Alumni offer advice at SCOTtalk event

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 at 5:48 PM
Alumni offer advice at SCOTtalk event by Kimberly Firestine

Homecoming festivities included a new event this year, as five Edinboro alumni returned to give the university’s first Scot Talk sessions. Put together by the Business and Economics Department professor Shaun Pfeiffer, “Scot Talk” was the kick-off event for this year’s alumni celebration.

Kelly Byers – 2012

The first presenter was Kelly Byers, a 2012 EU graduate who now works in Forensic Investigations and as a Business Valuation Associate at Schaffner, Knight, Minnaugh & Company, P.C. in Erie. She has a degree forensic accounting Edinboro and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), certified in Financial Forensics (CFF), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). It wasn’t until after her second attempt at admission that she was accepted to Edinboro, thanks to a former professor that helped her take a few classes and re-apply for the following semester for full acceptance.

Her Scot Talk, titled “Three Strikes You're Out!… or Maybe Not? How I Turned Rejection into a Fabulous Career,” focused on her perseverance to get a job after graduating, despite being turned town by the same firm three times: over the phone, after an internship seminar and after a face-to-face interaction with the manager of the firm. “One thing that I want to say to you about the road ahead, finishing school and then going out to get a career is that sometimes the door gets slammed shut,” she said. “That’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen more than once.”

Byers ended her session by thanking the university and recognizing how Edinboro has contributed to her success.The key, for me, was that that whole time I kept people around me—I had professors, I had an advisor—I had people that always believed I was going to be successful and they gave me the strength to keep going even when it felt like there was no way this was going to work out for me,” she said. “I’m so grateful for my experience at Edinboro. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t start here.”

John Powell – 1992

The next presenter was John Powell. Powell graduated in 1992 and is now living in Jacksonville Florida where he is the Director of Membership Development for the Sourcing Industry Group (SIG). Powell attained an accounting degree from Edinboro and currently owns several small businesses. His Scot Talk, titled “Getting Cozy Outside Your Comfort Zone” was all about putting yourself out into the world and taking career risks.

“What they don’t tell you at any school is that there’s a really good chance that once you graduate from that school, you’re probably not going to be doing exactly what you went to school for, “ explained Powell before discussing his career moves that put him out of his own comfort zone.  

“I spent about 14 years in the mortgage business,” said Powell. Powell served as a subprime mortgage wholesaler around the time of the housing bubble collapse. Joking about how he often gets criticized for “crashing the economy,” he said “it wasn’t my fault, I promise.”

For “about 7 or 8 years,” Powell stated he was making a good living but felt that though he was comfortable, he was not challenging himself. “Around 2006, I left the company—a job I was doing very well at—for another job with a bank,” he explained. “I was making about 40 percent of what I was making at my previous job, I had about 400 times the headaches. I had to take on a sales team of about 40 people. My point of that is that it was a challenge for me.” Powell said that making that personal change allowed him to prepare himself to talk to executives, be a decision maker and prepare him for his next career move: owning a preschool.

In closing,Powell discussed global talent and the fact that everyone is competing for jobs on a global scale, especially those who are new graduates looking for jobs. “It’s a global workforce,” said Powell. “In China, if you’re ‘one-in-a-million,’ there’s 1,300 people just like you.

“If you’re  not comfortable public speaking—and I certainly am not—take a class, go to Toastmasters,” said Powell. “Just get yourself out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself a little bit.”

“Act as if it (your field) was to go away tomorrow, said Powell. “What would you do? You don’t want to be caught flat-footed.”

Ewelina Aioss – 2002

Ewelina Aioss was the next speaker. Aioss is a 2002 graduate with a degree in business administration. Her Scot Talk, titled “From Classroom to Boardroom” discussed

Currently living in New York City as the Assistant Vice President for Marketing at L’Oreal is 2002 graduate Ewelina Aioss. Aioss, who was also a former contributing editor for The Spectator while at Edinboro, has worked her way through various marketing management and strategist positions to get to where she is today with the pharmaceutical industry giant. Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Marketing at EU and has also studied graphic design at St. Johns University in Queens, New York.

“It’s been 15 years since I’ve been to Edinboro University, and I believe that in the past decade and a half I’ve learned and experienced a lot,” said Aioss. “I think that’s what makes me feel so strongly about being here.”

Talking about when she first traveled to Edinboro, Aioss said “I landed with 2 suitcases from Poland and went to Edinboro University, with very little English but with huge ambition.” She continued, “I really wanted to make sure the next four years of my life were worthwhile. I was very strategic and really wanted to be able to get a job after I graduated.”

Aioss then discussed how she went about preparing for her post-Edinboro plans, including doing extensive research in the library. “I’m a bookworm. I graduated magna cumme laude. If any of you remember me from here—I saw some of my ex coworkers here—I was always in the library study, researching, trying to learn new things.”

Aioss said she knew she wanted to work in some aspect of the beauty industry, so she took advantage of the library and did research on job descriptions and opportunities to prepare herself. “I wanted to see what kid of candidates that they (big pharmaceutical companies) were looking for,” she said.

Breaking down the top five skills that she found employers look for through her research—leadership, ability to work in teams, writing communication skills, verbal communication skills and problem-solving skills—Aioss said she believed that Edinboro prepared her to meet all of those skill set requirements. She also made sure that her classes covered a variety of different fields on top of her major required classes. “I took economics, I tried finance, marketing, communications,” she said. “Because of that, I believe that I was prepared to form my resume and those skills highlighted me in the classroom.”

Not only focused on her education, Aioss also placed herself into a few extracurricular groups to diversify her resume. “I decided to apply to be the first international orientation leader where I welcomed some of the new students to campus with their families,” she said. “I was also a residential assistant, which showed that I was a team player and I cared about cooperation, about people, that I was a ‘people-person.’” She continued, “these are very important human skills that—now with the digital age and social media—are kind of going away.” 

Describing the path of her career after graduating, Aioss said “In every position that I was in—from assistant marketer to marketer to manager to had to director to assistant vice president to vice president—I always had to challenge myself.” Like Powell before her, LAST NAME also hit hard on the point of stepping out of your comfort zone to be successful and find a job that truly fits your passions.

Aioss then continued to describe her model for success, which also included breaking your goals down into smaller goals if necessary and establishing and prioritizing them. Not to let self-care out of the picture, Aioss emphasized taking care of yourself as well as your career and education.

“I want you guys to invest in yourselves,” she said. “At Edinboro, you invest in your education. You’re building a foundation that your life will be standing on. Don’t forget about yourself” 

Richard Walker – 1996

The fourth presenter for the evening was Richard Walker. His presentation, titled "From Sox Harrison to Heinz Field – The Launch of Sports Tech Startup, Impellia" focused on his entrepreneurial accomplishments with his sports medicine and digital healthcare technology company Impellia. He graduated from Edinboro in 1996 with a degree in Speech Communications, and has a masters in business administration from Wayne State University and juris doctorate from Michigan State university.

Walker played football for Edinboro before taking a hard hit on the field his junior year and separating his shoulder. After that season, he decided he didn’t want to risk anymore injuries and no longer continued to play football.

Impellia, a company started by Walker and two partners, began after he attained his law degree from Michigan State. “What Impellia does, is we provide scientifically validated, personalized technology—primarily software and sensor-based technologies—that is created out of some of the top universities in the country,” said Walker. “It’s not just for elite athletes, it’s for every day people. Much of what the Steelers use was never available to the “weekend warrior,” and we’re trying to change that.”

Walker then discussed the details of what Impellia offers because of the unorthodox way their business works. “How we work is we have university partners all across the country—Pitt, Colorado, Miami, Michigan State, Michigan Carnegie Mellon, Penn, Drexel—and at these universities they create a lot of technology,” he said “You may be more familiar from the drug standpoint,” explained Walker. “A university creates a drug, Pfizer comes in, buys it out and starts to market it. WE don’t look for that,” he said. “WE look for software and wearable technology that solves problems in relation to injury prevention and rehabilitation for performance optimization.”

Walker explained their process of finding these new products, stating they travel to each school, see what they have to offer and hope to spring a deal with them. “We’ll look at 30 different things from one university and we’ll narrow it down to maybe eight or so,” he said. “What we’ll do is go out to the market, and because of our network and the relationships we’ve established over 20-plus years, we’re able to reach out to the Steelers. I’m about to go to the University of Michigan and say ‘hey, I saw this product that does this. What do you think of it?’,” explained Walker on how he gets different companies to license products.

Walker continued to divulge on Impellia’s business model, explaining their portfolio, buying process and trying to keep up with today’s constantly changing technology. “We have a never-ending pipeline of innovation,” said Walker. “We find something, we launch a new company, we provide all the operations from marketing to sales channels,” he said. “We really focus on sales velocity.

After discussing other projects that Impellia has taken on, Walker discussed how Edinboro sizes up with other larger schools in terms of education and opportunity. “We think as big as we want,” he said. “Why not? It’s up to you to do it. 

William F. Rothenbach – 1976

To wrap up the night, 1976 graduate William F. Rothenbach spoke on his “love affair with Edinboro.” Rothenbach is an Accredited Senior Professional in Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer for JJ Haines in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He has a degree in Psychology from Edinboro. “I’d like to publicly admit that I’ve been having a 40-year love affair,” said Rothenbach, “and the object of my affection is Edinboro.”

Rothenbach spent his time discussing four “feelings” that come to him whenever he comes back to Edinboro: nostalgia, gratitude, pride and envy.

“We all have a sense of nostalgia when we come back, right? Alumni that are in the room tonight feel nostalgic about things,” he said. “Whether it’s the good times, whether it’s the friends you made that hopefully stuck with you, whether it’s the professors that helped shape you, the crisp autumn days, the football games and homecoming. I am nostalgic for one other thing: the Edinboro fight song.” Rothenbach described a time in which he was in Scotland and asked a “master bagpipe player” to play the song, whose true title is “Scotland, the Brave.”

Pride, the second emotion Rothenbach spoke on, came in the form of general appreciation for Edinboro. “I’m proud to tell others that this is where I graduated from,” he said. “I’m proud of our sports teams. I love to pick up the paper and see that our sports teams have won. I’m proud to put my sweatshirt on, my hat on and go out and public and have people ask me about Edinboro. So, yes, I’m glad to be part of the plaid.”

Gratitude, his third feeling, stemmed from his time with professors and administrators. “I’m grateful to the administration for creating an environment where students can learn, they can grow,” said Rothenbach. “I’m grateful to my professors for taking the time and the interest in me and pushing me to excel and develop myself for thing beyond Edinboro.”

Last, but certainly not least for Rothenbach, was the feeling of envy. “I’m envious of those of you that live here. I’m envious of those of you that work here. I’m envious because you’re here and I’m not and I don’t get to get back as much as I would like,” he said. “You get to see the wonderful campus, you get to interact with the students and the faculty. You see the lake, you see the statue. I don’t see those things. The last time I was back I think was six or seven years ago—I thought it was three or four years ago, but that’s just a matter of how time flies. “

“This is a gem that should be treasured every day.”

Rothenbach wrapped up his Scot Talk by giving some advice to various members of the Edinboro University community.

 “My advice to the administration is to continue to foster that safe learning environment for students, where different points of view can be expressed in civil ways without any fear of reprisal,’ he said.

 “For the faculty, remember you are shaping minds. That day when you wake up in the morning and you just really don’t want to go into the classroom—and believe me, we all have those days—remember that may be the day that you reach somebody,” said Rothenbach. “That may be the day that the light bulb goes on in a student. That may be the day that you plant a seed that germinates and becomes one’s life work. Don’t ever forget, faculty, the important job that you do here.”

“For the students,” said Rothenbach, “it’s really simple. You get out of this what you put into it. Work hard, ask questions, be curious and you will get massive dividends. It might not happen immediately, but I swear to God, it’ll happen down the road but it’s in your hands.” He continued, “don’t sit back. Take an active role in your preparations for the future.”

His final words of advice were an encouragement of alumni to give back to Edinboro. “I’m sure you have a sense of gratitude for this university as well. There are all kids of ways to give back,” he said. “Financial, obviously, but there are other ways that you can give back as well. Find what works for you and nurture your own love affair with Edinboro.”

“It seemed like only yesterday I was spending my life in Compton Hall, and very happy doing that. Edinboro has helped shape me and make me the person I am today,” said Rothenbach.  “No matter what I do or where I go, there’s always a piece of Edinboro with me. For that reason, and many others, I think I’m going to continue having this love affair. The truth of the matter is, I couldn’t stop loving this place even if I tried.”

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

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