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Beyond High Street on Smash Notes

Beyond High Street podcast.

March 12, 2020

For anyone that has spent time on campus, the podcast name won’t need any explanation. But for others, High Street is that one red brick street uptown, our hub in town. Forbes even just ranked Oxford, Ohio as the best college town in the nation.

Since graduating more than 20 years ago, I have always wondered what it is – what’s the commonality of all Miami students. We were willing to venture into the farmland and into the corn stalks of southwest Ohio, we left major cities to study and live in a tiny, rural community for 4 years and for some, even more.

I’ll say this - whatever it is - it drives us. It’s why Miami consistently ranks in the top 5 in the country in producing Fortune 500 CEOs and CMOs and It’s why you have seen Miami names on the executive leaderboard at Instagram, twitter and other emerging global brands. The list of Entrepreneurs, business heads, community leaders, media executives and authors is endless, it even includes a former United States President and Super Bowl winning quarterback.

I am going to have weekly conversations with these alum and dig into their current experiences and what drove them to Miami and how Miami helped them turn that drive into tangible success.

Episodes with Smash Notes

Andrea Saia is a Miami University alum, member of the school’s Business Advisory Council and a must-listen. She has had a wealth of business success yet she credits the most important decision and job to her first at Proctor & Gamble – learning the consumer and satisfying the customer need. It’s this statement that has guided much of her career. We jump from business challenges (like a product recall as a company CEO) to the power of mentorship and paying forward. Andrea shares plenty of tips for college-age and others in the work force, especially about getting a job in sales or marketing to learn about the customer journey.

Thank you Andrea for the time. Your continued commitment to Miami is fantastic and our conversation re-focused my attention to the customer journey. See you all at Skipper’s real soon.


Megan Fischer is the CEO and Founder at Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, a non-profit donating more than 175,000 diapers to needy families monthly (serving more than 3,500 babies). We have a great discussion about filtering out areas of “no-interest” to ultimately get you to the passions that drive your every day. From her Pre-Med major to Journalism and from textbook publishing work to non-profit, each of these paths had a reason for Megan, and that windy road narrowed especially during her second pregnancy. Five years into Sweet Cheeks and she is still the only full-time employee – it’s an incredible testament to her work ethic and willingness to do whatever it takes. Please donate diapers here.


Eric Lange is a Critics Choice nominee (Escape at Dannemora), 20-year+ professional actor and he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Miami. He has appeared in dozens (and dozens) of television shows, feature films, Broadway and brand ads; most notably as villain Stuart Radzinksy in LOST and Erwin Sikowitz in Victorious (as my kids remind me often). Our conversation bounces from ‘learning how to learn’ and how he would spend time at Miami if he could do it all over again to understanding and capitalizing on knowing you are and the confidence that comes with. He remembers his time at Miami fondly and the program, peers and professors that helped guide his way. If you get a chance, read his 2015 Miami University College of Creative Arts commencement address here.


Kurt Donnell is a President of Freestar, one of the fastest growing private business in the States and a self-professed deal junkie. He comes from a full Miami family – parents, brother, sister and uncle. That’s right. All Miamians. As an accounting major, turned lawyer,  turned entrepreneur, Kurt credits his entrepreneurial spirit to growing up in Ohio and living in-and-around small business owners. We discuss curiosity and the thirst to learn; understanding customer service and how people are motivated; and the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone. He’s navigated a business career taking on challenges and focusing on his passions. He continues to thrive.


Kevyn Adams is the real deal and he has also come full circle in life. A Miami student-athlete and alum, a merger, Stanley Cup winner, business man and now, a father of a Miami student living in the same dorm he did 20+ years ago. As you’ll hear, the journey wasn’t straight and certainly not easy. But grit, perseverance, putting your work every day helped push him forward. You need to back it up and earn everything. They are more than mottos, they are a way of life that he learned as a student-athlete and hockey player at Miami. It’s a wide ranging pod from the impact Miami has on the NHL, to what he did when he had the Stanley Cup for a day to putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, learning and working with good people.


Spence Stiles oversees Stryker’s Joint Replacement, Trauma, Extremities and Spine business. But the title doesn’t do him justice. He is laser focused on helping people get healthier, developing leaders and giving back. We spend a lot of time in the pod talking about the power of Miami and what it meant to him personally and with the 70 plus alumni that are working today at Stryker. He is passionate about being fully present in what you do, taking risks and adventures, finding a passion and chasing what matters. I am thankful that our dear mutual friend and fellow Miami alum John Heinrichs connected the dots. The Miami network continues to thrive.


Katie Quinn is a video creator, host and soon to be Harper Collins published author….and as you hear in her own words, quite quirky.  She thinks there’s a story to be told everywhere, especially in the connection between food and people. Our conversation jumps from balancing her brain’s quirkiness and entrepreneurial spirit to figuring out what she wanted to do in life via a process of elimination. Her path from Miami to London isn’t a straight line but as you will hear, it’s with purpose and always advancing….including a side hustle internship that accelerated her career. As a creator, she shares her passion of building a community and how to take advantage of the digital age. And like many, she got her first job because of a Miami professor.


Johnny Sirpilla is a fast, new friend. His story from the days in the accountancy program at Miami and becoming a Miami Merger, to working for, running and ultimately selling and IPO’ing a business are fascinating, touching and meaningful. As he says in the conversation, life will be hard but it will be OK is not only a lesson for students but for himself and everyone listening (including me!). He shares the challenges and tragedies in detail but also how to recover and keep a positive outlook on family, community, life. His current business endeavor Encourage is centered around making a difference in the areas of healthy living, leadership and adoption. Words cannot describe the depth of the chat, so simply press play.


Maria Casey is the CEO and Founder of BUHO, the first sustainable e-commerce hub offering ethical, sustainable and vintage products for women, men, kids and home. She is a fascinating woman and a great storyteller. We swiftly move in the pod from starting a business at Miami to entering the peace corps in Bangladesh. We then jump to her time as a bartender in New York and how that job changed her life and business career. It's a can't miss episode (Maria is also the only person who has ever told me how working at Bagel n Deli helped shape how she thinks about business and puts it into practice).


Melissa Pawlowicz is a multi-talented commercial lead at the Kellogg Company. She has been with the business for nearly 17 years, gone through many roles and continually evolves, learns and thrives. We examine the differences between working for a brand and agency life, where she first began her career. Like many, the relationships from young-to-old have helped her succeed in life. We also explore the good 'ole days in Oxford and what the University means to Melissa.


Matt Kamienski, the Executive Director of The Presidents Cup, is now in countdown mode. The world’s greatest golfers will descend onto Melbourne, Australia at Royal Melbourne Country Club for the bi-annual event in December. Kamienski’s golf business career is twenty-years strong but little known fact, he started as a pre-med major at Miami. Relationships, mentors and learning guided him down the alt-path and he has been thriving ever since. The conversation details what it’s like to move his family around the world every few years, how he learns and the special time at Miami. He pays great tribute to Bill Davidge. Bill is a great man and a mentor of mine in Oxford too.


Marc Rubin is Dean of the Farmer Business School at Miami, and after 29 years educating students, retirement awaits next spring. We started our conversation by going back to the Fall of 1971 when he showed up on campus without any technology, not even an adding calculator (that happened two years later!). He shares a wonderful story about his mentor and former accountancy Dean Harry Lyle and how years after listening, learning and admiring him, he was the Dean and sitting at Harry’s old desk. Dean Rubin talks a lot of modeling, learning and the need to constantly learn (he does so via historical books). Thanks for helping all students at Miami prosper. Well done.