Fredonia Enactus Chapter Earns High Honors; McNamara Feted, at National Competition

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Dr. Susan McNamara (center) was named a Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellow of the Year.
Dr. Susan McNamara (center) was named a Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellow of the Year.

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The State University of New York at Fredonia

There was no shortage of accolades bestowed upon the State University of New York at Fredonia’s Enactus team at the recent 2016 National Exposition, a competition that drew teams from over 100 private and public universities to St. Louis in mid-May. It was a fitting culmination to a banner year.

Led by School of Business Assistant Professor Susan McNamara, Fredonia advanced to the quarterfinals and was awarded a trophy as one of the top 32 Enactus programs out of over 450 from across the country. “Being in top 32 truly takes us a giant step forward because it was really competitive to get into the top 32 because you had to beat schools like Cornell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of South Florida,” Dr. McNamara explained.

Enactus is an international organization that connects student, academic and businesses leaders through entrepreneurial-based projects. Student teams showcase the collective impact of their projects which make a social, economic and environmental impact in the community. Business leaders rank them on how successful they were at using business concepts to improve the quality of life and standard of living for those in need.

Fredonia was also a finalist in another category, Uncap Opportunities for Women, for its support of women-owned businesses. That netted a plaque and $1,000 that will help fund a partnership with local Girl Scout troops and the Boys and Girls Club in Dunkirk, and also help purchase software for a local business.

In the spotlight, too, was McNamara. She was named one of two Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellows of the Year. Only two chapter advisors who have done the most to advance the entire Enactus organization are so honored each year.
“I’m inspired by students being creative and seeing their entrepreneurial actions and outcomes of their projects,” McNamara said. “When we go to competitions, it’s inspiring to see students being recognized for their accomplishments.”

Indeed, the Enactus team – following a Regional championship earned in April in Atlanta — was primed for a national stage. Its 84 members – representing 22 majors, including Business, which accounts for nearly half of the roster – gave more than 5,000 hours of service spread among 12 impactful projects.
Students helping local farmers increase revenue through online marketing, establishing a student-directed marketing agency to assist local businesses and showing an existing business how to increase website traffic and sales were among new initiatives in 2015-2016.

The exposition was a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for the Fredonia presentation team, which included first-year student Rachel Painter, juniors Luke Bartone and Becky Leichter, and seniors Mary Plum, Cora Abraham, Benjamin Soto and alternate Josh Moreno. As presenters, they highlighted the accomplishments of Fredonia projects.

Not to be overshadowed by Fredonia’s performance at nationals were the seven job offers made to Fredonia students by participating exposition businesses.
May graduate Ms. Plum, who majored in Psychology, experienced how quickly businesses can act. She had the fortune to share an informal conversation – devoted to education, data analytics and innovation labs – with the president of ADP TotalSource during lunch. Just hours later, Plum received a call from an ADP recruiter. That led to two interviews and a job offer.

For Benjamin Soto, a Management major, being at a gathering with some of the nation’s top business leaders was an awe-inspiring experience. Mr. Soto met the president of Schwann Food Company and the executive vice president and president of Supercenters – Wal-Mart U.S. “Words could not describe how amazing it was to be in a center of such powerful, influential figures,” he said.

“Being able to attend the expo gave me the opportunity to network and share project ideas with other Enactus, alumni and top executives,” said Marketing major Katie Hayes. “There is no other club in the world that exposes students to Fortune 100 executives and allows them the chance to learn about their companies directly from the people who run them.”

With her Sam Walton Fellow designation, McNamara will attend Enactus Key Club, a gathering of select students and business, academic and government leaders from around the world, in Toronto this fall. It’s an honor that McNamara said “touches my heart” because it was based on nominations from students. Several Fredonia students will join her so they, too, can learn from schools from around the world.

Enactus is continuing its work throughout the summer, helping a new business open on the Chadwick Bay Boardwalk, adding more farms to AgriMobile and developing a workforce development program with the Chautauqua County Workforce Investment Board. For more information about Enactus, contact McNamara at susan.mcnamara@fredonia.edu.