Victor Mullins, associate dean of the undergraduate program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, was recently informed by the United Way of Western Connecticut that Noah Alviti, a freshman finance major, was honored with the 2017 Hometown Hero Award by the United Way of Western Connecticut. He is the youngest recipient to ever be awarded this honor in an adult category.
Noah’s dedication to “giving back” to his community exemplifies the best of our Smith School student body. Dean Mullins recently interviewed Noah to find out more about his community service project. This outside-the-classroom experience, plus a dedication to academic excellence are all part part of Noah’s Smith journey and it may be an inspiration to others. It may also be the beginning of what will distinguish him during networking opportunities and job interviews.
Successful navigation of the Smith journey requires involvement with colleagues, professors, professionals, clubs, and organizations here at the Smith School, across campus and in the outside “real” world of business. Here is what students are challenged to do in each of their four years at Smith:
Freshmen: “Build Your Brand” through the SmithStart program.
Sophomores: “Pioneer Your Path” to success by focusing on an overall academic and career strategy.
Juniors:”Command Your Career” to ensure that you are well positioned for your professional journey.
Seniors: “Embrace Your Experience” with an arsenal of tools, knowledge, and networks, so that you are able to embrace your experience and celebrate your success.
Dean Mullins: Tell us what you did to be honored with the 2017 Hometown Hero Award by the United Way of Western Connecticut?
Noah: I led a complex project to construct a multi-purpose turf field in my hometown (New Fairfield, CT) in memory of a former New Fairfield High School student (“John John” Pendergast) who tragically passed way in a motor vehicle accident a few years ago. This project has been a challenging three-year journey with the key actions to highlight:
- I created this project vision when I was a 15-year-old sophomore high school student and presented this proposal to various town boards and commissions to achieve initial alignment.
- My fundraising initiatives generated over $150,000 in cash donations from hundreds of individuals and organizations as this project received no funding from the town or state. In addition, local companies and suppliers partnered with me and my board of advisors by providing equipment and labor at no cost or reduced prices as the market value of this field is over $350,000.
- An incredible amount of time and effort was invested in achieving all of the necessary town permits (Wetlands, Zoning, etc.) and board approvals (Board of Selectmen, Board of Education, Park & Recreation, etc.).
This turf field (measuring 200 feet by 100 feet) was completed in November 2017 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by hundreds of members from the community, including our current town selectmen and other officials.
Dean Mullins: What were the highlights of your experience?
Noah: There were many highlights, but I will focus on a few:
- Achieving an unanimous town vote at a Board of Selectmen meeting to approve this project. The prior First Selectman opposed this project and raised considerable political obstacles to prevent this project from occurring, but this town vote was the key political action that enabled this project to proceed.
- After spending over two years of fundraising and going through all of the town review and permitting process, the ability to physically start working on the field was a great feeling.
- I am amazed on how this project has inspired others to act and contribute as I needed the help of many to complete this project. One specific example is the actions by the turf company, LandTek, who completely surprised us during the turf installation as the installation crew worked all night to create and install a logo of “John John” Pendergast’s lacrosse jersey in the middle of our field. We had no money to create a logo and they were completely inspired by our community project as this field “has significant meaning” and gave us this incredible gift (the logo is valued at over $18,000).
- At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a complete stranger came up to me and shared that she is a psychologist and “my story of overcoming obstacles” is being shared in other towns and being used as motivation when others are facing adversity.
Dean Mullins: How/when/why did you plan this experience?
Noah: I received this “why” question many times throughout this journey. This project is based on three principles:
- Recognition of the hard work and financial investment from prior generations to build the existing fields in town.
- Desire to leave a legacy to enhance the town’s current facilities to benefit current and future generations as there is a need and desire for this turf field.
- As mentioned before, build this field in memory of a former student and lacrosse player (“John John” Pendergast) who was part of a family who constantly gave and continues to give to the community.
All seniors in my high school need to complete a community project. I wanted to do something substantial and started early in my high school career.
Dean Mullins: Has this experience helped you to clarify your professional and/or personal goal(s)?
Noah: This project was an incredible learning experience involving project management skills, financial tracking, cost minimization, communication, networking, hiring specialists such as surveyors and engineers and relying on their expertise in making decisions, tailoring my fundraising approaches to different audiences, plus many other skills that will be valuable to me at the University of Maryland and further into the future. I have seen the “good” and the “ugly” side of politics. The one key “take-away” from this project is a personal recognition that “I want to finish what I started” and to “never give up.” There were times when the obstacles seemed too great or I would encounter a string of fundraising rejections and feel that I would not be able to achieve the fundraising goal, but I am proud that I continued to battle as this field is a great accomplishment for me and the entire community.
Dean Mullins: Tell us how your experience might help you continue along the Smith journey -- Freshmen: “Build Your Brand;” Sophomores: “Pioneer Your Path;” Juniors: ”Command Your Career;” Seniors: “Embrace Your Experience.”
Noah: This experience will help very much along my Smith journey. Having this very educational and enlightening experience under my belt has enabled me to learn a lot about myself and who I am. This will help me through my freshman year of college since I already know who I am, what my core values are, and what I believe in and what is important to me, I will be able to easily build my brand. This experience has opened my eyes to what my vision is, and I will have to the ability to contrast my brand by joining clubs and organizations and enroll in classes that I am interested in and excited about. Furthermore, as I continue my involvement at the University of Maryland, I will have a head start on my own Smith journey because I have already completed a very similar journey of my own.
Dean Mullins: What advice would you give to your fellow Smith peers and community?
Noah: Never give up. Continue to fight for what you believe is right. Inspire others to join your “crusade” as there is power in numbers. I received this Hometown Hero award, but this award really belongs to everyone who stepped up and voiced their support in the town meetings, financially contributed, physically worked on the field, etc. Always be thankful and recognize the efforts of others.
Dean Mullins: What is your dream?
Noah: I am inspired that this project / my actions inspired others to “jump on-board” to contribute. One of the key principles of why I started this project was to make a difference, make things better for future generations and leave a legacy. I want to continue to build upon this theme as I witnessed the happiness, value and pride in making an impact on the lives of others when this field was finished. I want to take this approach to benefit others on a larger scale in the future.
Dean Mullins: Why are you passionate about the Smith School?
Noah: The Smith School exposes students to a wide array of leadership opportunities. On the first full day on-campus as a freshman (on a Saturday), we spent six hours together as we all “jumped on-board” together. I am gaining exposure and learning from business leaders by participating in fireside chats and playing golf with EY alumni during family weekend arranged by the Smith School. The talent, knowledge and open and friendly nature of our student population is incredible to be a part of. I just finished a week during this winter break at Leadershape which was another “eye-opening” experience where I now have 60 new friends who I worked alongside, made personal connections and who helped me learn more about myself and others. I look forward to joining a business fraternity this semester as there is so much more for me to learn and join as I have just barely scratched the surface.
To find out more about the Smith Undergraduate Program, visit: http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad