into class and haven’t read the material, then the impact of the lessons is going to be somewhat negated. The best way for the students to learn is to have questions. Then they can learn from each other and translate that knowledge into their work experience,” he adds.
“The beauty of teaching in GPS is that students have work experience. If I can do anything to inspire students to share those experiences, I think it makes for a much more interesting, enriching and exciting class,” he adds.
Success is Sweet for this Nichols Student, Robert Russo
In 2008, Robert Russo decided he wanted to start his own business selling by chocolate-covered strawberries. He continued to sell these delicious treats when he became a student at Nichols College. Russo says that he selected Nichols because he had aspirations of owning his own business someday. “I knew I wanted to own a business, and I felt that Nichols could help me do that and succeed,” he says.
“My entire business, Chocolate Innovations, has been built through all I have learned at Nichols, from writing a business plan, to social media to networking. Over my four years at Nichols, I have always tried to use my business as an example in class or for a project so I could get the assignment done but also work on my business at the same time.”
“Chocolate Innovations is not a company looking to take up a portion of the industry, it is a company looking to lead the industry and be a trend setter in quality and customer service.” --Robert Russo
Within the General Business Program, Russo selected his three areas of concentration, Economics, Management and Human Resource Management, with the goal of broadening his skills. “I choose ECON so I could understand what was happening in the markets and how that will affect my business. Then I chose MGMT because obviously at some point I will have to know how motivate future employees,” he says. “Finally I selected HRM so if I do hire people, I will know the proper hiring process and work place etiquette.”
As an artist, Russo has a passion for making chocolate products not just for the taste but for the beauty as well. After creating 110 chocolate roses for his cousin’s wedding, Russo says, “I never expected people to ask me, ‘can we eat these?’ It must have meant that I was creating a product so beautiful that it was not worth destroying by eating it. That was a satisfying moment for me.” He adds, “I have found the most success when I create a product just for the pure enjoyment of doing so. I enjoy seeing the customer’s face when I unveil my creation.”
Russo is a student in the Nichols 4+1 MBA program.
Cynthia Payne ’12 (MOL program)
When Cynthia Payne decided she wanted to pursue a graduate degree, she had three goals: find a school that was flexible, affordable and had a great reputation. Payne found all of that and more at Nichols.
When Payne first entered Nichols pursuing a Masters of Organizational Leadership (MOL) degree, she was working as a Business Manager. However, her long term goal was to pursue a leadership position in Human Resources. She knew she needed additional skills in order to make the move.
As she considered different graduate programs, Payne knew she wanted one that would help her develop her leadership skills but not lock her into one specific career path. Nichols MOL degree gave her that flexibility.
From a personal perspective, Nichols MOL program fit Payne’s needs as well. “As the mother of two children, I needed a program where I could do the class work at my own speed.” By taking both online and classroom courses, Payne says she was able to complete her schoolwork from any location, a program feature that allowed her to meet her goal of graduating in less than two years.
Currently working as a HR Generalist at AdCare Hospital, Payne has been able to apply all of what she learned in her classes at work. “Nichols instructors gave us actual examples and case studies to examine. We were able to look more closely at these and the outcomes and apply them to our own situations. My instructors helped me to realize the importance of what they were teaching in the classroom to my overall career,” she adds.
As she looks back on her time at Nichols, Payne recognizes that even though the classes were challenging, she learned more than she expected. “I learned so much in my classes at Nichols, much more than I bargained for. I have been able to bring much of what I learned in my classes to projects and leadership training programs at my current job. All of the classes were worth the cost. I would have paid double to learn what I learned.”
As a result of her experience at Nichols, Payne says she gladly recommends the school to her colleagues. “The staff and faculty of Nichols have gone above and beyond to help me succeed,” Payne says. “The quality of the staff and faculty is one of the main reasons I recommend Nichols.”