"Working in a small cohort with our program advisors allows for a more personal learning experience that is not offered in lecture halls. Then throw in the fact that you get to observe industry leaders work, their management styles compared to your own, and the ability to expand your professional network - that just makes the Fellowship all the more valuable in enhancing the education for MS Management students."
Why did you decide to attend Saunders College of Business at RIT?
Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I put serious consideration into entering a Masters program right after graduation since I was accustomed to handling the work load of a college student. I asked professors, my advisor, and co-workers from my co-op about what an appropriate field may be to look into for a graduate degree. They advised that with a Bachelors of Science degree in a technical field, going for a Masters of Science in business would provide a good balance for future mobility - going from purely engineering technology to a role for project management. Before graduating the first time from RIT, I attended an info session at Saunders about graduate business degrees and felt that the M.S. Management program was best suited for what I was looking for.
What Do You Do?
Currently, I work as a contract packaging engineer at LiDestri Food & Drink in Rochester. I started after graduating from RIT in 2015 to assist the packaging team in organizing packaging specification databases. I would look through the systems at different packaging components (shipping cases, trays, bottles, jars, caps, labels, pallet patterns, etc.) and determine if they were still in use, if the information LiDestri had from vendors was still up-to-date, and to obtain specification drawings from the vendors if the company did not have one on file. Since then, I have helped other packaging engineers with their line trials of revised packages or new product launches and trained the team's newest packaging co-op student from RIT. Now I am researching about High Pressure Processing (HPP), a form of non-thermal food processing that can be used to retain the nutritional qualities and extend the shelf life of food products that ordinarily would be hard to sell in stores due to a sensitivities to heat (like guacamole). The company recently got involved in the HPP business for companies like Wegmans, and I am researching what requirements are needed for packaging to survive the process, what markets LiDestri could expand into with HPP becoming more popular, and what challenges exist with HPP to ensure the company processes food products that are safe to consume.
In what ways has Saunders/RIT prepared you for the job market?
Being at RIT prepared me by introducing me to a career path that I had no prior knowledge of before. I learned about the Packaging Science program at RIT as a result of living in Fairport for several years and looking at local colleges for science and engineering. As only a handful of schools having Packaging Science degree programs, I may not have found out about it if I wasn't looking at RIT as a potential college. The program allowed me to exercise the use of both academic and hands-on work, whether it was learning about the different uses of packaging materials and understanding dynamics that affect a package in distribution, or working in the packaging laboratories and designing packaging to meet certain customer criteria. Additionally, having the requirement of going out on co-ops allowed for the chance to apply what had been learned in lectures and labs in a real world environment. It was a great way to discover what I wanted to do in the field of Packaging Science and gaining experience that employers would be interested in.
Saunders prepared me in a different way. While Packaging Science was a lot of hands-on, working-towards-an-answer, type of work, the Management program was more theoretically based. There wasn't necessarily a right or a wrong answer to a problem, but a way forward was discovered through examination of case studies and class lectures. By being a part of Saunders, the education I received helped me to gain insight to a larger picture of what it is that businesses involved with implementing technology and innovation go through, as well as management skills from dealing with different groups of people to negotiations. From the time at Saunders, I feel I am more well-rounded as I set out on my career path and am more capable of handling challenges that I will face along the way.
What do you feel is the most distinctive advantage gained from your Saunders Experience?
The most distinct advantage gained from my Saunders experience would be being a part of the Leadership Fellows Program. With the M.S. Management program only taking a year to complete, there is a lot to learn but there is also only so much that can be gained in a lecture hall setting. Each student that is in the Leadership Fellows Program is paired with a mentor each semester - someone who has a connection to RIT, is a leader in their line of work, and exhibits the qualities of what a leader should be. The time spent shadowing a mentor really brought home the concepts that were being taught in classes by seeing them being used in the real world. It gave me a greater appreciation of what being a leader means in a business sense and presented me with a model of what I should look for in myself and work towards in my own career.
What should current students know about Saunders?
Saunders provides considerable opportunities for students who are focused purely on a business profession, starting their own business, or are looking to add some business knowledge to a science background to make them more valuable to employers. This can be seen by the fact that Saunders College of Business and multiple degree programs are nationally recognized as some of the best offered in the country. The faculty are all very knowledgeable and come from years of previous experience. They are all willing to help someone out, either with a small question from class or looking at career advice, and are very interesting to have conversations with, both in lectures and 1-on-1. Saunders is a great resource to all students on RIT's campus, no matter what your area of focus is in. I am very proud to be able to call RIT my alma mater for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees.