Business owners and C-Suite executives look to Forbes magazine for in-depth insights. When Proven Media Solutions founder and business columnist Dustin Siggins ’08 began writing for the magazine’s website, he looked to former PSU classmates to provide critical perspectives. His recent Forbes articles feature a health and wellness entrepreneur, an international tech marketer, and a self-made millionaire CEO. All three started out far removed from their impressive present-day roles, and PSU was where they were welcomed with open doors of opportunity.
“I didn’t feel isolated at Plymouth State,” says Dr. Kingsley Kabari ’08, founder and CEO of an expansive health and wellness operation in upstate New York. A Nigerian refugee whose native language is Ogoni, Kabari immigrated to Manchester, NH, as a teenager. “I was a member of PSU’s Diversity Club and there were other students from all over the world. We created a lot of programs for the school and it was fun, and I felt like I belonged.”
Staff and faculty often make a difference for individual students, and Kabari credits former Associate Director of Admissions David McBride for helping him enroll. He came to PSU as an artist and was nurtured by Professor Catherine Amidon, then head of the Art Department. “She helped tremendously with my PSU experience,” he says.
“I was mentored by all of my professors,” says Kabari. “They helped instill confidence in me on my academic journey. For me, Plymouth wasn’t the ‘middle of nowhere’ but the ‘middle of where to learn.’ There were less distractions and it was a good environment for me to focus on my studies.”
Today, he’s busy growing the Kabari Wellness Institute, which features his chiropractic office, a full gym with classes, and a rental service to other health and wellness providers including mental health counselors, massage therapists, and even a wellness med spa run by Kabari’s wife.
Hailing from remote Pittsburg, NH, Samantha Kenney ’08 might not have predicted her current title of vice president of global marketing for software provider Akumina. Her LinkedIn profile celebrates her roots: “Samantha grew up in a small corner of New England, where the local moose outnumber the human population. Raised by her hard-working parents, Samantha learned the true definition of tough work, grit, and exactly how much money it takes to fund a college education.”
Kenney’s background sets her apart, and one CEO she met wanted to know all about Pittsburg. “He just couldn’t get it,” she recalls.
At PSU, she was a full-time student who also edited the Clock and waitressed full-time. She dreamed of a journalism career until faculty connections resulted in her inclusion at a major Coös County symposium. “That was pivotal,” says Kenney, who, when introducing herself to other attendees, gave emotional remarks about downsizing in the logging industry. She suddenly went from being a college senior with uncertain prospects to one fielding friendly inquiries about jobs. Prominent state officials befriended her and helped set her on her current path.
PSU provided a bridge to Kenney’s career. “Absolutely, no question,” she says. “I wouldn’t have known any of the people who were in the business community and have had the opportunity otherwise.”
Entrepreneur investor Lee Rashkin ’09 is a self-made millionaire and former CEO of Presby Environmental / Presby Plastics. Based in the small town of Whitefield, NH, the company specializes in onsite wastewater treatment system solutions. Under Rashkin’s leadership, it grew from a regional entity to having operations in over 30 states and 14 countries.
After growing up in the North Country, Rashkin entered Plymouth State as a nonmatriculated student. “High school was not a smooth ride,” he admits, but he thrived in PSU’s supportive and intellectually challenging environment as a member of the Delta Mu Delta business honor society.
Looking back, Rashkin singles out several influential faculty members, including Samuel Brickley, who teaches business and criminal justice courses, and John Boncheff, who sharpened Rashkin’s critical thinking skills. Rashkin had been interested in law school but changed course after consulting with Professor Peter Yunich, who convinced him to first give Presby Environmental a shot.
“The access to professors at Plymouth State is significant, and they all want to do their best for students,” says Rashkin. “They meet you more than halfway and will actually give you more back than you give in because they’re looking for students who are hungry.”
Like Kenney and Rashkin, Siggins grew up in the North Country and, like all of the alums he’s interviewed, Siggins counts himself among PSU’s many beneficiaries. “I was able to get a quality, practical, and affordable education that gave me the financial flexibility I needed to become a journalist and then a business owner,” says Siggins. “What I didn’t realize as a student was that going to a small school wasn’t the disadvantage it seemed. I hope that by putting Lee, Kingsley, and Samantha next to business heavyweights like Mark Cuban, today’s students will see a big future coming from the small school.”
Read Siggins’s Forbes articles featuring Kabari, Kenney, and Rashkin, which are also posted to Zenger News.