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Student learns importance of networking through $5,000 Promise Prize award

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Student presents award to another student

Olivia Hettman, a junior History major, learned about the power of networking, as she was honored with the $5,000 Promise Prize annual award on May 2. Besides the cash, the students selected for the prestigious award become part of a network established by the prize’s sponsor, the Change Create Transform Foundation.

The foundation, and Promise Prize award, was created by Vikki Pryor to honor her grandmother Marie Nesbitt, who was a great-granddaughter of slaves and held jobs ranging from domestic worker to welder.

“I’m really, really thrilled and ecstatic about the opportunity to participate in the Change Create Transform Foundation,” said Hettman. “I’m really grateful for Vikki Pryor, and that she based it off her grandmother. Knowing what her grandmother’s family went through, and to honor her and be inspired by her, is a really awesome thing to do.”

The Promise Prize is awarded each year to a black entrepreneurship or business student with the following traits: academic excellence (high GPA), leadership, scholarship, initiative, service and entrepreneurship. Montclair State is one of less than a dozen colleges/universities in the U.S. with the award.

Hettman received the award May 2 during the BulbHead Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs contest, which attracted nearly 300 attendees. The 2017 winner, Kishawn Jean-Pierre, spoke briefly before presenting the award to Hettman. Jean-Pierre shared an anecdote about how Pryor gave him advice last summer, during an annual summit for Promise Prize scholars, that led him to shoot higher when deciding on his career path after college. Jean-Pierre followed the advice, and will be working for KPMG after graduating in May.

The story had an impact on Hettman, making her realize the power of the Promise Prize network.

“I thought it was an exciting opportunity, being able to network with somebody, like Vikki, who cares so much about other people, and helping others,” said Hettman. “To see that he was able to take the gift he was given, and turn it into a position at the place he’s going to, shows this was a blessing for him, and could be also for me. I think it’s really cool how he took the experience of this and ran with it; he didn’t just let it go.”

Female student speaks during the ceremony, with male student behind her.
Olivia Hettman speaks during the ceremony, with Kishawn Jean-Pierre behind her.

Hettman also completed the Feliciano Center’s Certificate of Entrepreneurship this semester, and took classes with some of the students who were pitching in the BulbHead Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs contest. Hettman said it was an added joy to see her classmates participating in the contest, and then later on see some of them on stage as winners.

Hettman has a 3.68 GPA, and has exhibited leadership through a variety of positions. She was a Student Government Association senator, and then elected to be President Pro Tempore at County College of Morris, which she attended before transferring to Montclair State. She has been Vice President of New Social Engine and Secretary of the Fashion Club at CCM. At Montclair State, she has earned the Leadership Development Certification and is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. She has done all of this while also holding down part-time jobs.

After volunteering at a homeless shelter, Hettman set a career goal to start an organization or fund that will invest in nonprofits that help the homeless.

Photo of hundreds of people in the crowd.
A big crowd attended the ceremony.

Past winners of the Promise Prize are:

  • 2014: Alanda Alexandre, who has two degrees from Montclair State, a Business Administration degree with concentrations in Finance and Management, and an MBA degree;
  • 2015 winner: Dana LaCondre-Nugent who has a Master’s and Bachelor’s in Accounting from Montclair State.
  • 2016 winner: Stanley Fils, who majored in Justice Studies at Montclair State and then obtained an MBA degree from the university
  • 2017 winner: Kishawn Jean-Pierre, who is now a senior accounting major.
Crowd of people with Olivia Hettman in center.
Olivia Hettman, center, with, from left: Sharon Waters, Dennis Bone, Mariah Mayers, Stanley Fils (2016 winner), Kishawn Jean-Pierre, Agatha Jeffers, Devon Johnson.

The 2018 selection committee included staff from the Feliciano School of Business: Agatha Jeffers, Accounting professor; Devon Johnson, Marketing professor; Mariah Mayers, assistant director of Career Services; Hermann Sintim, Finance professor; and Sharon Waters, program manager of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship.