New York City Excursion Builds the Brockport Network
Eliza Pionessa ’17 dreams of becoming a CEO one day.
During SUNY Brockport's second annual student-alumni excursion to New York City in early November, she met someone who could advise her along that path: CEO of Fortune Footwear Paul Auersperg ’86. The two-day trip provided Pionessa and more than 35 other undergraduates an opportunity to engage with alumni in the NYC area who are excelling in their chosen fields.
This was the second time that Pionessa and Auersperg participated in the program. This year, they had a chance to engage in conversation about Auersperg’s career journey, Pionessa’s future, and the power of networking.
“When I started talking to Paul, I realized that I had matured since last year’s trip,” said Pionessa. “Back then, I didn’t know what questions to ask. This year, I was genuinely curious to learn from Paul and talk about my aspiration of becoming a hospital CEO. As a CEO himself, he was able to give me invaluable advice about being flexible and open-minded, forming personal relationships with all different types of people, and learning outside of the classroom.”
When Pionessa emailed Auersperg after the trip to thank him for his guidance, she was thrilled to receive a response urging her to stay in touch.
“I remember graduating, being in transition, and wondering what I was going to do and where my life was going. They’re starting to feel that too,” said Auersperg, who entered the footwear business at age 22 as a first-generation owner. He has been the CEO of Fortune Footwear, an international shoe manufacturer which has reached $65 million in sales, for 14 years. “I’m just happy to help them, give them a little guidance, and participate in that enthusiasm.”
The trip was co-sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement, the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Career Services. Director of Alumni Engagement Kerry Gotham, Assistant to the Provost Laurie Cook, and Assistant Director of Employer Relations Jeffrey Alston were advisors on the trip.
Jill Wesley, director of Career Services, describes it as a chance for students to be exposed to "new people, places, and ideas."
“I think that the world of work can seem very abstract and far away for students,” Wesley said. “A trip like this gives them a chance to witness the success of alumni and hopefully begin to envision what their own success might look like.”
In addition to forming one-on-one connections, participating in group visits to various sites throughout the city offered students an exclusive, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the daily work of many of Brockport’s successful alumni.
The group toured Fortune Footwear, visited the New York Stock Exchange trading floor with Jim Vlogianitis ’94, took an Inside CNN studio tour with the channel’s legal analyst Joey Jackson ’88, and sat in on an alumni panel at SUNY Global Center.
Brockport Student Government Treasurer Zachary Loveless ’17 struck a personal connection with Jackson, who is a former BSG president.
“The trip gave me an idea of what environment I’d like to work in in the future,” said Loveless. “It inspired me to be successful, and to make sure that wherever I go in life, I never forget about where I came from.”
Many thanks to the generous sponsors who made this trip possible: alumni and friends Jim Vlogianitis ’94, Mike Trinkaus ’95, Paul Auersperg ’86, BSG, Tracy Nieporent ’75, and Josh Silber ’93.