Category Archives: News & Views

Exploring Women’s Leadership: An Interview with Christine Prunier ’06, ’16G

By Madison Perrotti ’23

Christine Prunier ’06, ’16G is the chief human resources officer at KLR, as well as co-chair of the Nichols College Board of Advisors and an adjunct faculty member. Christine has worked in HR for 30 years, having climbed the corporate ladder through dedication and commitment.

Christine Scarafoni

Remarkably, Christine did not aspire to be a leader until she met her mentor. She reflects, “She was first person who believed in me. She built my confidence, took me under her wing, taught me everything I needed to know, and encouraged and answered every question I had.” There was no stopping Christine from there.

Early in her career, she “was just excited to have a seat at the table! For the first few years, I would digest the information, listen, and see how everyone interacts, who needs my support, and who I may have conflict with. By my third year, it shifted to what was right for the company (not others) and I found my voice.”

Throughout her years in the industry, she noted differences in how women and men lead. Christine states, “I have found that women often do not speak right away. They listen, they digest, they might ask questions, but they are not always the first to say they agree or disagree. Here is why: A lot of times we are very aware of other people’s perceptions. We do not want to be perceived as being overly aggressive, and that is what you will hear — if a woman voices her opinion, she is seen as aggressive while it is not the same for a man.”

Christine notes, “Men tend to not be as emotional; it is about facts and data for them. Many women are subjective, think with their heart first and then go to the head — the objective choice. Personally, I can be emotional. I had to learn what my role was, self-regulate my emotions, but also how to stand up for myself.”

As a former student and now adjunct faculty, Christine knows first-hand that at Nichols College, we are empowering the leaders of tomorrow. “It is really about what is going on in the world,” she says. “The students are engaged, raising their hands, answering questions, supplying examples because the content is relatable. We use real case studies of what is going on in the world and class work that is relevant.”

On the development of our female students, Christine admires the work of the Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) at Nichols College, as it is the building block of empowerment. She comments on how IWL helps to prepare the next generation of female leaders: “They are teaching our young women that it is okay to have conflict, it is okay to negotiate.”

Christine’s words of advice for young women are to, “First set goals. And second, know that it is not always a straight line. Know it is okay to make a mistake. Know that you are worth it, and you have a right to have a seat at that table.”

This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.

Madison is a rising junior concentrating in International Business. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she also serves on SGA (Student Government Association), is co-founder and President of the It’s On Us chapter, plays on the varsity volleyball team, and is an Admissions Ambassador at Nichols College.

Exploring Women’s Leadership: An Interview with Peter Caruso ’90

By Madison Perrotti ’23

Peter Caruso ’90 has been a financial advisor since 1992. He has had the opportunity to work with both men and women throughout his career within this competitive field. Reflecting upon these relationships, he notes that there is not enough female representation, and in fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women represent just 31% of U.S. financial advisors.

Peter Caruso

Early in his career, he notes, “I worked with one female advisor; she was a multimillion-dollar producer and did it all through hard work and just made it happen.” Peter remarks on her hard work, stating, “I really respected her and enjoyed the time spent working together on mutual clients.” At the time though, “she was a minority in the office,” now however, “in my region there are several very high-producing female advisors, which is significant progress.”

Peter believes that “women give different perspectives on situations.” In his office today, he works with a female manager who, he says, has no problem speaking up. “I have found her to be very effective. She is dedicated to managing our environment, and I have really enjoyed working with her.”

Turning to Nichols, Peter acknowledges the progress of the last few years at the College, saying, “I think what Nichols is doing with the Institute for Women’s Leadership is really important. Leadership encompasses so many things — building your confidence, building experiences with people in industry, and bringing people in and learning about experiences that cannot be taught in a classroom.”

As an experienced alumnus and member of the Board of Advisors, Peter encourages young female leaders to get involved while at Nichols. “Those connections can lead you down a path that may not have been available to you otherwise.”  He recognizes that, “It is hard work because it may be time away from hanging with friends and might involve weekends. But, it is all about being seen and making connections.”

This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.

Madison is a rising junior concentrating in International Business. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she also serves on SGA (Student Government Association), is co-founder and President of the It’s On Us chapter, plays on the varsity volleyball team, and is an Admissions Ambassador at Nichols College.

Exploring Women’s Leadership: An Interview with Stefany Mendez ’13 MBA ’16

By Victoria Palkon ’24

Stefany Mendez ’13 MBA ’16, trustee, is a procurement category manager at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, where she supports the procurement process by onboarding new vendors, negotiating contracts and managing vendor relationships. She enjoys that, “for the most part, it’s never the same. I have never done the same contract again. Sometimes I’m helping HR with something, and or I’m helping marketing with a commercial or advertisements, sometimes with real estate when I’m talking to construction companies, and sometimes I’m talking to finance about outsourcing.”

Stefany Mendez

Stefany shared how she achieved her current position. “I was a temp but after 6 months, they hired me permanently and I was promoted twice to where I am now.” One reason she believes she’s been successful at Harvard Pilgrim is her involvement. “I started going to employee resource groups and supporting their missions, helping plan events, going to the events. I was smart, passionate and a resource to people,” she says. She suggests that female professionals who want to advance and grow should, “demonstrate their commitment, be yourself, diversify your time, and be open-minded. Be open to help and approachable, it goes a long way.”

When asked her how she chose her career path, she replies, “it chose me. Many of us have no idea what we want to do or good at. I was a first-generation college student, I applied on my own, I did my financial aid on my own, I didn’t have guidance from anyone in my family because no one has ever been through this process. I was very scared about making a mistake and choosing the wrong career, and major and so I went to Nichols because business is everywhere.” About her time at Nichols, Stefany said, “I double-majored in marketing and international business, I’m multilingual and have a creative side. During my time at Nichols, I worked in IT, I was president of my class all 4 years, a research assistant, an orientation leader, and a part of the Campus Activities Board. I was involved in anything you could possibly be involved in. I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity because any type of knowledge could have helped me open some door.”

Demonstrating the power of networking, Stefany explains how “through Nichols, I got connected to three alumni, one of them had an injection molding company in Worcester. After I met with him, I sent him a thank you letter, and then he told me if I needed a job after college to let him know. I reached out to him and received a job in the finance office there. I worked supporting payroll, accounts receivable and payable, logistics, and purchasing. I was the youngest person who worked there, and I learned a lot through it. After that, I landed this job at Harvard Pilgrim.”

For Stefany, confidence is key for female leaders. “There are always moments of doubt and when I ask myself if I’m good enough, that’s true in everyone but for some reason, women, we do that to ourselves. It’s transforming little by little; we are receiving more support and the glass ceiling is being opened. There are more women in leadership positions, women are having more flexibility. I would say myself that the most challenging aspect has been overcoming the fear of failure, but if you embrace the challenge and say, ‘If I was selected for a reason, people believe in me.’ You have to give yourself pep talks as a woman leader and not stay in a negative headspace.”

Stefany is passionate about diversity and inclusion, saying, “We have to give everyone an opportunity. Your sex, culture, nationality does not define how smart you are. There is value in being diversified because of different perspectives, the opportunity for others and it is a powerful tool for success for any organization.” To get more women into leadership positions, she believes, “Companies have to have goals and educate the decision-makers… First, state the commitment, make the goal and educate the people who can impact that goal so that they are aware that they are the ones that will either make the business succeed or fail. At my company, we are talking about doing blind hiring, so you look at resumes but without the person’s name. You are just looking at the qualifications, without being guided by stereotypes.”

Stefany shares this advice for students: “Be happy. Don’t do something that won’t make you happy. Realize if you are ever in a situation that challenges you, it makes you grow. Accomplishing things, growing — is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and other women.”

This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.

Victoria is a rising sophomore concentrating in International Business with a minor in Management. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she is a member of the Nichols varsity tennis team and is active in her community. She works part-time in a nursing home and in the Conant Library on campus. She is honored to be a research assistant on this project and is looking forward to continuing her education at Nichols College.