December 15, 2023

By Amanda O’Rourke

When economist Matthew Rousu assumed the position of dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business, an advisory council of dedicated alumni had already been established. Within a few years into his appointment, he restructured the school’s Advisory Council to create a “critical mass” of engaged alumni that includes expertise in all 10 majors.

Now 40 members strong, each Advisory Council member provides guidance for the Sigmund Weis School of Business as a whole and also serves on at least one subcommittee. The subcommittees — which currently exist for accounting; data analytics; entrepreneurship; finance and economics; management and international business; marketing and luxury brand marketing; and sales — are headed by a faculty member within that area.

“The Advisory Council brings with them decades of diverse career experience bolstered by their ongoing affection for Susquehanna,” Rousu says. “We’ve been fortunate to have such a broad and successful alumni base to draw from. They’ve brought us invaluable insights.”

Since its reimagining, the Advisory Council has had the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on new majors and minors, and the school’s AACSB accreditation. Within the past academic year, the Sigmund Weis School of Business has added several new academic programs.

“One thing I value about this group is their willingness to be open and honest — even if they seem to disagree with me or with each other,” Rousu adds. “If the business school is thinking about a new initiative, I want this group of brilliant leaders to poke holes in our ideas so we can anticipate, plan for and mitigate challenges ahead of time. Alternatively, sometimes advice from the Advisory Council will cause us to take different actions.”


Announced in April 2023, students who major in entrepreneurship & corporate innovation will develop the skills to start a business enterprise or thrive as an entrepreneurial thinker in an established company.

It was a move that Christopher Gonzalez ’08, head of finance at A.Team, Philadelphia, wasn’t initially convinced was necessary.

“Susquehanna has an established legacy of successful entrepreneurs among our alumni; our business school bears the name of one,” Gonzalez says. “The university’s strong liberal arts curriculum and accredited business school provide a strong foundation for any aspiring entrepreneur.”

However, as he spent more time on the Advisory Council and with the advent of the business school’s entrepreneurship and innovation minor in 2017, Gonzalez became convinced of the major’s potential.

“The introduction of the entrepreneurship minor led students with non-business majors to gain exposure to business curriculum and business majors to diversify their studies. It encouraged more students to start their own and gave them new tools to solve and address problems,” he says. “The establishment of a major that includes the vital corporate innovation component really furthers the business school’s original commitment to developing business leaders, offering curriculum that will help students build valuable careers and entities in an age of rapid change.”


On the heels of the entrepreneurship & corporate innovation announcement came the addition of a new real estate major. Students in this major will take courses in law, finance and capital markets, taxation, professional sales, asset analysis and valuation, international business and more.

What originated from an inquiry by Evan Stutzman ’23 about his interest in learning more about commercial real estate, the new major was first offered as a program that prepares students to earn a commercial real estate certificate. It prompted Dean Rousu to explore with alumni ways to expand the business school’s real estate educational offerings, leading to Michael Alderman ’93, P’24 bringing the certification program to Susquehanna in spring 2022.

A senior vice president of a real estate development firm in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Alderman taught the sessions and created the case study. After completing the courses and passing the exam after each, students were awarded a Foundations of Real Estate certification by the Urban Land Institute, a century-old nonprofit organization with 45,000+ land use and commercial real estate development professionals. Alderman adds that in addition to a certificate, students also gain membership to the ULI, of which he is a member, garnering invitations to networking events and conferences.

The new major has significant student interest. “Mike has been so generous with his time, guiding students through the projects and helping us connect with the Urban Land Institute,” Rousu adds. “This program would not have happened without him.”


Although new minors receive slightly less fanfare than new majors, they are important. Susquehanna’s new risk management minor is designed to introduce students to the fundamental principles of risk management, focusing on corporate and property risk. Students will develop knowledge and skills to succeed specifically in the insurance industry or other settings focusing on managing risk. Professional certificates such as the Institute’s Associate of Risk Management Certification will be embedded into the curriculum.

Toni Tomarazzo ’84, executive director and associate general counsel at UBS Financial Services, Hoboken, New Jersey, believes risk management “is a vital part of every job in the business world and also highly sought after as a skill.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s insurance, financial services, real state — it’s absolutely necessary to understand risk and to be able to evaluate that risk,” says Tomarazzo, who is also a member of Susquehanna’s Board of Trustees. “In my career as an attorney, understanding risk was one of the most important tools that I could use to provide good council to my clients.”

Learning to identify risk is a skill, Tomarazzo says, that must be learned and then developed.

“Learning to identify risks is often like a chess game,” she said. “It’s not just the risk that appears today, it’s the risk that appears in the lifecycle of what you’re analyzing.”


In addition to academics, the Advisory Council has also weighed in on the business school’s reaccreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

With the adoption of the AACSB International’s 2020 business accreditation standards came an enhanced vision of transforming business education globally for positive societal impact.

“Corporations are beginning to recognize the importance of establishing a strong foundation of connection within their workforce,” says Melanie Leech ’98 Brechka, vice president commercial, east at Glanbia Nutritionals, Flemington, New Jersey. “This connection is important not only between their employees but also within the communities they service and support.”

The Susquehanna University faculty, with input and recommendations from students and the Advisory Council, adopted the following Societal Impact goals in April 2023:

• Pedagogy in Practice: Educating our Broader Community

• Experiential Learning Projects that Benefit our Local and Global Communities

Some of the strategies the business school will use to achieve these goals will include continuing Center for Economics, Business, and Entrepreneurship Education offerings to K–12 teachers and students, educating the public at large through news articles and multimedia formats, and conducting real, hands-on projects to assist and advise partners — everywhere from local communities to international businesses.

Through real-life experiences, cross-cultural immersion, domestic and international internships, and partnerships and mentorship with alumni, Brechka says the business school is “educating students to be human and not just executives,” creating a societal impact that is “perpetual and self-generating.

“Companies that establish policies and foster environments that improve not just returns for their shareholders but also the lives of all stakeholders have demonstrated greater financial performance and success over the long term,” Brechka says. “Educating students on societal impacts and demonstrating the benefits of positive societal impacts prepares business students to become thought leaders and game changers as they depart the university and begin their careers.”

The Sigmund Weis School of Business’ Advisory Council meets twice a year, Rousu says, once during Homecoming and again during Break Through, Susquehanna’s alumni networking conference.

Gonzalez, who serves on both the accounting and entrepre-neurship subcommittees, eschews credit for the business school’s recent successes (enrollment, reaccreditation), but he also sees the value-added quotient the Advisory Council adds to equation.

“Its formation has given the administration and faculty a stable of diverse, experienced and engaged business leaders they can draw on to improve an institution we all care deeply for,” he says.

Tomarazzo calls the creation of the council a “stroke of genius.

“Being able to bring in individuals that have both the Susquehanna student experience and the applicable career experience, we can see where the gaps are,” she says. “All of us recruit and try to hire Susquehanna grads, so we know exactly what we’re looking for and what those skill sets are that we need in our business. It’s a great 360-degree circle.”


I have been a member of the Sigmund Weis School of Business Advisory Council since May 2021, and have found it to be a rewarding experience. In our Council meetings, we are often asked to think about the future: what jobs will exist in 10 years’ time, what skills will be needed by the next generation of workers, what industry trends are emerging? This encourages me to actively keep a pulse on trends in my own field, and then consider how those trends relate to current business students.

I find we are a key bridge between the job field and the business school, offering real-time insight into what a current student today would need for a business career tomorrow. And because council members represent a mix of graduation years — ranging from alumni who have graduated just a few years ago to alumni who have graduated more than 40 years ago, we bring different perspectives to each discussion.

What I enjoy most of all is getting to weigh in on ideas when they are still nascent, and then seeing those ideas come to fruition. At the beginning of 2022, our Advisory Council was asked to provide ideas for a brand-new mentoring program that the school was looking to start. The Council spent several months offering recommendations — and several of those ideas were implemented when the Sigmund Weis School of Business officially launched the mentoring program in the 2022–23 school year.

I’m excited to see where the business school is headed, and I feel fortunate that I — along with my Advisory Council members — get to play a part in shaping the future of it.

Cassie Collier ’09
Co-founder & CEO of the custom board game company Bundle
Consultant at BSR, a sustainability consulting firm