Communication and Leadership Alumni Stories

With this degree students will have a wide variety of career opportunities. This is demonstrated through the diverse jobs occupied by our alum and through the 3 concentrations: Organizational Leadership, Managing the Not for Profit Organization and Integrated Marketing Communication

Husssam AlMukhtarHussam AlMukhtar
Integrated Marketing Communication
Marketing Operations Manager, Grand Rounds Inc.

Hussam recently moved from Buffalo to San Francisco to lead the growth efforts at Grand Rounds, a healthcare technology startup, as the Head of Marketing Intelligence and Operations. He is responsible for building and maintaining a viable marketing and sales technology stacks, as well as designing prediction and attribution models. Grand Rounds is disrupting the healthcare industry, and changing the way millions of people deal with physicians. Grand Rounds rely on technology, connectivity, and Big Data to provide its services. 

The Communication & Leadership program prepared Hussam for his marketing career through the various Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) courses and Capstone Research. He believes that the research papers he read ultimately mounted to be the best conceptual knowledge he took away from his college career.

Julie Berrigan
Managing Not-for-Profit Organizations
Executive Director, Mount St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation

Julie Berrigan, class of 2013, is the Executive Director at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation. Previously she was the Capital Campaign Coordinator and Development Associate at The Park School where she was responsible for managing the capital campaign as well as the planned giving program. She also coordinated regional alumni events. Prior to working at The Park School, Julie was Director of Development and Marketing at Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center overseeing annual giving, corporate sponsorships, grant writing, special events and all print media and social communications.  Before Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Berrigan spent nine years doing development work for Elmwood Franklin School and Hamilton College. She is a board member of the WNY Association of Fundraising Professionals and a graduate of Leadership Buffalo and the Harvard Business School Club Non-Profit Management Program.

Robert BevilacquaRobert Bevilacqua
Integrated Marketing Communication
Assistant Manager, Sports Marketing at New Era

Bob Bevilacqua, class of 2011, has both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Communication from Canisius College.  Currently, Bevilacqua is an Assistant Manager of Sports Marketing at New Era. Previously, he was an Account Supervisor with the advertising agency FCB Global in Chicago, IL., Prior to becoming Account Supervisor, Bob was an Account Executive where his role consists of project management and managing client relationships, with a focus on digital and mobile initiatives.  He started his advertising career in 2011 at Crispin Porter + Bogusky (Miami, FL), Ad Age's Agency of the Decade (2000-2010) and advanced in his department before moving on to FCB.  While at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Bevilacqua worked on a Super Bowl commercial and multiple national advertising campaigns for brands such as MetLife and Kraft (A.1.).

On what stands out from his time at Canisius, Bevilacqua notes it was far and away the faculty:  "I was really fortunate to have a handful of professors to really look out for & push me, and their efforts helped propel me into the workforce with a decided headstart.  The individual attention Canisius students receive in this program is a great advantage."

Marcia Gruber-PageMarcia Gruber-Page
Organizational Leadership
VP Oncology Services, Univ Arizona Cancer Center/Dignity Health

Marcia Gruber-Page, class of 2006, is the VP of Oncology Services at University of Arizona Cancer Center. During her entire career in healthcare, regardless of the setting, there have been two recurring themes - the desire for more communication and the importance of strategic leadership.  All healthcare leaders have seen this repeatedly in Staff Satisfaction Surveys which often reveal the perception that communication is inadequate and that staff lack faith in their managers.  A few years ago when Gruber-page was speaking with her staff about those Satisfaction Survey results, she realized that it was not "more" communication they wanted, but "relevant and meaningful" communication. And they wanted that communication to come from their manager and not from the rumor mill.  At the same time that they were analyzing the results of the survey, she was searching for a master's program that focused on leadership and business.   Gruber-Page has two other master's degrees and did not feel that either provided the knowledge for the direction that her career was heading.  As she went through the various options offered by the local universities and colleges, the Canisius Communication & Leadership program caught her attention because it appeared to have a useful blend of business, research, leadership and communication courses.  After she met with the former Program Director, it seemed that this program would allow her to acquire the missing knowledge and skills that she desired to support her career growth. For Gruber-Page, the Leadership courses were extremely helpful, specifically with regard to developing insight into your own style, strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Those courses gave Gruber-Page great ideas for how to develop the communication and leadership skills of those who reported to her.

Erin HarveyErin Harvey
Integrated Marketing Communication
Senior Marketing Associate, Women and Children’s Hospital Buffalo

Erin Harvey, class of 2013, is a Senior Marketing Associate at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo. Prior to working at Women & Children’s Hospital, Harvey spent three years as the Marketing Director at Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham & Coppola LLC. She is very involved in the community, having served a three year term as Community Relations Officer of the Board of Directors of Danceability, Inc., holding membership in the YNPN Greater Buffalo (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network) and actively volunteering at the SPCA of Erie County.  Harvey was named one of Buffalo Business First’s 30 Under 30 on the rise leaders in WNY in 2012.

Mark HjalmarsonMark Hjalmarson
Organizational Leadership
Technology Product Manager-VP Digital Workspace Services, M&T Bank

Mark Hjalmarson, class of 2006, is a Systems Manager – Architecture, Technical Support and Analysis at M&T Bank in Buffalo, NY. Hjalmarson has had almost 20 years of IT experience, and finds that his most valuable asset is the ability to communicate with all levels of employees where he works. Hjalmarson feels that he would not be a successful IT manager without this skill set.

Hjalmarson is now in his second year of teaching Systems Analysis and Design at the University at Buffalo – School of Management. Last spring this was offered only as an undergraduate course, but this year he received an appointment to teach the same course at the graduate level.  Hjalmarson's experience in the M.S. Communication & Leadership curriculum provided him with the foundational aspects required to perform valid research on the subject material for this course.

Jeffrey IrwinJeffrey Irwin
Organizational Leadership
Executive Director, Epilepsy Association of WNY

Jeffrey Irwin, class of 2009, graduated from the Communication & Leadership program with a concentration in Organizational Communication. Irwin has worked in the not-for-profit sector for more than 20 years and is now the Executive Director at the Epilepsy Association of WNY. Irwin has also been an adjunct professor for several years in the undergraduate communication studies program at Canisius. Currently, he is working on his PhD in Leadership and Policy, writing a dissertation about how humor impacts credibility and influence within the context of organizational leadership.

One aspect of the program that Irwin valued were the relationships that he formed with both faculty and students. During his time at Canisius, Irwin also assisted Dr. Melissa Wanzer with writing a research article that was published in a Communication Journal.

JoAnna JacobJoAnna Jacob
Managing Not-for-Profit Organizations
Director of Community Engagement, American Cancer Society

JoAnna Jacob, class of 2013, has both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Communication from Canisius College. As a graduate student, she received a dual concentration in both Organizational Leadership and Managing Not-for-Profits. Jacob started at the American Cancer Society in 2011 and has advanced in leadership roles several times in her career there. In 2013, she was promoted from the Regional Manager of Coaches vs. Cancer to the Director of Community Engagement. In her current position Jacob leads the greater Buffalo, NY market in ensuring the maximization of community assets to advance the mission of the Society. She is currently a member of Leadership Buffalo (’13), the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.

Karen LemischakKaren Lemischak
Integrated Marketing Communication
Associate Marketing Manager, Fisher-Price

Karen Lemischak, class of 2011, is a Senior Marketing Associate at Fisher-Price. Lemischak began her days at Fisher-Price as a Marketing Intern while also working as the Graduate Assistant in the M.S. Communication & Leadership program. In her current position, Lemischak works on the Global Brand Team to help create baby toys, which involves daily communication to drive product development for one of the largest businesses in the company's portfolio.

Rita MarkleRita Markle
Organizational Leadership
Chief Learning Officer, Performance Management Partners, Inc.

Rita Markle is the Chief Learning Officer at Performance Management Partners Inc., a talent management firm based in Upstate New York. The firm helps clients make better people decisions by aligning their people practices with their business strategies to improve bottom-line performance.  Performance Management Partners is a business partner with BlessingWhite, a global research and consulting firm dedicated to creating sustainable high-performance organizations. Our services include employee engagement surveys, talent assessments, executive coaching, succession planning, team building, leadership development, career transition and executive search.  Clients represent all industry sectors on a national and global basis, with significant experience in Healthcare, Financial Services, Manufacturing and Higher Education.

Markle has over 20 years of senior management experience in both large and small companies, including a Fortune 500 company.  She is an experienced leadership and organizational development professional with an ability to develop and implement performance strategies to help organizations reach business and performance goals. Markle has been an advocate of emotional intelligence as a manager, consultant, and coach. This allows her to connect with clients and understand their business and people needs on a deeper level. She is certified in programs from BlessingWhite, Ken Blanchard Companies, and Development Dimensions International (DDI).  In addition, she is qualified to administer a wide variety of behavioral assessment tools.

Markle holds a Bachelors of Science in Business, Management and Economics with a minor in Organizational Development from SUNY-Empire State College.  She also holds a Masters of Science in Organizational Communication and Development from Canisius College.  Rita is a Leadership Buffalo Class of 2000 graduate.  She is a member of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Organizational Development Network of WNY. Rita is also on the Leadership Buffalo Board.     

LaTashia MartinLaTashia Martin
Organizational Leadership
Self-Employed Corporate Career Coach

LaTashia Martin, Class of 2006, joined Sodexo in Buffalo, NY, as Training Program Developer in April 2008. Sodexo provides integrated food and facilities management services for institutions across North America. LaTashia’s responsibilities include the design and implementation of training programs for financial services. These programs present organizational information as well as instruction on how to properly use the financial systems. LaTahsia’s experiences in the C&L program were “extremely valuable,” and helped prepare her to succeed at Sodexo, through valued courses like Personal Leadership and Communication Technology.

Kathryn McGuireKathryn McGuire
Managing Not-for-Profits
Federal Human Capital Analyst, Deloitte Consulting

Kate McGuire, class of 2014, is a Federal Human Capital Analyst at Deloitte Consulting, a global professional services firm. McGuire's position involves consulting in the Federal Health sector, specifically with the National Institutes of Health. Her main focus is on crafting strategic communications to achieve engagement and change. Some of her client work has included crafting communication materials for a global strategic revisioning campaign, designing an immersive online training for new hires and creating tools to enable change management and technology adoption.

Within Deloitte Consulting, McGuire also does pro bono work with rebranding and strategic communications consulting for a national nonprofit leader in the sexual assault awareness movement.

While at Canisius, McGuire was the Graduate Assistant for the Communication & Leadership program, assisting the director with a wide variety of marketing initiatives to promote the program to prospective students.

Cecily RodriguezCecily Rodriguez
Organizational Leadership
Principal, Shift Happens LLC

Cecily Rodriguez has spent two decades in Corporate America so she knows it well. Well enough to know she can have more impact on it from the outside than in. In 2015, she co-founded Shift Happens, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in organizational development services for small businesses such as leadership development, team building, training and facilitation.

Rodriguez graduated in 2011 with her MS in Communication and Leadership. She recommends Canisius to those who value a quality education, hands-on experience they can apply immediately and of course -- flexibility. She also always mentions the relationships. Canisius classes are small so you get to know your classmates and professors. She says, “These relationships are invaluable to me.” They help her with everything from job searches and event planning to sourcing panel speakers.

At Canisius, Rodriguez learned theory and leadership and learned to apply those lessons to her own life. When she needed support as a woman trying to advance her career, Rodriguez co-founded Women on the Rise of Buffalo. When she wanted to do more public speaking, she earned a spot to speak at the inaugural TEDx BuffaloWomen conference. Rodriguez credits Canisius with giving her the knowledge and confidence to pursue those opportunities. And she’s just getting started.

Mary Jo RehakMary Jo Rehak
Organizational Leadership
Annual Leadership Giving Officer, Univ at Buffalo

Mary Jo Rehak, class of 2014, is an Annual Leadership Gift Officer at the University at Buffalo. Prior to her current position, Rehak worked at Erie Community College as Alumni Coordinator for more than eight years where she cultivated relationships while developing and overseeing fundraising events with alumni, corporate partners, board members, faculty, staff and friends. In September 2014 she took on a new role as Annual Giving Officer at UB’s College of Arts and Sciences. In her current position she is responsible for managing the Julian Park Society which is the College’s annual leadership giving society, and soliciting and stewarding donors who give between $1,000 and $25,000 level.

Lisa RoyLisa Roy
Organizational Leadership
Senior Development Manager, Junior Achievement of Western New York

Lisa M. Roy, Class of 2001, is Director, Investor Relations for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is made up of “local businesses, working together, for growth in our region,” and “advocates, every day, for an improved business climate in the WNY region.” Lisa’s responsibilities at the Partnership involve managing the Investor Relations team within the membership department, “with goals to attract, involve and retain member investment, sponsorship and regional stewardship.” The C&L program helped Lisa develop “knowledge and awareness of important communication skills such as running an effective meeting, team building, delivering effective evaluations,” and gave her the skills needed to play an “instrumental role in departmental reorganization” at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Heather StammlerHeather Stammler
Organizational Leadership
Governance and Planning US/C Operations Manager, Rich Products Corporation

Heather M. Stammler, Class of 2007, currently works for Rich Products as Manager of Governance and Planning US/C Operations. Prior to that Heather worked as the Manager of Change Control where she was responsible for leading “effective and efficient plant changes” for the north region of North American manufacturing operations for Rich Products. She supervised the implementation of all change initiatives, ensuring necessary changes were made to minimize risk and financial impact to Rich Products and their customers. The C&L program prepared Heather by providing “endless tools on the most effective ways to lead people and communicate with all levels of the corporation,” making it her most valuable educational experience.

Read more about Heather here:

Irma TyszkoIrma Tyszko
Organizational Leadership
System Manager Talent Acquisition, Bryant & Stratton College

Irma Tyszko, class of 2014, is a Sr. Recruiter at Fisher-Price in East Aurora.  She is responsible for managing the full life cycle recruiting for Engineering, Accounting, Marketing Communications, Customer Service, and Consumer Services. Tyszko's typical duties include interviewing, conducting new hire orientation, attending career fairs, and assisting with AAP, EEO, and diversity initiatives. This involves a high level of interaction with managers within the organization as well as communication with individuals from all walks of life.  Each day is filled with tasks, challenges, and problems that require immediate attention.

Tyszko credits the Communication and Leadership program for not only enhancing her skills but further developing them in a way that she can communicate effectively and respond to these issues with tact and diplomacy.  The degree has given her the knowledge, tools, and confidence to think critically, make intelligent decisions, while communicating effectively.

Tyszko enjoyed the small class size, collaborative projects, and the support/understanding of the professors and advisors.  The program and in particular the Capstone project was incredibly challenging, especially when you already work full-time, and have a family.  However, each and every class kept you interested and built on the next until you were ready and prepared for the final capstone project.  The feeling of achievement that you receive when you present your research project has no comparison.

Susan WasSusan Was
Organizational Leadership
Director of Human Resources, Curbell Medical

Congratulations to Susan, who was named BNHRA's HR Professional of the Year!

Susan Was (Anderson), Class of 2006, was previously the Talent Acquisition Manager for Curbell Inc. and has recently been promoted to Human Resources Business Partner. She joined Curbell in Sept. 2007, taking on the responsibilities of providing talent acquisition services to Curbell, Inc., Curbell Electronics, Inc. and Curbell Plastics, Inc. In addition, Susan is responsible for “cold calling, networking, sourcing, relationship building and managing the full life cycle for 15 [Curbell] locations throughout the U.S.” The C&L program prepared Susan for her role by providing the skills to “effectively network, communicate and persuade” in the workplace.

Sample Positions and Employers

Below are examples of positions our alum have worked in and employers they have worked for.

  • Job Titles
    • Development Specialist
    • Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
    • Director of Digital Marketing
    • Senior Marketing Associate
    • Corporate Recruiter
    • Human Resources Manager
  • Employers
    • Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
    • Various Colleges and Universities
    • Ingram Micro
    • M&T Bank
    • Merrill Lynch
    • Rich Products Corporation