Young Whitman Advisory Council Announces Leadership Change, Welcomes New Members

Joshua Fishman and Kelly Ryan Jaffe
Joshua Fishman and Kelly Ryan Jaffe

Young Whitman Advisory Council Announces Leadership Change, Welcomes New Members

The Young Whitman Advisory Council (YWAC) has a new leadership team and eight new members.

Founded in 2014, the YWAC is a diverse group of dynamic, engaged and successful professionals who represent roles and industries across the Whitman School’s majors. The primary focus of the council is to provide students with career connections and opportunities to explore, prepare for and secure rewarding positions after Commencement.

After serving as the council’s inaugural and only chair, Michael Gursha ’10 (WHIT/NEW) stepped down in May, with Joshua Fishman ’12 taking the helm. Fishman had previously served as co-vice chair, along with Nicole Walters ’07. Megan McDermott ’09, in the position of membership chair, was the fourth and final member of the original leadership team.

In line with recent changes of the YWAC bylaws, the new leadership team is now comprised of six members. Two positions — the chair and vice chair —are appointed by Whitman. Kelly Ryan Jaffe ’11, ’12 M.S. is the newly appointed vice chair. The other leadership team members are voted in by the council as chairs of the four committees: Student Engagement, Events and Programming, Communications and Membership.

The process of revising the YWAC bylaws was led by Gursha, CEO of Rookie Road, in an effort to ensure they are in line with Whitman’s strategic plan and, accordingly, frame the work of the council. This was one of many initiatives he oversaw during his tenure as chair. Beyond his contributions through the YWAC, Gursha has significantly impacted students through the provision of internships and engaging in many ways each year.

“Mike’s commitment to the YWAC and to Whitman cannot be overstated,” says Alison Kessler, Whitman’s director of alumni engagement and staff liaison to the council. “The YWAC has made significant strides under his leadership. He has always kept the big picture in mind while paying thoughtful attention to the details of leading a board. I am grateful to Mike as well as to Nicole, Megan and Josh for their countless hours and efforts to build the council’s strong foundation. I am incredibly optimistic about the council’s future with our new leadership team in place.”

As the senior brand manager for Suave at Unilever, Fishman oversees the billion-dollar brand’s strategic positioning, innovation funnel and product development. He has long been an active and engaged alumnus, giving back through service on the YWAC, as well as mentorship and placement support. He regularly engages with students both on campus and at Whitman events in New York City.

Jaffe is a New York Metro tax marketing senior manager at PwC. In this role, she drives client experience strategy and business development efforts in the New York Metro region. She has been helping Whitman students since shortly after graduating with placement support, career connections and mentorship. Orange runs deep in her family, with her mother, father and brother also being Syracuse University alumni.

“Both Kelly and Josh have achieved great success early in their careers and bring valuable experience and perspectives to their roles as YWAC leaders,” adds Kessler. “They are exemplary alumni who have stepped up time and again for our students in whatever way they are asked. We are fortunate to have the two of them, and the group of accomplished and committed committee chairs, guiding this important group of volunteer leaders of our school.”

Kora-Lynah Abelard, Maryann Akinboyewa, Oriana Fuentes, Ashley Keyes, Andrew Klajbor, Margo Konugres, Amrita Mainthia, LaQuana McNeil, Ryan Novak, Chelsea Ransom-Cooper, Alec Speckhart
From top left: Kora-Lynah Abelard, Maryann Akinboyewa, Oriana Fuentes, Ashley Keyes, Andrew Klajbor, Margo Konugres, Amrita Mainthia, LaQuana McNeil, Ryan Novak, Chelsea Ransom-Cooper and Alec Speckhart

Working with Fishman and Jaffe on the leadership team will be the four new committee chairs:

  • Student Engagement: Oriana Fuentes ’12, chief operating officer of Emptor
  • Events and Programming: Margo Konugres ’12, senior marketing consultant at IBM
  • Communications: Megan McDermott ’09, TotalSouce associate district manager at ADP (not pictured)
  • Membership: Alec Speckhart ’12, client partner at Twitter

“I am excited for the Young Whitman Advisory Council to play a critical role helping to drive meaningful engagement with our students and alumni,” says Fishman. “We’re fortunate to have an experienced and diverse council that shares their time, talent and treasure and is incredibly passionate about Syracuse University and the Whitman School. I am more than honored to lead this group.”

The eight new accomplished YWAC members who will help enhance the Whitman experience for students are:

  • Kora-Lynah Abelard ’15, associate for the Silicon Foundry
  • Maryann Akinboyewa ’15, public relations manager for The Penny Hoarder
  • Ashley Keyes ’14, senior materials program manager at Amazon Lab162
  • Andrew Klajbor ’12, manager at Deloitte Consulting
  • Amrita Mainthia ’12, director of investor relations at General Catalyst
  • LaQuana McNeil ’09, licensed real estate broker at The McNeil Group
  • Ryan Novak ’11, owner of the Chocolate Pizza Company Inc.
  • Chelsea Ransom-Cooper ’15, managing partner and financial planner at Zenith Wealth Partners