Organization to establish local business links

by Amanda Sandlin

Students are in the process of helping to establish a Collegiate Chamber of Commerce on campus, beginning in December, to build networking opportunities with businesses in the area.

Dean John Farrell, director of the Center for the Development of Leadership Skills (CDLS), and Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, are the founding members.

Students helping to start the organization are seniors Matt Cardia, Rajesh Yerramilli, Veronica Mao, Kelly Jasion and Paul Racioppi. Matt Nissen, a graduate student working on his MBA, is also involved.

Farrell, an active member in the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Chamber’s education and work force development committee.  He said that he was looking for students who would step up to the plate and help start the group.

“The Chamber of Commerce expressed an interest in getting colleges involved in a regional program,” Farrell said.

He said there will be “separate chapters throughout the region.”

Some other schools involved include The College of New Jersey and Mercer County Community College.

“We look to leaders on campus,” Farrell said. 

He added that many of the students went through CDLS in order to become a part of the founding team.

Cardia, a finance major, emphasized establishing connections.

“We want to build a network, like a link, between us current students and the business people in the greater community of Mercer County,” he said.

Yerramilli, an accounting and computer systems information double major, said he wants to help students make connections within the area.

“I think the bigger thing we were focusing on is that once people graduate, they tend to move out of the state,” Yerramilli said. “More people tend to leave the county also, so by the Chamber of Commerce, we’re trying to help people stay in the area and help the economy of the county grow. We’re encouraging people not to leave the area because there are a lot of good companies around here.”

But the organization is not just for business majors. The program will benefit people coming from every background and with any study focus, the members said.

Cardia added that in this day and age, “it’s not just about what you know, but who you know.”

Farrell said that being a member of the group would be a way to connect with business leaders in the world. Members could have access to such people through the chamber. This would lead to greater opportunities for employment after graduation.

Siekerka said that this would be a dynamic and exceptional opportunity for Rider students.

“This is a great offer for us to promote the up-and-coming workforce,” she said.

The chamber will hold various activities. Yerramilli said there will likely be a community service event and another type of assembly to bring together chapters from other schools.

“Again, the emphasis is on connecting the Rider community to the outside world,” Cardia said.

Members will be required to be active in the organization.  They will be expected to attend regular meetings, participate in events and help fulfill the organization’s goals.

“This isn’t the kind of thing where you just sit back and take in,” Cardia said. “It’s more of a two-way, really proactive organization.”

Farrell and the students agreed that the motto of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce — “Get connected. Get results” — sums up what the organization hopes to accomplish on campus.

Students from all majors are free to contact any of the founding members or visit the Chamber’s Web site at

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