Meet Alexandra Meise ’22, from Hopewell Junction, NY. At Bryant University, Alexandra challenged a monster—and came out on top. By mixing lessons in both business and the liberal arts, she developed a unique approach to analysis by examining the literary classic Frankenstein as a management case study, deriving insights into strategy, empathy and human nature.
Being able to take classes in both College Bryant’s College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences is a powerful advantage for college students, Alexandra says. “One of the main reasons I picked Bryant was because of the opportunity to pursue a major in one college and a minor in the other,” she states. “It's uniquely human to be able to combine the different things you love and then to develop them into something new,” she notes.
“And really,” she adds, “that's what Bryant University is all about,”
Mixing and matching
A self-described “art person,” Alexandra has a wide range of artistic interests, from literature to theatre to painting. She came to Bryant to combine her passions with a skillset that would help her find professional success and personal fulfillment.
Inspiration struck in the Global Foundations of Character and Leadership course she took during her first semester. Senior Lecturer of Social Science David Ciliberto, who became a “parent away from home” during her first year, says Alexandra, helped her to explore her place in the world and the bright future she could create for herself. “He changed the whole trajectory of what I wanted to do in college,” she states.
Ciliberto, who also teaches courses in sociology, introduced Alexandra to the idea that leaders aren’t separate from the people they manage, they’re part of a community. “It made me realize that, in a lot of ways, management was really all about philosophy,” Alexandra says. “It's about understanding people, hearing their stories and bringing them together.” She elected to major in Team and Project Management, which taught her how to connect people with one another and to organize and motivate them to do great things.
“Professor Horan wants all of her students to think for themselves and to explore new ideas. Even if it’s something completely wild and out there she wants them to see it through to wherever it might take them."
Team of Mentors
Bryant’s expert faculty helped her learn how to apply theory to the real world. Trustee Professor of Management Michael Roberto, D.B.A., using examples from a wide variety of diverse fields and experts, demonstrated how management principles and practices can be invaluable in any situation. His classes, says Alexandra, were always engaging, energetic and full of practical insight. She especially enjoyed immersing herself in Roberto’s award-winning case studies and management simulations—including a simulated climb of Mount Everest where her class was required to make life and death decisions as a team.
Lecturer of Management Robert Massoud, who leads the Team and Project Management program, offered first-hand examples of management solutions drawn from decades of professional experience. He also treated his students as young professionals, respecting their talents and holding them to a high standard. “You could see how everything he taught us was immediately applicable to what we’d be working on,” Alexandra notes.
Minors in Psychology and Professional and Creative Writing helped Alexandra to continue to explore her artistic side. She found a mentor in Lecturer of English Jennifer Horan, Ph.D., who aided her in developing her curiosity and critical analysis skills. “She’s so incredibly knowledgeable,” says Alexandra. “She makes every class that she teaches her own and she's so excited to share what she knows with her students.”
“So many of my favorite classes and projects are the ones where you get to put your own spin on things. You don't forget those projects, either, because there's a part of you in them.”
She was also an inspiration and a tireless supporter. “Professor Horan wants all of her students to think for themselves and to explore new ideas,” says Alexandra. “Even if it’s something completely wild and out there she wants them to see it through to wherever it might take them.”
Wrestling with monsters
As a member of the Bryant Honors Program, Alexandra was required to complete an Honors Thesis, a year-long project in an area of the student’s choosing that serves as a capstone for their Bryant education. This year’s thesis projects ranged from examining how accurately different types of analysis predict stock volatility to identifying the complex factors that lead to injuries in the National Football League.
For Alexandra, that freedom to explore made a world of difference. “So much of education is about being told what you have to do. For the thesis, it was about coming up with what you want to do,” she says. “So many of my favorite classes and projects are the ones where you get to put your own spin on things. You don't forget those projects, either, because there's a part of you in them.”
After discussing potential options for her Thesis with Professor Horan, Alexandra hit upon a way to combine her major with her love of literature by examining Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein through a management lens. Remembering what she’d learned from Professor Roberto, she wanted to take her studies in an unusual direction. “He was able to explore management through such a range of real-life stories,” she notes. “I began to wonder if I could do the same thing with a fictional one.”
“I chose Frankenstein for my thesis because it’s my favorite book, but you could examine almost any piece of fiction like this because almost all stories involve people working and living together."
Alexandra focused on the novel’s central relationship between a “monster” and his creator, exploring their interactions to uncover hidden lessons in management strategy, building strong teams, parenting and empathy. Professor Horan served as her advisor, encouraged her to make new connections, and validated her explorations. "By the end of the project she felt like more than a professor to me," Alexandra says. "She felt like family."
Professor of Management Lori Coakley, Ph.D., who taught Alexandra’s Organizational Management course and has done consulting work for non-profits, government agencies, small companies and Fortune 500 conglomerates around the world, became a sounding board for Alexandra to test her ideas as the Thesis’s editorial reviewer. “With everything she’s done in the professional world, she’s been a role model to me.” says Alexandra. “She helped bring structure to a project that brought together so many diverse and complicated ideas.”
Uniting the humanities with the business world may not be a common approach, says Alexandra, but it can yield rich rewards. “I chose Frankenstein for my thesis because it’s my favorite book, but you could examine almost any piece of fiction like this because almost all stories involve people working and living together,” she points out.
“Everything in philosophy comes from someone building off of a previous idea. And to me, this was a fantastic opportunity because I was able to build off other ideas and then share it with friends and family and my professors who, I hope, can continue to build off it.”
Building up success
At the conclusion of her project, Alexandra presented her thesis to the Bryant community, where it was met with resounding applause. “I was overwhelmed by all of the positive feedback that I received from professors from both the College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” she says.
But she was equally excited by the ability to share her work. “Everything in philosophy comes from someone building off of a previous idea,” Alexandra says. “And to me, this was a fantastic opportunity because I was able to build off other ideas and then share it with friends and family and my professors who, I hope, can continue to build off it.”
She found another opportunity to disseminate her findings through a popular TED Talk she gave as part of Bryant’s TEDxBryantU event, which brought together students, faculty, staff and members of the larger community to share ideas and inspire innovation. “I remember being so excited when they posted the recording of my talk on the official TEDx website and the comments were exactly the responses I would've hoped to get,” she reflects. “It was, like, ‘Oh, thank God people were interested in this and they're excited and they wanted to share it with others,’” Alexandra says with a laugh.
Everything you could want
Outside the classroom, Alexandra found other ways to mix business and art. She joined the Bryant Players, the University’s premiere theater troupe, and exercised her creative side by performing as Miss. Scarlett in Clue and as Morticia Addams in The Addams Family Musical. As a member of the Bryant University Sales Team, she helped to organize the Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition (NISC), which attracts more than 200 competitors from across the country.
Through her work with NISC, Alexandra, who became co-president of the Sales Team in her senior year, discovered a passion for event planning, a field that’s an ideal fit for her personality and the skills she’s acquired at Bryant. “It’s the perfect combination of all the things that I’ve wanted to do,” Alexandra, notes. “It's very theatrical but it requires a lot of organization and planning behind the scenes as well—the build up to the big show and the big event.”
She recently accepted a fulltime position in the field as an Operations Co-Ordinator for global tradeshow and expo company Fortem International—and she can't wait to get started. “It’s a ‘business/arts’ career,” Alexandra says. “And that’s everything I could want.”