AU alumni keeping good company

PPG alums













By Bryan P. Clark, intern

During their college careers, Alfred University students work together to enrich their studies, create strong student organizations, and generate a positive campus environment.  There’s evidence this collaborative tradition continues well after they leave campus. And sometimes, as alumni, they find themselves working side-by-side with fellow AU graduates in their professional careers.

Alfred Magazine reached out to alumni seeking those currently employed in the same workplace. Based on comments from those who responded, it seems being on the job with fellow alums is a good, and rewarding, experience.

“Alums seem to add that extra spark of enthusiasm in the workplace,” says Natalie Skwarek ’11, who works on campus as a Herrick Library secretary and archives assistant. “There is a sense of pride that is exuded, helping to maintain a positive work environment.”

“We had good experiences at AU and we want it to succeed,” says Stephen Crandall ’76, Herrick Library director and dean of libraries.  “We want to ensure that current students have a good experience.”

“In an organization, the individual contributes to the group as a whole, or else finds himself out of a job,” says Linda Sootheran ’07, Herrick Library technical processes manager. “We have a great investment in the success of the University not only because it is our employer, but because it is our alma mater. We can see how our work contributes to the success of students as well.”  

“It’s good for the institution since it can promote school pride and staying connected,” says Laurie McFadden ’91, an AU librarian and University archivist. “Employees should be able to bond over the similarity and make connections easier.”

“Our Alfred ties offer us camaraderie,” says Cheryl Richards ’86, a global market manager at PPG Industries in Pittsburgh. “We sometimes digress to memories and similar stories from our years at AU. Alfred gave me a natural common bond to many people in my industry and in my company.”

“Several of us who work together graduated from the College of Ceramics (engineering) often consult and confer with each other on the work we are doing,” says Art Mustico ’79, a manufacturing engineer at ITT Exelis, Geospatial Systems, Rochester. “Graduates of a good institution will all have a high quality of education in common.”

“Here at Exelis, most things that I work on are individual tasks inside a team environment,” adds Vicki Kuipers ’02, a manufacturing engineer. “I was able to work with Melissa Dorsey, an Alfred grad, for many years before she left the company. Having others in the workplace from the same college makes a positive difference.”

The Synergy GroupA desire to create a work environment attentive to the needs of families in the Buffalo region inspired Angie Kleeh ’70 to found The Synergy Group in 1990. The company has grown into two businesses that support the needs of working families and their employers. Today, two generations of the Kleeh family are involved in the company. Angie Kleeh is CEO and her son, Matthew, is network administrator. Matthew’s wife, Kristina (Capozzi) ’05, ’06, is vice president.

The Synergy Group manages the Just for Kids program, run under the Childcare Network of the Niagara Frontier, Inc. The Just for Kids program provides before and after school programs as well as summer camps for more than 1,200 children in Hamburg, Orchard Park, Cheektowaga, Williamsville, and Grand Island. TripleTrack HR Partners provides outsourced human resource management. Its market includes businesses, schools, colleges and universities. The Synergy Group employs 126 people. In September, the University presented the company with one of four 2013 Galanis Awards for Excellence in Family Business.

“Alfred provided a good next step for me both in formal education and in seeing the world through different perspectives,” says Angie Kleeh.  

“Alfred was a tiny microcosm of the bigger world and I grew to broaden my thinking and learn from the diversity and viewpoints of others. Meeting Alfred grads in various professions and places in life always leads to interesting stories and more connections.

“As a business owner, I would not avoid hiring individuals from the same educational institution,” she continues.

“I have intentionally hired for that commonality, knowing what a good team builder it can be. I find that alums love to connect with one another, creating an automatic and comfortable bond that evolves into a solid work relationship.”

“At The Synergy Group, we frequently use the phrase, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’  We believe in the value of teamwork and group roles, and how the interactions between each staff member helps to benefit the team when they keep in mind the needs of the group, or the organization as a whole,” says Kristina Kleeh.

Pac TeamEric Zuckerman ’03 not only works with a fellow alum in the workplace, but he owns the workplace! Eric is president of Pac Team America, Inc. In 2005, he partnered with a Swiss entrepreneur and opened Pac Team, focusing on display and packaging design for the luxury watch industry. Today, Pac Team has more than 400 employees across the globe, including a design and sales office in Paramus, NJ, a mass manufacturing facility in China, and a newly owned production site in Chicago. Clients include major brands from various industries including watch, jewelry, eyewear and luxury goods.

Using his connection with Mark McFadden, director of AU’s Career Development Center (see related article facing page), Zuckerman recently hired his first Alfred University alumnus, Holly Seidewand ’10.

“I really enjoy working with another AU alumnus,” says Seidewand. “It really is great to talk about the town, our experiences, and how amazing our time spent there was. It is also an honor to work with someone who is so successful and an industry leader,” she adds.

Alumni in the workplace offered current AU students advice as they prepare to enter the workforce.

 “Network,” says Richards. “Join clubs at AU to learn about the industry and others at the University.  Go to conferences to meet others from other universities and companies.” 

“They should soak up all the experience that they can,” says Pat LaCourse, associate librarian emeritus, in Scholes Library on campus. “When they present themselves to an employer they will be confident.  The alum network has worked time and again for people who seek employment.”

  “Use technology and social media to its maximum capacity coupled with good old fashioned social graces like written thank you notes and verbal communication,” emphasizes Angie Kleeh.

  “Be flexible, especially in this difficult economic climate, while at the same time trying to find a good fit between their skills, aspirations and values,” says Crandall.

   “I encourage AU students to use the services at our Career Development Center, to think widely about their possible jobs and the skills they can bring, to network with other AU alums for job possibilities,” says McFadden. “LinkedIn is a good place as is the Alumni Council and the contacts at the CDC and through faculty.”

  “Keep in touch with your contacts from school and use professors and classmates as references and valuable links to your next professional career move,” says Kristina Kleeh. “Use LinkedIn; keep your online presence updated.  Go to job fairs and represent yourself professionally! Ask questions, think critically, and always feel like you are going above and beyond.  Employers will take note and they have long memories.”

  “My advice is to talk to everyone,” says Seidewand. “Introduce yourself and ask to learn more about what they do. People really don’t mind. This is especially true for alumni. I feel recent Alfred grads don’t use alumni enough.

  “Don’t give up!” says Skwarek.                  

  “Getting your foot in the door will lead you to gain experience and to build your skills and recognize your weaknesses. Sometimes the more rewarding path to success is the one that takes a bit longer to complete.”


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