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Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

John Brucato, Executive Director of Development of Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School

John Brucato’a BIO

John Brucato has contributed at almost every level throughout his 36 years as an educator. A secondary school teacher, coach, and student leadership advisor for 17 years, Brucato has successfully performed a number of school leadership roles in public, independent and charter schools as a dean of students, athletic director, assistant principal, principal, executive director and executive director of development. Brucato coached men’s and woman’s varsity athletic teams in Football, Wrestling, Cross Country and Track & Field. A number of the young people he coached became successful collegiate scholar athletes. He coached Pop Warner youth football for 9 years as well.

Believing that effective school leaders must be committed to professional growth and lifelong learning, Brucato authored “Creating a Learning Environment: an Educational Leader’s Guide to Managing School Culture”, (2005) and co-authored “Questions and Answers about Block Scheduling: an Implementation Guide”, (1999). Since becoming an educational leader, Brucato has mentored a number of school leaders and consulted with schools throughout the nation.

Brucato has been actively involved with the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association, was President of the organization in 2007 and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 1999. Active with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association as well, Brucato served as Chairman of the State Wrestling Committee for three years and Vice President of the MIAA in 2010.

A 2003, Massachusetts Distinguished Educator, Brucato was named the Massachusetts State Principal of the Year in 2007. In 2013 he was given the Voice of Hope Award by Employment Options for his advocacy and commitment to assisting individuals afflicted with mental illness in becoming employed.
Brucato remains a staunch supporter of choice education for public school children and continues to pursue business and education partnerships for the Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlborough Ma in his new role as Executive Director of Development. Brucato served as the schools Executive Director for three years from 2011 to 2014. In 2013, AMSA was rated the 3rd best school in Massachusetts by US News and World Report. In 2014, the school moved to second in the same annual poll. Recently, Boston Magazine named AMSA 4th among their top 50 public schools in Massachusetts.

In the Spotlight Interview

1. Please share with us your involvement in the Advanced Math and Science Academy.

John: I became involved with the Advanced Math and Science Academy in 2011 while looking for an opportunity to complete my career as an educator in a new role. They were looking for an Executive Director with leadership experience and I was looking for the challenge they had to offer. Having been a teacher, coach, student leadership advisor, Dean of Students, Athletic Director, Assistant Principal and Principal, the role of Executive Directory seemed like a good place to finish. As it turned out, a new beginning evolved from there. After three years in the role, I have recently transitioned to the Executive Director of Development.


2. Take us through a typical day, start to finish.

John: There are no typical days for Executive Directors of a grade 6 through 12 school as there are an array of responsibilities.

Supervising a central office staff, leadership team and facilities while remaining accessible to faculty, staff, parents, Board of Trustees members and business partners makes every day interesting. Most days will start early and end late and always involve correspondence, a meeting or two, budgetary matters, trouble shooting, problem solving and that which is not expected. Each day promises a number of challenges and transitions. Evening school events, committee and Board meetings, make some days and weeks longer than others, but ten hour days are typical. As an educational leader, you are always on call. While school is in session, be it a weekend or holiday, you must always answer the call and often times make difficult decisions spontaneously.


3. What was the best advice you received as you began your professional career?

John: The best advice I received when I began my career was that hard work, persistence and honesty, especially, would result in ongoing professional growth, meaningful relationships and satisfaction. By far the best advice I ever received.


4. What are your strategies for building awareness of Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School for the short term and the long term?

John: Putting AMSA on the map was a priority from day one.

Initiative began with establishing traditions, assisting the students in finding an identity and celebrating student and faculty achievements in both curricula and co-curricular related activities. The web page, especially, needed to be taken out of the nineties and the school needed to demonstrate that it was an important part of the community. Building partnerships with local schools, colleges, universities and the business community remains an ongoing priority.


5. What is your proudest achievement?

John: I have been fortunate. Surrounding myself with successful people has brought me some wonderful honors. I would consider being named the Massachusetts 2007 State Principal of the Year one of the achievements I am most proud of.


6. What are Your Top 3 book recommendations?

John: From a professional standpoint, Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”, Eli Broad’s “The Art of Being Unreasonable”, and Dr. Ben Chavis’ “Crazy Like a Fox” are three books which inspire educational leaders to become self reflective and creative.


7. What other charitable causes are most meaningful to you and why?

John: I have always been a big supporter of the Special Olympics, but over the past few years he been more intimately involved with Employment Options, a nonprofit agency located in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The organization provides programs and employment opportunities for individuals looking to overcome mental health problems. Given that 45.9 million Americans experienced mental illness in 2012, I believe it to be critical that more people get behind the cause.


8. Who has been most influential toward your career successes with Absolutely Music?

John: Both my parents were educators and my siblings, a lawyer, teacher and nurse, were all influential in my career success. As the youngest of four children, I had excellent role models who also succeeded in the task of taming the wild child in me.


9. What is your advice for entrepreneurs who are 1-3 months away from launching their business?

John: Over the years I have mentored a number of aspiring educational leaders. Fortunately, most have been successful and all followed the same advice; place the best interest of the students in your care first, be prepared to be forever unprepared and understand that doing the right thing will not always be popular.


Wayne K. Johnson, Educational Consultant, Former Dean of Workforce Development at MassBay Community College, Director of Community Education at Bunker Hill Community College, and Professor of Intercultural Communication, Ryukoku University (Kyoto,Japan)

Wayne K. Johnson’s BIO

Wayne K. Johnson—

I was born in Albany, New York. I have lived and worked in various places around the globe. In college, I studied at the State University of New York as well as at Brunel University in London, England. My graduate degree is in Education from The School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. I lived and worked in Yosemite National Park, CA for 10 summers—living in a tent. I was a visiting professor in Katowice Poland before the Berlin Wall fell. I went through the Berlin Wall 25 times—something I will never forget. I also have traveled and lived in Western and Eastern Europe and also lived in Asia for 14 years, spending most of my time conducting research and teaching at several universities in Japan and Thailand.

Before moving back to the US, I was a tenured professor at the Faculty of Intercultural Communication, at Ryukoku University—the oldest university in Japan. Along with writing two English and cultural text-books, I co-authored and edited three text-books for teaching culture and language approved by the Ministry of Education in Japan. I also have written over 30 publications in international academic journals and conducted many presentations at international conferences concerning education, learning, and intercultural communication.

I moved back to the US to work as a curriculum developer and training manager at American Power Conversion and then became the Director of Training and Development at Equity National in Rhode Island. I was also  the Director of  Community Education at Bunker Hill Community College and the Assistant Director of the Center for Business and Industry at Bristol Community College, in Fall River, Massachusetts. I also served as the Dean of Corporate and Community Education at MassBay Community College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

I enjoy cooking various types of cuisines, playing guitar, playing with my children, was a high school wrestling coach and still follow the sport, and like bike riding.


In the Spotlight Interview

1. Tell us about your role as an Instructional Systems Designer (ISD) / Curriculum Development Project Manager / Training Program Coordinator and your formal role at Bunker Hill Community College and in the Massachusetts Community College system.

Wayne: Currently, I am an Instructional Systems Designer (ISD) / Curriculum Development Project Manager / Training Program Coordinator who helps to design programs for the Defense Language Institute (DLI) for Foreign Area Officers (FAO) who are stationed around the world in various U.S. embassies. We focus on top level language and intercultural training, in order to increase the linguistic and cultural awareness of the FAO’s. At AAC, we believe that human interactions are filled with cultural nuances that can impact all levels of communication. Therefore, successful businesses almost always seek to improve the communication skills of their employees as required in the form of interpersonal and intercultural competencies. While effective communication is always imperative, it is particularly so when individuals are interacting in a cross-cultural milieu like the Foreign Area Officers. In the broader sense, when individuals in a cross-cultural environment share and communicate clearly and effectively, the quality of the cross-cultural communication improves as measured by factors such as historical efficiency, demographic effectiveness and geographical wellness. At AAC, we are very appreciative of global cultural diversity, and utilize the Triangulation of Cultural Intelligence™ as a practical method to help people to understand how and why their counterparts act and behave in the way they do. By gaining this cross-cultural intelligence, AAC customers can devise strategies and tactics to establish good working relations and cross-cultural rapport.

As the Director of Community Education at Bunker Hill Community College I was working with the Office of Workforce Development in Boston. As Director, my primary responsibilities were to provide leadership and supervision for the College’s workforce and continuing education programs. At any given time, there are approximately 2000 learners in the continuing education programs at BHCC. While there, I supervised over 120 English language classes a year with students representing 90 countries. Aside from supervising the continuing education, non-credit, online, and English programs, I also directed our Communities of Intercultural Learning study abroad program, which brings students to the U.S. for an intensive academic and cultural learning experience. I managed the English language learning, study abroad, and continuing education programs, while also collaborating and interacting with academic departments and administrative offices which included: Assessment Center, Career Center, Communications, Community Service, faculty from all academic departments, Homestay Programs, International Education, Institutional Research, Registrar Office, Student Internships, and the Web Design team.


2. There is no typical day in the life of a business leader. Please share with us a sample of
your day, start to finish.

Wayne: You are correct—there is no “typical” day that I could define. Currently, I help to design and develop instructional material for United States Department of Defense (DoD) Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) and AAC training courses promoting linguistic and intercultural competencies. To date we have worked on Arabic, Chinese, French, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Hindi, Russian, Vietnamese, and Farsi (Persian) cultures and languages. Every day my tasks are multifaceted and complex. For example, typically we try to come up with original concepts and activities that will benefit the Foreign Area Officer programs. Daily there is a need, in some capacity, to mobilize critical resources to resolve issues. Key areas focus around curriculum development, increasing global awareness, intercultural communication, instructional design, managing interdepartmental relations, creating program evaluations, scheduling, strategic planning, and exploring web-based training. At times, I also analyze, develop, implement, and evaluate instructional systems, distance education, and professional development strategies, initiatives, policies, plans, procedures and evaluations. For a great deal of time I need to work with linguists / subject-matter-experts from numerous cultures. This keeps me pretty busy.


3. What are your “can’t live without” software applications?

Wayne: Of course, all of the Microsoft Office products. I especially find the Outlook Calendar to be a very powerful, yet, underrated tool. I also develop training resources, instructional products, curricula, and assessments using the Adobe Captivate authoring tool, and the Adobe Dreamweaver development tool. These are very powerful. The iPhone is also an amazing device that has revolutionized work for many around the world.


4. What are your tricks for time management?

Wayne: The simple answer is to attempt to avoid, at all costs, situations that waste people’s time. If I schedule a meeting, which I rarely try to do, I like to keep the meeting short, about 30 minutes. Our team working with the Defense Language Institute is excellent at this. I truly believe that if you are prepared and resolute, very few meetings require more time. The amount of time, and money squandered in meetings, is, in my opinion, beyond significant.

Regarding my personal time-management, I also try to live by the philosophy that focuses on: “What did I do that was productive and beneficial in the last 40 minutes?” I literally sit at my desk completing a task and ask myself if I am actually being valuable. If I have not done anything constructive or useful in the last 40 minutes, I am not managing my time well and need to adjust what I am doing to execute more effectively. It is also tremendously important to focus on what I am doing in the “moment”. I sense the importance of being attentive to what I am working on, and if something unforeseen arises, accept the circumstance, pay attention to it, and get back to the task at hand. To efficiently handle time-management it is necessary to quickly improvise when challenges occur, do what needs to be done, and delegate responsibility and swing back to the critical project at hand.


5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?

Wayne: There are a few areas of best advice I have welcomed.

Embrace leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence. Those are the leaders who have the ability to be aware of, control, and express themselves empathetically. At AAC, and our partner organizations, I find that everyone I work with have particularly elevated levels of emotional intelligence. Simply put, empathy is essential for all great leaders. We need to welcome those who have emotional intelligence skills when negotiating with other people—especially in a global economy. “Your emotional intelligence is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them,” says Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist. He cites the following concepts as essential to being a great leader.

Self-control. Managing disruptive impulses.
Trustworthiness. Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity.
Conscientiousness. Taking responsibility for your own performance.
Adaptability. Handling change with flexibility.
Innovation. Being open to new ideas.

Those with high emotional intelligence realize what they know, and what they do not know, and are completely secure in not knowing everything. I could not agree more with this practice. I have found that almost all of the CEOs, President’s and high-level leaders I have met are tremendously secure and have an abnormally high level of emotional intelligence.

One-way empathy helps us address conflict in the workplace is that we can view disruptive behavior sympathetically. In contrast to leaders with a high emotional intelligence are those who are insecure. This is the elephant in the room regarding workplace relations that is seldom discussed. These discouraging individuals are the exception rather than the rule, but nevertheless, it is important for young employees to be cognizant of these personalities. Often, people at work tend to encounter problems and conflicts for no apparent reason. Frequently these obstructions stem from the other person’s insecurities, not your incompetence. This is especially important advice for younger workers. Under the surface, deep down, a percentage in authoritative positions essentially lack confidence, and are, as a consequence, vulnerable. Due to their anxieties these unexceptional “leaders” often need to boast their egos to elevate their persona by putting other workers down, especially employees fresh to the organization. For those joining the workforce, it is vital to realize that when people are unconstructive, disrespectful and unprofessional in the job setting their behavior is merely highlighting their lack of confidence—it is not about “you” not being effective but more accurately, it is about “them” being insecure. This is a common quandary for young recruits to navigate. So, to guide emergent employees successfully in their careers they need to be aware of this. Being “aware” of unjustifiable conduct by co-workers is quite different from “accepting” their behavior. As an assured and confident person, one must independently decide how to react to these situations, to let the antagonistic actions go or to confront the issue—all which may have consequences. When interacting with erratic and insecure co-workers it is imperative to realize that there is a time to speak, and a time to listen. I have found that everyone I work with on Defense Language Institute projects is exceedingly secure and have high levels of emotional intelligence. The common decency of everyone on our teams makes projects run exceptionally well despite incredible challenges. This cannot happen when people are insecure.

Work is a verb and not a noun.

Corresponding to the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) philosophy, work is not where you are, it is what you do. Work should never be judged by the chatter within the organization about “what time did Kari come in and leave”, but rather work should be evaluated by results. In 2018, positive outcomes may be achieved by physically being in the office, or not. Being “there,” sitting at your desk and doing “work” is an excruciatingly superficial and one-dimensional way to evaluate results.

I have a sign that says: “People who do things get things done.” That advice came from my friend Joe C. many years ago in Japan. It is a very straightforward yet powerful message. Focusing on being productive yourself, and not centering on what your co-worker is or is not doing is essential for maximizing everyone’s time.

“Hire good people and leave them alone”—3M President, sometime in the 1940’s stated this.

If you cannot trust someone to do a good job you should not hire them, period. When you believe in people they will work harder for you. Micro-managing and keeping an eye on employees is a short-sighted and ineffective way to get people to open up, be creative and enjoy coming to work. No one will be productive in the long term if they are not permitted to originate fresh ideas in the workplace.


6. What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished academic leader?

Wayne: One important success has to be working with such wonderful people at AAC, our partners, and the Defense Language Institute (DLI) helping Foreign Area Officers (FAO) around the world in various U.S. embassies. I am very proud of the work we have done and the people we work with. I find it refreshing how we wish to increase the amount of engagement of all participants. I also found that in the past, teaching business people about intercultural communication, and then, meeting them in a grocery store, and they tell me that when they traveled overseas it was the most useful course they had ever taken. It not only helped in their business, in some cases it literally saved their lives. Recently, I published a paper in Japan about “Intercultural English” with the Japan expert Craig Sower and Dr. Jana Silver. The concept is to help Japanese students and business people to be more successful in intercultural encounters around the globe. Sower has been a mentor of mine for over three decades and is the author of the book, Living in Japan. He knows his subject well.


7. How do you achieve balance in your life?

Wayne: Very delicately. I find that as a widower with two children (daughter 17, son 20 and severely autistic) I must think about both my family life and professional life simultaneously. In order to support my children, I require a steady income. I need to assess every day what is necessary to do in order to be productive and achieve results and also be there for my children. Also, it takes a great deal of support from an excellent group of care-givers and autism specialists, friends and loved ones to help achieve that balance.


8. What are Your top 3 book recommendations?

Wayne: All books written by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. Both of these women are the founders of CultureRx and creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). According to Ressler and Thompson, a Results-Only Work Environment goes beyond telework. It is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results—increasing the organization’s performance while cultivating the right environment for people to manage all the demands in their lives…including work.

Drive, by Daniel Pink. Pink believes:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements:
1. Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives.
2. Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
3. Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I could not agree more with Pink’s concepts. It would be groundbreaking if all leaders could and would embrace these ideas.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, is a 1984 postmodern novel about two women, two men, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history in 1968. As I lived in Poland before the Berlin Wall fell, I feel that the book (and also the movie) best portrays what life was like in Soviet controlled Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall was a scar on the face of the planet. Something we should all not forget.


9. What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?

Wayne: My son is severely autistic. So I try, whenever possible, to support anything related to autism. The conundrum is that raising an autistic child often does not lend itself to outside charity work. First and foremost, my autistic son is my primary focus. Working in concentric circles, I involve myself with the autistic community on the local, state and national level.


10. Who has influenced your career the most?

Wayne: This is a very difficult question, but most likely I would have to say it was my high school wrestling coach, Mr. Walter Teike (assistant Olympic coach and New York State and USA Olympic Hall of Fame) and now, Robert (Bob) Mathis. Mr. Teike was not so much a coach, but rather a philosophical-life-mentor who focused on reflecting in the moment about what we were doing in the practice room and on the wrestling mat under the lights. He taught us about competition, to never give up, while concurrently displaying that having fun in the particular instant was actually a function of the learning experience. I have found this to be very powerful in life. Often employees think that work cannot be entertaining and filled with amusement. Coach Tieke instilled in me the opposite. From his teachings I have adapted the philosophy of: “I like to have fun and get things done” in the workplace. When I speak with managers who express that employees should not have fun in the workplace, this shows me that they have a limited view of work and productivity. If there is one way to obliterate passion for one’s job, it is to not allow fun to be part of the equation. Coach Tieke and I are still in contact today.

I also feel that Robert Mathis, a partner with our company, and the principal project manager for the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Area Officer programs has an extremely effective management style that creates situations for people to work meticulously and methodically, while successfully meeting deadlines. Mr. Mathis has worked at the highest levels of government and national security, and has a unique power to motivate his staff to work vigorously using a minimalist approach. Bob has showed me that an ability to delegate is key to making all projects successful. He has taught everyone on his teams the value of having and maintaining a project-plan and production schedule, creating a realist milestone timetable, and if possible, adhering to these. At the same time, I have learned that a schedule should not be so tight that if a milestone is missed that recovery is not probable, one simply adjusts and moves forward. Bob is extremely secure with himself, and has demonstrated effective methods of communicating with the customer, realizing that at times it should not always be the leader who should interface with clients 100% of the time. That is the sign of a truly confident person. In our DLI projects, he further displays this support by trusting his employees, which de facto makes everyone more productive. Both Bob and I were in Eastern Europe at the same time before the Berlin Wall came down, but we did not know each other then.


11. What is your advice for someone interested in choosing a career in academia?

Wayne: The Oxymoronic Scenario: If you choose to dive into academia, the most essential concept to realize is that in order to become employed it is necessary to actually acquire a job at a college. Your first position is often the most difficult to land. Once you are in a college, especially in administration, you will be able to progress based on how well you do your job, but more importantly, the connections you make in the field will be a tremendous asset. Getting and holding that first job is often seen as a testing ground where you are able to prove yourself. Academia is much like the outside world—who you know is just as critical as what you know and what degrees you have earned. So, my advice is to land a position as soon as possible, prove yourself, do an exceptional job, and progress from there.

Noah Greenfield, Co-Founder and President at InGenius Prep

Noah Greenfield’s BIO


Noah Greenfield

Noah Greenfield is the co-founder and president of InGenius Prep, a global admissions consulting company. He is also a JD/PhD candidate at Yale Law School and the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a Mellon Fellow.



1. BSO: You are Co-Founder and President at InGenius Prep. Please share with us how you got into admissions counseling.

NG: I have been working in education for many years (including  pursuing a doctorate at UC Berkeley) and understood that there was both a need and a demand for reliable, high quality, professional admissions counseling.

It got to the point where I was turning students away for lack of bandwidth. But how could I scale myself? I was talking this over with a fellow classmate of mine, Joel Butterly, at Yale Law School and, more or less immediately, the ideas about admissions counseling and consultation started flowing.

That is when InGenius Prep was conceived. Over the next few weeks, we put together a business plan and built a partnership and friendship that has been the backbone of all our success. It has been a roller coaster ride ever since!


2. BSO: Take us through a typical day, start to finish.

NG: Work starts around 9AM after I drop off my son at school.

I usually work from home or my local office in Brooklyn, NY but am occassionally at our headquarters in New Haven, CT and spend a few weeks each year in China or elsewhere for business.

I work until about 7PM, have an hour with my family, put the kids to bed, and then am back on at 8PM until about, depending on the night, 1AM, 2AM or 3AM, working with students who seek admissions counseling and members of the InGenius Prep team around the world.


3. BSO: What was the best advice you received when you co-founded InGenius Prep?

NG: We were given conflicting advice.

One mentor told us that we would have to work insanely hard to build our company into anything resembling success.

Another mentor told us that if we worked too hard, we would burn out.

They were both right, of course!.

The best way I have found to work impossibly hard but to avoid burnouts is Sabbath observance. I work 6 days a week and observe the Sabbath from Friday afternoon at sundown until Saturday night. On my Sabbath, my phone and computer are off and I am fully immersed in my family, my friends and the delight of my day of rest.

There are no exceptions. It is my day of heaven each week, and my opportunity to step back, reflect and be grateful for what I have and what is to come.


4. BSO: What are your strategies for building awareness of InGenius, short term and long term?

NG: We have a robust marketing effort that utilizes traditional and digital media to reach very targeted demographics. We have learned to tailor our marketing to different markets, so do things rather differently in China than we do in Canada, for instance. We also made the very wise decision to bring early on an extremely talented and devoted director of marketing, Yosepha Greenfield, and she has taken our marketing to the next level.

At the end of the day, we have the most expert, thoughtful, and engaged admissions counselors in the world and we have the largest team of former admissions officers from the top universities in the world. They all write high quality articles and are featured in high quality videos, webinars, and workshops, most of which are offered entirely free through our website for anyone who wants to benefit from them.

Our long term plan is very simple: As more and more students work with us, maximize their opportunities, get in to the best schools, and achieve their dreams, more and more families will learn about us and realize that we have something that no one else can offer them.


5. BSO: What is your proudest achievement?

NG: From the very beginning, before we were making any money or had any students, we agreed that we would be a mission driven company. So, from the very beginning, we offered financial aid to anyone who needed it and have never turned away a single student who couldn’t afford our services.

But, we wanted to do more to be able to give students more access to the best in higher education.

This year, through our partnership with Team for America, we teamed up with a charter school in Los Angeles to provide our admissions counseling services to their college bound seniors. It has, thus far, been a great success and we are now hoping to expand to many more charter and public schools throughout the United States. We are working on setting up our non-profit which will give us the institutional resources to do even more to equalize the playing field in higher ed. .


6. BSO: What are Your Top 3 book recommendations?

NG: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It isn’t just helpful for business – it is helpful for life.

The Book of Psalms. If you don’t pray yet, you will start when you start a business.

Instead of reading a book, I schedule lots of meetings with our students and their families to learn about their needs and wants, their hopes and dreams. There isn’t a book that can give you their insights.


7. BSO: What other charitable causes are most meaningful to you and why?

NG: Anything that can fix the many “education problems” in the US. There are so many people who want to get into a good college but are not getting the education they deserve, not getting the opportunities that can help them soar and reach their potential as a result.

More than that, they lose out and we, as a society, lose out. Organizations that we partner with, like Teach for America, do great work. We want to continue to partner with like-minded schools, organizations, educators, policy-makers, to do our part to make a difference.


8. BSO: Who has been most influential toward your accomplishments, professional & personal?

NG: My wife, Nava, has been completely supportive of InGenius Prep from day one. Whether time or love or a sleepless night, she does everything in her power to support our growth and success. My many students who have gone on to great schools owe much of their success to her because of her tireless devotion.

The same goes for Joel’s fiancee, Emily Ulrich. She is utterly selfless and a source of joy and optimism whenever we encounter rough spots.

But we have such a profoundly talented and hard working team of admissions experts and graduate coaches at InGenius Prep – some of the smartest, boldest, most thoughtful, caring, and good people – it is an inspiration to work with them every day.


9. BSO: What is your advice for entrepreneurs who are 1-3 months away from launching their business?

NG: Launch before you are ready.

Get ready for no sleep.

Make sure you are driven by mission, not just money.

Find and keep the best people you know and give them the ability to make things happen.

Risa Mish, Faculty Member in the Management and Leadership of Organizations at Cornell’s Graduate School of Management

Risa Mish’ BIO

Risa Mish

Risa Mish is a member of the Management and Leadership of Organizations faculty at Cornell University’s S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management, where she teaches courses in team leadership and critical and strategic thinking, and serves as Faculty Director of the Johnson Leadership Fellows program. She is the winner of the Apple Teaching Award, given by the MBA graduating class to honor a faculty member who exemplifies “outstanding leadership and enduring educational excellence”; the Executive MBA Globe Award for Teaching Excellence, given to a faculty member by the EMBA graduating class on the basis of “enduring educational influence in motivating students to achieve and excel”; and the Stephen Russell’61. Distinguished Teaching Award, given by the Johnson 5th Reunion Class to a faculty member “whose teaching and example have continued to influence graduates five years into their post-MBA careers.”

Prof. Mish is an honors graduate of Cornell University and Cornell Law School, is admitted to practice law in New York and before the U.S. Supreme Court, and runs her own consulting firm through which she trains and advises companies and senior executives on a range of leadership and employee relations topics, and serves as a keynote speaker and workshop leader at regional, national and global conferences. She is a member of the boards of directors of SmithBucklin Corporation, TheraCare, Inc., and the United Way of Tompkins County (NY), and is a Trustee of the Tompkins County (NY) Public Library.


In the Spotlight Interview

1. BSO : You are a faculty member in the Management and Leadership of Organizations at Cornell’s Graduate School of Management. You are also the Principal of a human capital practice. Please share with us your path to receiving these roles.

RM: So many life stories have an element of Serendipity to them, and that includes mine.

I started my career as a lawyer with a focus on labor and employment law issues, first practicing with a global law firm based in New York City, and then later as a partner in a boutique law firm, also in New York City. The big change in my life path came courtesy of my older child, Daniel, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was five years old.

My husband and I agreed that my current law firm partner life was not a good fit with what Daniel was likely to need from me, and so we started brainstorming alternatives. John and I had met at Cornell when I was a 3L and he was a PhD student, and we thought that perhaps Ithaca might be the right place in which to rear a special needs child. I cast around for job opportunities, and found that the one that best met our family’s needs was in Alumni Affairs & Development at my alma mater, Cornell Law School.

So, I gave up my law firm partnership, we moved to Ithaca, and I began working for Cornell while also continuing to advise my clients on labor and employment law issues. Eventually, my work at Cornell brought me to the Johnson Graduate School of Management, and through a series of twists and turns, I got the chance to apply for a role there that combined teaching with management of the leadership program. Because my initial foray into teaching was well received by the students, the school expanded that portion of my job into a full-time teaching load that now includes teaching in the One-Year Ithaca MBA, NYC Tech Campus MBA, Two-Year MBA, Executive MBA, and Executive Education programs, and allows me to run my own human capital practice, as well.


2. BSO: Take us through a typical day, start to finish.

RM: When you work with students, and also work with clients, there is no such thing as a “typical day”!

I generally focus my early morning time on client work so that I can devote my full “regular work day” to my students.

I start my day with a short exercise routine, and then spend the rest of the early morning updating content for the keynotes and workshops that I give on leadership topics and/or communicating with one or more of the companies that I continue to advise on labor and employment law matters.

I teach all year ‘round, so during the day I am either teaching classes in leadership or critical and strategic thinking or preparing for the next day’s class or grading or meeting individually with students about coursework, career plans, and life issues. I also build into my day regular “social media breaks” so that I can keep up with and post to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook – platforms through which I both maintain contact with my former students, and also stay current with issues of the day.

In the evenings, I spend time with my two kids and my husband, do more work for clients, and then end the day with at least 30 minutes of reading literary fiction. That is my small gift to myself. It allows me to decompress from worldly concerns and engage my imagination.


3. BSO: What was the best advice you received when you were given your role at Cornell?

RM: One of my fellow faculty members told me that when students leave my class, they should feel as if they have been given “a bag of magic beans”. What he meant by that is that what students want when they take a course from a practitioner (as opposed to a course taught by a research scholar) are very practical and effective tools that they can apply right away, and from which they can see results right away.

That turned out to be excellent advice. When I am thinking about how to shape the content that I deliver – whether in the classroom or in front of an executive audience at a conference or in a workshop – I am always thinking, “Practical, Practical, Practical. Apply, Apply, Apply.” You want to deliver insights, yes, but you want to deliver them in a way that allows your audience to apply what they’ve learned to the problems they will be called upon to solve.


4. BSO: What are your strategies for building awareness of your practice, short and long term?

RM: This is an area to which I should be devoting much more attention than I do. I have mostly been operating on the “word of mouth” strategy. The workshops and keynotes that I give usually lead to other invitations. What I should probably be doing is building a website, blogging, and getting an agent!


5. BSO: What is your proudest achievement?

RM: Being crystal clear about my Core Values, and living in a way that is consistent with those values.


6. BSO: What are Your Top 3 book recommendations?

RM: I am a serious fan of literary fiction. I think there is more to learn there about the important issues in life than you will find in a shelf full of self-help books.

It is hard to choose a Top 3, but among my very favorite novels are:

Pride and Prejudice;

Atonement by Ian McEwan;

Possession, by A.S. Byatt.

Lest your listeners think that I value British fiction above American literature, I would also very strongly recommend

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison;

 “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout;

and “House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton.


7. BSO: What other charitable causes are most meaningful to you and why?

RM: I serve on the board of directors of the United Way of Tompkins County and as a Trustee of the Tompkins County Public Library.

The United Way is, in many ways, the community’s “safety net”,  funding non-profit organizations that help the neediest members of our community and also ensuring that those organizations meet standards of excellence in order to operate consistently in the best interest of the people they serve. The public library – together with public schools and an independent press — is one the institutions that is most essential to a functioning democracy.


8. BSO: Who has been most influential toward your accomplishments, professional & personal?

RM: My parents, who taught me the power of perseverance (one of my Core Values), and my husband, who reminds me that a full life consists of more than one’s professional work.


9. BSO: What is your advice for entrepreneurs who are 1-3 months away from launching their new business?

RM: Be very clear about What Problem You are Solving;

Why, and for Whom, Your Proposed Solution is Optimal;

and Why You Are the Right Person to be Solving It.

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