CEO Kyle Karnes Reflects on SAI's Past Year
Dear SAI Alumni & Friends,
Greetings from Ithaca and Happy New Year! I hope that this update finds you happy, healthy and enjoying a great start to the new year.
As the students return to class tomorrow and our new team of managers settle into their new roles, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts on our 2016 accomplishments and plans for 2017.
While 2016 was an extremely challenging year, it was also a transformative year for SAI. In particular, 2016 marked the design, build-out, and fall opening of the new eHub space. Along with its on-campus sister space in Kennedy Hall, the 10,000 sq.ft. eHub Collegetown space now occupies the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Student Agencies’ building at 409 College Avenue and has quickly become the epicenter of student business and entrepreneurship activities at Cornell, as well as the new SAI office.
Many individuals, including Michael Karangelen (’90), David Lesser (‘87), and Dan Kathan (’71), played key roles in the success of the project as did the SAI leadership team; who, as the team on the ground in Ithaca, spent countless hours making on-site decisions and resolving project issues in support of the Construction Manager and contractors. In addition, under the very capable leadership of our 2016 President, Madeline Lieber (’17), the SAI team also deftly managed two temporary SAI office moves during the build-out with no interruption to SAI’s operations and took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade SAI’s technologies to a new completely wireless and cloud-based platform. I could not be more proud of Madi, our 2016 CTO, Chaz Byrnes (’18), and the entire SAI student and professional staff for the job they did in helping to get the eHub project over the finish line while simultaneously ensuring SAI business continuity and making lasting improvements to SAI’s operations during the transition.
It wasn’t all about eHub in 2016, though. While supporting the eHub project, the SAI team also skillfully balanced and pursued a number of critical organizational and agency initiatives. Some examples of these initiatives included overseeing the planning, testing and successful deployment of a new Salesforce-based front- and back-end system for Big Red, reestablishing the Cornell Store as a sales channel for TakeNote, quarterbacking Hired Hand’s successful NYSDOT safety audit, and renegotiating new contracts with the University and our printing vendor for The Cornellian. And, to top it all off, when the dust settled on the year, the 2016 team delivered the best operating performance in years, with virtually every agency significantly outperforming their budget!
With last year in the books, though, we have now turned our attention to 2017 and are looking to build on the successes of 2016 in order to further strengthen the organization while continuing to provide the experiential learning experiences to our students that are so special and unique to SAI. Of course, that starts with the President, and I am happy to report that we have another great one for 2017. Luke Bushner (’18) was a General Manager for BRSS last year and brings to the table not only a great attitude and a tremendous amount of experience with Big Red; but, given all of the changes in 2016, also an insider’s knowledge of where and how we can build on our momentum coming in to the year.
While you will hear more from Luke directly, some of the initiatives that we will be focusing on include identifying and evaluating businesses that could be acquired or launched and added to the SAI portfolio, leveraging the new eHub traffic in the building to introduce new value-added front desk services, identifying and making the investments necessary to establish a stronger operating base upon which Hired Hand’s recent growth can be supported and accelerated, continuing to enhance and improve the new technology platform for Big Red, and re-establishing TakeNote as a student staple now that we are back in the Cornell Store and integrated into its digital course material system. In addition, now that we are fully integrated into eHub, we will have a strong focus on cross-fertilizing and collaborating with the eLab teams and other student business and entrepreneurship groups that share the space with SAI.
In closing, I would simply say that Student Agencies is in a great place. We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish, and we are excited to build on our momentum by strengthening and growing our operations, allowing us to extend our experiential learning mission to even more students. By doing so, we honor everyone who has come before us and ensure that future generations of Cornellians will have the opportunity to benefit from the unique and powerful experience that comes with being a part of Student Agencies.
Thank you for your time. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any thoughts or ideas to share; or if you just want to say hello. I welcome all input and look forward to continuing to make a direct connection with as many alumni and friends of Student Agencies as possible.
Kyle Karnes ('91)
Student Agencies, Inc.