From Student to CFO via Keuka College Business Management Degree Program

Keuka College's Organizational Management program gave Audra Palermo the additional skills and knowledge she needed to step into a big new role at a rapidly growing company.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

When Audra Palermo embarked on adult learning in Keuka College's Organizational Management program, she was surprised by how much she learned. After all, with 10 years of real-world experience and a position as vice president at a large national banking organization, she was hardly a newbie. But then the 2007 financial crisis hit and her position was eventually one of its casualties.

"So I made the decision to return to school," she said. "I had the experience, but I needed the education. I felt like just having that on my resume was important."

Audra enrolled in Keuka College's Adult and Online Education degree program in 2010, taking classes at a satellite location near her home in Canandaigua. She liked the way the College's adult education program was structured—the support and flexibility were just what her busy life demanded. It didn't take long for Audra to recognize and appreciate the program's many benefits.

"I went to Keuka College just because I wanted the credentials, but I got so much more—supportive teachers who have real-life experience and can help you understand the why of what you are learning because they've been there and they've done it," she said. "And I gained more skills and confidence. I can stand in front of 100 people and not have a problem because I've done it so many times in my classes. And my professors were constantly telling me 'You got this!' I could reach out to any of them outside of class and they were always there for me."

The organizational management degree program's cohort structure—which sees students take all classes together as a team—was another plus.

As an adult going back to college and working full time, it's very scary. So to have people with you who are having the same type of experience as you, it was really supportive.

Audra credits her Keuka College business education for giving her the confidence and credentials she needs to be successful in her new position: Chief Financial Officer of Canandaigua-based CareValue, Inc. The national marketing organization, which specializes in the senior healthcare insurance market, was recently ranked No. 69 on Inc. Magazine's list of the Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the New York City Metro Region. CareValue grew by 20 percent in 2020.

In stepping into the position, Audra wasn't daunted by the fact that both the CFO role and the field—operations management and insurance, respectively—were new to her.

"There was a big learning curve for me," she said. "It was scary. But I just felt like I had so much knowledge behind me, and ambition, and confidence that I could do this. I just stepped in and said, 'You know what, I've got nothing to lose, so here we go.'"

Audra felt the same about attending Keuka College and its business management degree.

I took that step and with the relationships you form with your professors and your cohort, you almost become a family. I have nothing but good things to say about Keuka College—it really helped me become who I am now.

The Keuka College-family connection will become even stronger when Audra's niece, Savannah Steed, begins attending the College this fall. And she plans to encourage her son to attend, as well.

Audra has no doubt that Keuka College will give them the confidence and skills they need to step into every new role that comes their way, just as it did for her.

Advance Your Career and Increase Your Earning Potential with a Business Degree

Keuka College’s Organizational Management Program is a business management degree for working adults. With it come the leadership and management skills you need to get ahead in today’s changing corporate landscape.

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