Shaping Future Leaders: Insights from RWU’s Board of Advisors

Alumni who serve on the RWU Board of Advisors visited the Bristol campus to offer advice to student leaders on how to leverage leadership roles in the workplace.

By Grace Boland
Board of Advisor panelist at the front of the room with names cards in front of them
Members of RWU's Board of Advisors, from left to right: Cindy Elder ’87, Walter Ramos ’83, Stephanie Noris ’92, and Eric Zuena ’01.

BRISTOL, R.I. – Last month, five alumni who serve on the Roger Williams University Board of Advisors met with 40 student leaders on campus to share their advice on how to succeed as leaders in the corporate world while learning from current students about the real-world education, powerful combinations, and thriving student life that RWU provides today. 

Cindy Elder ’87, Executive Director of the Barrington Land Conservation Trust; Stephanie Noris ’92, President and Founder of Norbella; Walter Ramos ’83, President and CEO of Rogerson Communities; Eric Zuena ’01, Principal and Founder of ZDS Architecture and Interiors; and Rick Daubenspeck ’85, P’17, Managing Director of Fixed Assets, BDO, participated in a panel discussion titled “Navigating Corporate Culture: Tips for Young Professionals on Leveraging Their Leadership Roles.” Organized for RWU student leaders, the event was hosted by RWU’s Center for Career and Professional Development and moderated by senior Dylan Berliner, a Finance major from Katonah, N.Y.

Members of the Board of Advisors, a volunteer leadership body comprised of RWU alumni, parents, and friends who embody the RWU spirit, serve as committed advocates for RWU's mission, students, and alumni. During their campus visit, members delved into the fabric of campus life, engaging with current initiatives and gaining insight into the pulse of student affairs. In turn, the 40 students engaging with the board at the event, who each occupy a leadership position within various clubs, Student Senate, and other campus roles, provided firsthand perspectives on their experiences at the university. 

Berliner began the discussion by asking the panelists to talk about their career journeys, including what roadblocks they hit along the way and to offer advice on how to transition their leadership roles from campus to the professional world. Other members of the Board of Advisors attending as audience members were encouraged to add to the discussion. 

Stephanie Noris ’92, a member of RWU's Board of Advisors, speaks with one of the student leader attendees.
Stephanie Noris ’92, a member of RWU's Board of Advisors, at right, speaks with one of the RWU student leaders who attended the event.

Drawing from their personal journeys, here is what they shared:

  • Ramos said that you shouldn’t shy away from the things you don’t think are your strengths. “I was always terrible at math, but if I wanted to learn how to run a company, I was going to have to do budgets and audits. I kept taking tasks that involved those skills, and I don’t think I would’ve gotten where I am today without it,” he said.

  • Using a sports analogy, Daubenspeck explained how to build a strong team in the workplace. “You have to try to identify the best position for everybody on a team. Not everyone can be the quarterback, but everyone needs to contribute to be motivated and to help the morale of the team,” he said. “If there's one person who's not motivated, they can suck life out of the team. Choose your people wisely.”

  • Speaking to how important workplace relations are, Elder said, “If you’re new to a workplace, try to go around to other departments and introduce yourself and ask them about what their department does and how your department can support them. People like to be heard,” she said.

  • “When you are newly in a leadership position, feedback is so important,” said Noris. “The times I was made aware of my behaviors have been pivotal moments in my career where I stepped back and said, ‘Wow, that has to change.’ I’m always better for it.”