UB’s Business Club gets down to business

UB’s Business Club gets down to business

You don’t know what or who you will become at UB until “ubecome” it. That’s what Melissa Paredes ’18 is learning as she heads into her senior year at the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business.

As President of the Business Club for the past three semesters, Paredes and her executive board called campus-wide attention to the student club when they launched the first-ever “Business School Week,” March 22-April 1, 2017. The week.5 flurry of daily happenings – panels, seminars, presentations, lectures, and luncheons – attracted more than 600 attendees in total. More importantly, it formed and delivered a bona fide student leader, marketer, negotiator, and event-planner in the process: Melissa Paredes.

The newly-energized Business Club has been in go-mode throughout the 2016-17 academic year. Activities have included four field trips (to Stamford, New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston), seven other on-campus workshops and presentations, and five fundraisers.

Next year’s goal? According to Paredes, it’s to become one of the most recognizable student clubs on campus.

She and faculty advisor Professor Elena Cahill believe that just may be possible now that a long-term strategy is in the works. As with all student leadership opportunities on campus, it takes strong faculty-student collaboration to get things up and running—and keep them running for succeeding students. Since she became faculty advisor in 2014, Cahill’s primary goal has been to bring the student club back to UB from an eight-year haitus, but this time with a solid, sustainable succession plan.

From B$C to “We Do Business in the Business Club”

According to Professor Robert Todd, Associate Professor of Information Systems and the club’s past and incoming faculty advisor, in the early days the club was called the Business School Club with the logo B$C. First launched in Fall 1998 by Juraj Cvecka ‘01 and Linda Ruzickova ’02 (both from the Slovak Republic), the original student club remained active until Spring 2006 when co-presidents Diana Texiera ’06 and Amanda Peluso ’06 graduated.

Likewise, an enthusiastic pair of student leaders, Alja Tavcar ’14 and Ruben Giminiez ‘16, restarted the club in 2014 in partnership with Professor Cahill, but the club suffered another downturn in momentum when Tavcar graduated UB. In Fall 2015, Paredes, a new member, saw the one-semester-term executive board come and go, with herself as the only remaining officer (Secretary).

Undaunted, she decided to run for President of the Business Club herself. Recalled Cahill, “Melissa and her team arrived at the Business Club with the requisite energy and enthusiasm to have a successful year, but also early enough in their tenure at UB to help oversee the transition to a new executive board.” Cahill believes that Paredes ‘18, the outgoing President, and Milana Yemelyanova ‘18, the incoming President, understand that club sustainability rests on early recruitment of freshmen and sophomore members. In 2017-18, they’ll join forces to make that happen together, securing the Business Club’s future in the process.

Business School Week

How do student and faculty leadership know that this time the Business Club is going to make an ongoing impact on the business school student experience for years to come? After the remarkable success of Business School Week, Dean Lloyd Gibson, for one, is a believer. The club’s new signature week-long event drew record-number attendance to both annual and new Trefz school events. “We had a phenomenal turnout all week. Even our series events, like the Innovators Series, saw a bump in attendees,” said Gibson.

And it all started with the elephant in the room: very low turnout to business club events in Fall 2016. A visionary by nature, Paredes knew they had to Go Big in Spring 2017. Paredes held a meeting at the start of Spring semester to address the problem head-on with her Executive Board:

  • President, Melissa Y. Paredes ’18, Management and Industrial Relations Major
  • Vice President, Nemesis Duarte ’18, International Business Major
  • Secretary, Catherine Rodriguez ’19, Management Major
  • Treasurer, Milana Yemelyanova ’18, Finance Major
  • Public Relations Officer, Farzanah Munawwarah ’18, International Business Major

That’s when the student leadership team came up with the idea of planning a kind of “Spirit Week” for all students at the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business. “We thought a Spirit Week for the business school could boost morale,” said Paredes, a former Business Administration major now studying Management and Industrial Relations. “We really love our school but in general it’s difficult to get students involved. When we shared the idea with Dean Gibson, he thought it was a bit ambitious for just one student club and suggested we partner with the others.”

Paredes then joined forces with fellow student leaders Milana Yemelyanova (Business Club), Sneha Thomas (Accounting Club), Rebecca Ciullo (Marketing Club), and Summer Cruz (Senator), along with respective faculty advisors. Together they chose the week of March 22-April 1 to capitalize on the already-planned Faculty Research Day (3/22), Dale Carnegie Training Seminar (3/27), and the Innovator Series (3/30).

“We just added on to those already-planned business school events to make a whole week of things,” said Paredes. “The Business School Day kick-off event was the clincher. That’s where we put our most effort to get people excited. We met every week for a month planning this day – and it paid off! I was really nervous about it, but that day we did so well, student after student showed up at the registration table. We did all this work with all this effort, and people actually came through. It felt really awesome.”

Paredes credits a strong marketing effort, including flyers, mention in Purple Knights Weekly, emails out to faculty and students, and personally approaching all faculty advisors requesting promotion of the week to their students and/or bringing whole classes to the kick-off event. “We told all club members to bring just two friends, that would make all the difference,” Paredes said. Apparently, it did.

Looking Past and Forward

Now that the Ernest C. Trefz School’s student Business Club is back in full swing, both outgoing president Melissa Paredes and incoming faculty advisor Professor Robert Todd credit Professor Elena Cahill for her inspiration and mentorship over the past three years. “Professor Cahill was a tremendous support and driving force,” said Paredes, with Todd adding, “In addition to Melissa’s leadership and enthusiasm, it is not possible to say enough about Professor Cahill’s contributions. She has been an indispensable part of all of the Business Club’s activities and has made quiet sacrifices for the kids, too numerous to mention.”

Nearly all positions in next year’s Executive Board are in place:

  • President, Milana Yemelyanova ’18, Finance Major
  • Vice President, Farzanah Munawwarah ’18, International Business Major
  • Secretary, Catherine Rodriguez ’19, Management Major
  • Treasurer, TBD
  • Public Relations Officer, Luxi Zhao ’18, Finance Major
  • Event Planner, Raidah Moin ’20, Finance Major

Professor Todd is thrilled the club is back on campus. He recalls UB’s original business club, B$C, fondly, along with the original founders:

Juro (Juraj’s nickname) was interested in research and he and Linda arranged for speakers to discuss then-current ideas in economics and business. My recollection is that there was more interest in hearing very senior managers talk about the lessons they learned over the years.

The B$C was active until Spring semester 2006, when co-presidents, Diana Texiera and Amanda Peluso graduated. Those two students were wonderful leaders, and invited speakers would pack the Littlefield Auditorium in ABC. Some of the better known speakers, as I recall, were Stew Leonard, Jr., Jim Nantz (the sports broadcaster), and some guy who is a big name in the New York fashion scene. (I wish I could remember his name!)

We also had parties that were rather too loud for my taste, but the students seemed to enjoy themselves. I remember one Halloween party where I dressed up as a “backward person.” I put a mask on backwards, wore a raincoat backwards, and a long pink wig over my face. I looked like a really ugly woman with long pink hair walking backwards.

When asked what lies ahead for the Business Club in 2017-18, Paredes replied, “More of the same, but bigger. We definitely want to hold Business School Week again, because it was a hit for both students and faculty. We’ll plan earlier and get more speakers in next year to build on what we’ve started.”

Club goals also include participating in regional business competitions to gain experience and recognition for both Trefz and the University of Bridgeport, and expanding membership beyond students enrolled in the business school. “The Business Club is designed for all students regardless of major to encourage professionalism and success,” she said. “We want to continue getting the Business Club recognized throughout campus to provide valuable experiences for every student who decides to get involved.”

Behind Paredes’ ambition are two primary motivators: making her dad proud, and leaving something behind for the school she fell in love with at UB.

“Although I will no longer be President next semester, I pass on the torch knowing that the work I started will not go unfinished,” she said. “I want the Business Club to be here when I come back in 10 years, and I believe it will.”