SUNY Oswego alum on grad school, Festa and his success

Former SUNY Oswego MBA student, Erison Rodriguez, took advantage of the Festa Fellowship program more than fives years ago and today, he is currently working for that company.

Rodriguez is the regional sales and marketing director for ProAct, a Pharmacy Benefit Management Company (PBM) for Kinney Drugs. He has been with the company since 2008 after receiving a Festa Fellowship.

In 2005, Rodriguez graduated from SUNY Oswego with his undergrad in marketing and began working for Coca-Cola Enterprises as the merchandising analyst, where he worked in logistics.

“It was a great job, a great paying position, and had tons of growth, but my passion and what’s always fueled me is marketing,” Rodriguez said. “At the time I was having trouble finding a position that kind of paved the way into a marketing leadership role."

Rodriguez decided to pursue his MBA and fine-tune his skills to better position himself for a marketing role.

The road to success

Rodriguez’s parents were originally from the Dominican Republic, but moved to the United States as teenagers. They valued education and wanted Rodriguez and his siblings to attend college.

“Had it not been for the internship, I probably never would have had the opportunity to even have exposure to ProAct or Kinney Drugs,” Rodriguez said. “It gave me an opportunity to really establish a relationship and create a rapport with my bosses.”
Erison Rodriguez,'09
Regional Sales and Marketing Director, ProAct

“Fundamentally, they always said the only thing they would be able to leave us as an inheritance, would be the ability to go to college,” Rodriguez said.

Originally a New York City native, Rodriguez moved to Central New York to attend SUNY Oswego for his undergrad in marketing and hasn’t left.

He finished his bachelor’s degree in three years and began a full-time position at Coca-Cola. Rodriguez was fueled by his passion for marketing and decided to return to SUNY Oswego for his MBA.

While in graduate school, Rodriguez was introduced to the Festa Graduate Leadership Fellowship. He received the fellowship and began interning with Kinney Drugs, specifically working with the health care division, ProAct, in East Syracuse.

“It’s not like a typical internship where you’re in an office and you’re folding or stapling papers,” Rodriguez said. “This actually gives the recipients real life exposure to major decisions going on in an organization."

While interning, Rodriguez had the opportunity to shadow the director of all of the non-retail operations at Kinney Drugs. After nine months of interning at ProAct, Rodriguez moved into a full-time position, applying what he learned in the classroom and the fellowship.

Beyond the classroom

Rodriguez became the program sales and marketing manager for ProAct, where he was responsible for managing the day-to-day sales and marketing operations for the ProAct Prescription Discount Card Program nationally. In 2013, he was promoted to regional sales and marketing director.

Rodriguez is currently the regional sales and marketing director at ProAct.

“My role, is that we try to expand our offerings beyond New York, New Jersey and Connecticut regions and lead the direction of our organization in a manner that helps us expand,” Rodriguez said.

While Rodriguez was in graduate school, the nation faced a recession and the job market looked bleak for college students. The Festa Fellowship opened up opportunities for him to network and create connections.

“For me (the fellowship) represented accessibility especially in the job market we were in when I graduated,” Rodriguez said. “For every one position, there were maybe 100 graduates going after it and in one specific city.”

Through the Festa Fellowship, students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience while completing their graduate degree.

“Had it not been for the internship, I probably never would have had the opportunity to even have exposure to ProAct or Kinney Drugs,” Rodriguez said. “It gave me an opportunity to really establish a relationship and create a rapport with my bosses.”

The internship helped Rodriguez apply what he had learned in the classroom, with real consumer decisions. Marketing is gaining the ability to understand what goes into a consumer decision making process and this experience allowed him to gain a better understanding of how to relate his education to his work.

“We read textbooks and do case studies, but until you actually get into a position where you have to make real-time decisions, that’s really where you see some of the things you weren’t seeing while in college,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has come a long way since he graduated with his undergrad in marketing. He followed his passion, obtained his MBA, and with the help from SUNY Oswego and the Festa family, Rodriguez has become a successful role model for students

When asked about the Festa Fellowship, Rodriguez simply said, “You make of it what you want and it can take you as far as you’re willing.”