Scholar and Smeal student leads by example during stint as student CEO

Maddie Aiken
March 16, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Corey Pasternak never had a large leadership role before in his life — so going from “nothing” to a team of around 80 students was a “huge change,” to say the least. 

However, Pasternak, a Schreyer Honors Scholar studying finance, quickly adjusted to his role as the fall 2019 student chief executive officer (SCEO) of Penn State’s Saxbys location.

As SCEO, Pasternak dedicated his semester to the student-run experiential learning cafe, which opened in fall 2018 in the Business Building.

Six days a week, Pasternak spent his time in Saxbys working alongside team members and completing administrative tasks. As SCEO, he also traveled to the Saxbys headquarters in Philadelphia about once a month for CEO meetings. Additionally, each day Pasternak was in contact with a Saxbys coach who oversees five of the company’s cafes, including the Penn State location. 

Pasternak said the position taught him important leadership skills. Through it, he learned how to lead and discovered what type of leader he is.

“Trying to find the type of leader I am was something that was fun to experience,” Pasternak said. “I didn't even really know what to expect going into it as a leader, so that was very rewarding to gain that skill set.”

The skills Pasternak gained will apply to the remainder of his college career and life after college, he said. In contrast to more traditional work environments in which older adults tend to have leadership positions and younger adults work in beginner positions, Pasternak was given the opportunity to both run a cafe and lead his peers. 

“[Being SCEO] gives you skills that I don’t think any other internship offers in terms of responsibility you have,” he said. “You literally are running a business, and as a 20-year-old, there aren’t many companies that would give you that much power. If you have any entrepreneurial spirit in you, this is the perfect role for you.”

He added he will apply the knowledge and time management skills he gained from the opportunity to his classes in the upcoming semesters.

After being hired as the fall 2019 SCEO, Pasternak had to undergo a training process, which began in March. Pasternak completed hospitality training, barista training, kitchen training, team leadership training and CEO training to prepare for the position.

The SCEO position was a change of pace in Pasternak’s collegiate career. Instead of spending the semester attending lectures and taking tests, the junior created work schedules, filled out invoices and made drinks. Pasternak earned college credits and a wage from the job. 

Pasternak estimated that about 80-90% of his time in the cafe was spent working alongside his team to serve items like freshly brewed coffee, toast, sandwiches, and smoothies to the Penn State community.

The other 10-20% of Pasternak’s time was spent on administrative tasks. 

Jill Farina, a Penn State senior studying secondary education social studies, worked with Pasternak “almost every day” during the fall semester. As soon as the semester began, Farina said she knew Pasternak was going to be a great leader. 

“He was able to find a great balance of being the serious boss who has to get stuff done and being a goofy team member like the rest of us,” Farina said via email. “He would work on his CEO work in the café but was always ready to jump up and lend a hand when needed.”

Farina added that Pasternak had “everything down to a science” in his position by the end of the semester. 

“Even now that he is no longer CEO, he still works hard and does an amazing job leading the team whenever he is working. Corey’s leadership in the café is honestly amazing,” Farina said. “I have seen many different leaders and even been a leader of jobs/projects in my life, but Corey has been one of the best examples of leadership I have ever seen. I one day hope to be as strong of a leader as Corey has been in the café.”

Though Pasternak did not serve as the SCEO this semester, he continued working at Saxbys. He described the staff as “very close-knit” and said his time at Saxbys felt like working with his friends. 

Pasternak’s time as SCEO not only shaped his semester, but his future career plans. After he graduates, Pasternak said he hopes to pursue a managerial job. 

“This position has definitely helped me realize that I want to be in a manager role after school,” Pasternak said. “I just have such a good time leading a team and working alongside them.”

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total approximately 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses and represent 38 states and 28 countries. More than 14,000 Scholars have graduated with honors from Penn State since 1980.

Last Updated March 16, 2020