Adelphi alumni are change makers, healthcare professionals, industry innovators and inspiring leaders who are all similar in one way: They were inspired by their experiences in the University's classrooms. Five leaders explain how their career paths were shaped.
Irene Quarshie ’98: A Learning Environment That Challenged Assumptions
As a first-generation American growing up near Washington, D.C., Irene Quarshie ’98 wanted to escape the steady diet of politics both in her hometown and at home. When she got to Adelphi, she decided to become a computer science major.
There was one snag. Her attempt to escape politics met its match in the classroom.
“I wasn’t a really strong math student and it wasn’t something that I was passionate about,” Quarshie said. “But when I took Professor Wilson’s [Hugh A. Wilson, PhD, now professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science] class about race and politics, and I could see issues from all sides and understand how policy shapes and impacts the world, that became much more of an intriguing path.”
She relented and became a political science major.
Quarshie said what she appreciated about Dr. Wilson’s class was the diversity of opinions. “It was a learning environment where you got to push the envelope, challenge assumptions, and be open to others’ values and points of view. It was an ideal setting.”
She was also a member of the dance team, another opportunity to form a deeper connection with the school and students.
After graduation, Quarshie earned a Master of Public Policy from American University, eventually going on to spend five years as a strategy and management consultant and three years in the government affairs industry. A former boss invited her to interview for a job at Target in Minnesota, and she’s been there for 14 years, currently serving as a vice president in Target Corporation’s global supply chain and logistics organization.
Her connections to Adelphi remain strong. She’s a member of the President’s Advisory Council, invited by her former classmate Maggie Yoon Grafer ’99, MA ’08, chief of staff and associate vice president of external relations.
“For those of us who attended Adelphi, we’ve got this close-knit circle,” Quarshie said. “Some of my closest friends today are the friends I’ve made there. I absolutely want to stay connected.”
This link includes giving—she recently established a scholarship in her name for dance students.
Omar Grant ’03: Lessons With Real-World Applications
Omar Grant ’03, one of Adelphi’s 2012 10 Under 10, is co-president of Roc Nation’s record label, tasked with boosting the talent roster while developing strategies for current signed artists.
Grant always knew he wanted music in his life. Though his career is in a creative industry, he said that without his business degree from Adelphi, he wouldn’t have progressed as far.
When he was choosing a college, he was attracted to Adelphi’s campus size and the business program, which he thought would be a good foundation for whatever he decided to do. He credits Adelphi with instilling a “go get it” attitude in him early on, as he juggled classes and DJ and other music jobs in the city.
“Every business class was eye-opening to me, especially marketing,” said Grant. “There was a course where we had to start a mock business from the ground up in teams, and those skills I still take with me.”
His work schedule limited involvement on campus, but he did write music articles for the school newspaper, The Delphian, including one on Jay-Z, who later founded Roc Nation.
Grant was still a first-year student when he landed his first internship at Columbia Records. From there, his career skyrocketed. After graduating from Adelphi, he was the road manager for Destiny’s Child, after which he became the creative director of urban A&R (artists and repertoire) for the EMI Group Limited. From there, he became senior director of A&R at Epic Records before joining Roc Nation.
He said the business and marketing classes he took at Adelphi prepared him well. “I think having a business degree gives me a leg up on competition—the A&Rs who haven’t had that college experience that I had,” Grant said. “Having a strong background in business in this field is huge. I think also having that life experience goes hand in hand, and when you have both of those things together, you’re unstoppable.
Sam-Young Chwe ’05: A Work Ethic Fostered by Professors Yields Growth
As a teenager, Sam-Young Chwe ’05 worked as a manager in a restaurant in Franklin Square, New York, to help support his family. His work ethic at such a young age impressed a customer, a news marketing executive, who encouraged him to become an accountant and CPA. After Nassau Community College, Chwe transferred to Adelphi “because I didn’t want an enormous campus, and I felt that I could get more hands-on learning from the professors at Adelphi.”
Chwe made the right calculation. “One of the professors I loved was Dr. Simon Yang in accounting. He worked with me because he knew I had a busy schedule outside of school and that I’m kind of a geek with math, so I didn’t have to study as much.”
At the time, Chwe was a restaurant manager working about 60 hours a week while earning his business degree with a major in accounting. He said that Adelphi’s flexibility and variety of courses enabled him to manage both responsibilities.
He also appreciated his professors’ professional experiences.
“Some of them had experiences in public accounting or knew about the Big Four [accounting firms], so the background they offered on what to experience was key,” Chwe said. “This information is what helped me to succeed beyond my basic accounting classes.”
At that time, he became one of a few Adelphi students to get picked to intern at KPMG. He was hired after graduation and stayed there through 2010, making manager a little over four years ahead of the normal timeline. From there, he moved to Catholic Health Services of Long Island and advanced to corporate controller for the system. In 2018, he was provided an operational role at St. Francis Hospital, where he has since received two promotions and, as of April 2020, is now chief operating officer and senior vice president finance.
“The foundation constructed at Adelphi is one of the keys to my success,” said Chwe.
Kevin Mawae, MA ’06: Football Star and Class Role Model
At first, enrolling in Adelphi’s Master of Arts in Sport Management program was a matter of convenience for Kevin Mawae, MA ’06. The New York Jets All-Pro center was living a few blocks away from campus. He knew he wanted to prepare for life after football and he decided the diverse course offerings, which included compliance, would give him a good education.
What he didn’t think about was that at age 35, his classmates, who were a decade younger, would see him as a role model. For some of them, he had signed autographs after Jets practices years before.
“I was the nontraditional student in the classroom in more ways than one,” said Mawae, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019. “My classmates asked me why I would need to come back for graduate school. I told them because, at the end of the day, football ends and then real life has to start. For them to see a guy like me who was very successful on the field be very successful in the classroom—hopefully it inspired them.”
One of the courses Mawae said stood out was facilities management. “I really enjoyed understanding what goes into building athletic sites. It was a really hands-on class.” Mawae earned his MA in 2006 with a 4.0 GPA and received the Jack Foley Award as the most accomplished student in sport management. He continued to lead by example, pursuing a major role within the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). After serving as the Jets’ player representative for six years, he was elected NFLPA president—the voice for nearly 1,700 players—in 2008 and reelected in 2010. He helped reach a collective bargaining agreement in 2011.
Reflecting on the benefit of his Adelphi education during those intense NFL negotiations, Mawae, who retired from football after the 2009 season, said, “My master’s degree gave me credibility. When I stood in front of the microphones and talked, guys would say, ‘He’s not a dumb jock. He’s very educated.’ I think that helped me set a good example for younger players.”
These days, he’s back at college, but not in the classroom. He’s the offensive analyst for the Arizona State University football program.
Nikki Kateman ’10: Found Her Voice in Poli-Sci Classes
Like many college students, Nikki Kateman ’10, a member of the 2019 10 Under 10, entered Adelphi with preset ideas about what she was going to do. In high school, she was interested in theater. But a Rolling Stone article her father shared about the 2000 election sparked her interest in current events and feminism. That catalyst was further ignited when she attended an open house at Adelphi. There she met Traci Levy, PhD, currently associate professor in the Department of Political Science.
“Her passion for the department and clearly for her students stood out for me,” said Kateman, who is the political communications director of the Local 338 Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Just the initial conversation I had with her that day made me realize this is the place I wanted to be, and if all the professors were like her, then clearly my education was going to be exactly what I hoped it would be.” She became a political science major and gender studies minor. Her plan was to go to law school and become an entertainment attorney so she could work for a record label.
“Unfortunately, the economy collapsed, and that plan didn’t seem sustainable anymore,” she said. “More importantly, through my college courses I also realized that fighting for social and economic justice mattered so much more to me—both personally and in the grand scheme of the world.”
Kateman said her Adelphi professors are some of the most supportive people she’s ever met.
“And 10 years later, I still keep in touch with almost all of them, not just because of how much I learned from them, but also because of what truly great human beings they are,” Kateman said. “They really invest themselves in their students.”
She credits this network of professors, as well as classmates, for continuing to provide professional guidance. “I think one of the best things I can say is that as a naturally outgoing and argumentative person, Adelphi gave me the confidence to speak up and really say what I believed in the classroom. I never had a professor dismiss anything I had to say. This gave me a confidence that I carry with me now and helped me find my voice that I have in my professional life.”