2023-24 Alumni News and Recognitions

Check out some of the great things our Saunders alumni are doing around the globe. Submit your latest career move or latest achievement to communications@saunders.rit.edu.

May 2024

Fern Schwartz '97 Merrill Lynch Wealth Management advisor and managing director at The Schwartz Group has been named to the 2024 Forbes “Best-in-State Wealth Advisors” list.

Saunders College of Business presented the 2023-2024 Outstanding Alumni Awards, to alumni “who have brought distinction at the highest levels to their college and RIT through professional, community or philanthropic achievements.” The winners included:

Distinguished Alumni Awardee: James R. Salzano '87 (accounting)

Outstanding Business Leader Awardees:

Sarah Margaret Gillam Award

Outstanding Community Partner Award

Phil Saunders Cornerstone of Philanthropy Award

  • Jay Levine '76 (accounting)
  • Stephanie Levine '75 (accounting)

April 2024

Clement Chung '19 (EMBA) was featured in the Rochester Business Journal's profile on the intangible value of the on-campus executive MBA program as a former student and a professional benefitting from the program's capstone consulting project.

Hannah Smith '21 (EMBA), RD, CDN, received the 2024 Alumni Emerging Leader Award from RIT's College of Health Sciences Technology as part of the annual Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ebony Miller-Wesley '21 (EMBA), Susan Holliday '85 (MBA), and Natalie Sinisgalli-Kettavong '07 were featured among prominent community-builders in the Rochester Beacon's article Women at Work: The State of Gender Equity.

March 2024

Alexandra Nehme ’14 (international hospitality and service and management) has been named Collaborator of the Year for 2023 by Hilton Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, where she is a Skills Trainer. Of her success Nehme comments, “I focus on the softer side of the skills required to deliver exceptional experiences:” communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

February 2024

Lindsay Connelly ‘11 (marketing), ‘18 (MBA), owner of Linden Digital Marketing was recently added to Saunders Alumni-Owned Businesses. Linden Digital Marketing offers digital marketing services in simple, straightforward service packages that are customized to guide customers through each stage of business growth, no matter what stage they’re in.

Zining (Kelvin) Chen ‘17 (advertising and public relations), MS ‘19 (TIME), owner of Taichi Bubble Tea, was recently added to Saunders Alumni-Owned Businesses. Taichi has been growing across the United States, across 40 stores, hoping to bring the best bubble tea, healthy poke bowl, and tasty ramen to people worldwide. They strive to provide a place to connect with family and friends while enjoying delicious drinks and food.

January 2024

Clement Chung '19 (EMBA) ran 147 miles to raise awareness and donations for AutismUp around Monroe county line in two days. Chung doubled his fundraising goal of $14,400 to represent one in 44 children diagnosed with autism and received a New York State proclamation for his efforts. Learn more.

December 2023

Jim Salzano ’87 (accounting), president and CEO of Jones & Vining, is the recipient of the 2023-24 Distinguished Alumni Award. These awards are presented annually by each of RIT’s nine colleges, the School of Individualized Study, and the RIT Graduate School to alumni who have performed at the highest levels of their profession or who have contributed to the advancement and leadership of civic, philanthropic, or service organizations.

November 2023

Tony Sampognaro ’98 (biochemistry), MS ’00 (chemistry), ’23 (EMBA) was interviewed for an article, “Outsourcing Needs More MBAs (Yes, You Read That Correctly),” in Outsourced Pharma, October 16, 2023.

J’nez Thomas ’20 (EMBA) was first runner-up at the 2023 Ms. Veteran America competition, Sunday, October 8, 2023 at Caribe Royale Orlando, Orlando, FL. Ms. Veteran America is a “movement, encouraging women veterans to uplift each other and find their tribe" beyond the uniform.

October 2023

Nicolás Rubio '99 (international business), '01 (MBA) received a Ph.D. in Political Science (Public Policy specialization) at Universidad Simón Bolívar (USB) in Caracas, Venezuela. His dissertation is titled “Promotion of the Competitiveness of the State of Táchira and San Cristóbal: State and Municipal Public Policy.”

September 2023

Nikolas Kelly '20 (supply chain management), co-founder and chief product officer of Sign-Speak, and Nicholas Wilkins '19 (computational mathematics), '19 MS (computer science) were featured in The Rochester Beacon in an article, “Sign-Speak joins AWS Impact Accelerator,” June 20, 2023. Kelly placed first for the 2021 Vanden Brul Awards.

Bill Michaels '89 (hotel/motel administration/management), president and owner of Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, Inc., won the Mohawk Valley Choice Award for Best Tourism/Season Attraction. The award, sponsored by the Observer Dispatch/USA Today, "recognizes the finest businesses that contribute to the region's economic vitality and enrich the lives of its residents." The cider mill is located in Fly Creek, NY.

August 2023

Ebony Miller-Wesley ’21 (EMBA) director, Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE) at RIT hosted the second “ROC the Pitch” Business Pitch competition, August 24, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Rochester. Contestants competed for several prizes, including the top prize of $25,000 to grow their businesses.

Peter Bilzerian ’20 (management information systems) was featured in a segment on Good Morning America about young people wearing hearing aids. Bilzerian, a two-time cancer survivor, advocates for people with hearing loss. He is a data engineer II/business intelligence lead with Bank of America.

Chrysa Charno ’03 (physician assistant), ’09 (MBA) has opened a second AcuteKids Pediatric Urgent Care location in Gates, NY. The first opened in Webster in 2019. Charno’s creation, AcuteKids, provides urgent care to children from birth to 21 years of age. Charno credits her Saunders MBA for helping her understand business concepts “in depth, and allowed me to develop relationships that have provided a great benefit over the years.”

John De Leon, '05 (MBA), vice president of technology, Full Swing Simulators, was interviewed for a story in Club+Resort Business on his patented, leading-edge golf launch monitor. Recently adopted by Tiger Woods, the device is gaining popularity among PGA professionals.

Joseph Spilman '16 (EMBA) is president of Optimax Systems, Inc., which has been ranked #23 among America's Best Small Employers 2023 by Forbes. Other RIT MBA alumni at Optimax include Mike Mandina '03, former president, Alec Jarvie '17, continuous improvement engineer, Eric Bruening '03, director special projects, and Brandon Szklany '20, group leader.

Ken Greenwood '10 (EMBA) held the grand opening of Watershed Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Geneva, NY, in July. His business partner is his wife, Lisa Greenwood, Ph.D., RIT assistant professor of civil engineering technology, environmental management and safety.

June 2023

Peter Bilzerian ‘20 (management information systems), a business intelligence expert and data engineer at Bank of America, spoke at the Yerevan Tech Forum, a premier international event focused on technology and innovation in Yerevan, Armenia. The speech "From Cash to Digital: Navigating the Future of Finance" discussed generative AI (ChatGPT) and breaking down barriers in international payments to create a more global workforce.

Kam (Kamalakar) Shenai ‘89 (MBA) was part of Central Florida’s distinguished Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders that received congressional honor from Congressman Darren Soto, U.S. representative for Florida’s 9th congressional district.

View the accomplishments of alums from previous years!

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