Alumnus Spotlight: Mike Kauffman used real world experience to find career

Ever wonder what your future has in store for you? How you will look back at your time spent here? These are the questions that former science and marketing major Mike Kauffman wondered back in 1984 when he was 22 years old.

"As a kid … I wanted to be a dentist," he said. "As a teenager, I wanted to write for Sports Illustrated." So how did Kauffman go from dentist/journalist to the general manager of Rochester's Eastview Mall?

Kauffman said that, like most of us just beginning our careers, he didn't necessarily have a clear plan. He began working at a different mall as a temp for a marketing director on maternity leave. He later moved into management positions at various malls around New York. After gaining experience and knowledge, he was eventually able to open Rotterdam Square in Schenectady and Wilton Mall in Saratoga during the late 1990s. He later moved to Chicago where he opened another mall, finally coming to Eastview Mall when he heard it was undergoing a planned expansion.

Today, he said, "I oversee the operations of Eastview Mall including marketing, security, maintenance, housekeeping, customer service and tenant relations," adding, "I am also responsible for preparation and oversight of the property budget." It's a lot to handle, but Kauffman said the job has its perks. "I enjoy working with people; I also like to find solutions to problems and issues that arise that are beneficial to everyone involved."

When reminiscing about the earlier parts of his career, Kauffman remembered the major question college students ask: Where do you start? Kauffman advised leveraging anything that gets you real-world experience.

"I did an internship my senior year with the Rochester Chamber of Commerce," he said. "During that time I did some market research at the Rochester area malls. Through the internship I met the president of the management company that managed several upstate New York malls." Kauffman recalled life after Geneseo as being somewhat challenging, and said that it was an adjustment to move from college life to "the more structured business world." He said he wasn't even aware that his eventual field of work existed until after he graduated, so he admitted that it did take some time to understand what the job entailed. "I'm glad I stumbled upon it though," he said.

Kauffman said his experiences have shown him that success and happiness depend on one's ability to connect with others and to just go with the flow.

Finally, Kauffman gave a few words of wisdom to graduating seniors: "Three things," he said. "First, volunteer your time to a cause that interests or motivates you. You are all very accomplished, so help someone less fortunate. Second, work on your interpersonal skills. In many ways they are more important than how smart you are. And finally, be happy and content with whatever path in life you take."