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Kean University

NY Jets VP Inspires Honors Students with Story of Courage

New York Jets VP talks into a microphone, gesturing with his hand.

A New York Jets vice president told Kean honors business students his personal story of courage, urging them to “embrace the unknown” in their lives and choose inclusivity, respect and empathy in their careers.

Jeff Fernandez, vice president of business development and ventures for the NFL team, was the featured speaker at the Management and Marketing Honors Ceremony in Hynes Hall, at which 50 students from the management, marketing and global business programs were inducted into the Sigma Beta Delta and Mu Kappa Tau honor societies.

“Leadership comes down to two things: choice and ‘the line,’ a personal mindset that you can choose to be above or below,” Fernandez said. “Make a choice to live above the line.”

He explained that business leaders with above-the-line careers foster collaboration, cooperation, respect and empathy.

Fernandez appeared at Kean as part of the University’s partnership with the Jets, which includes educational and career opportunities for students and a Jets-centric course currently offered to students in the marketing, management, communication and graphic design programs.

Fernandez urged the students to “embrace the unknown” in their lives. He explained that at the age of 28, while working on Wall Street, he was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I embraced the unknown and started writing down what I wanted to accomplish,” Fernandez said as he encouraged the students to “go old school” and write down their plans. “Only 3% of business men and women have written goals, and the other 97% work for them,” he said.

He also outlined 12 “guiding philosophies,” including “Focus on the solution, not problems,” and “There are valuable lessons in every failure.”

Senior marketing major Ericka Ambrose of Caldwell took the advice to heart.

“I do write down my goals. I actually paste them up next to my bed, so every night and every morning, I look at them,” she said. “It allows me to organize my mental checklists or my goals, whether they are professional, academic or personal. It’s important to help visualize my future.”

Kean Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Birdsell, Ph.D., also spoke, praising the students for their adaptability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have problems that have been revealed in such dark dimensions during the course of this pandemic, and we can solve them if we harness the efforts of people like you, people who think broadly and boldly, people who rise to challenges,” he said.

College of Business and Public Management Dean Jin Wang, Ph.D., told the students, “your success defines our success.

“As we celebrate your success, I encourage you to begin to think of new goals,” he said. “Where do you go next? At Kean, we say, Cougars Climb Higher. You are at the top now. How do you want to go higher?"

The students received certificates and honor society cords to wear at Commencement. Shweta Singh, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing and faculty advisor for the Kean chapter of Mu Kappa Tau, said the honor societies also hold networking events and conferences for members. 

“I don't want our students to just have this as something that they put on their resume,” she said. “We really want them to take advantage of every opportunity that this lifelong membership offers them.”

Assistant Professor Kihwan Kim, Ph.D., Kean’s faculty advisor for Sigma Beta Delta, said membership can help the students achieve their academic and professional goals.

“In the last two years, two of our members received scholarships from Sigma Beta Delta. We want more students to have these opportunities,” he said.

Members of Mu Kappa Tau have achieved a GPA of 3.25 or higher, and members of Sigma Beta Delta are in the top 20% of their class, with a typical GPA of 3.4 or higher.