Berkeley Today Stories

Katherine Contis, Berkeley College alumnus

Alumnus of the Year Makes Lifetime Commitment to Giving Back at Starwood Capital Group

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Katherine Conits had been working her way up the ranks at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide for over 28 years before becoming the Director of Community Relations & Charitable Giving at the global real estate investment firm, Starwood Capital Group. She credits her time at Berkeley College for helping kick-start her successful career in management and corporate philanthropy.

A resident of Yonkers, NY, Ms. Conits graduated from Berkeley College’s Executive Secretarial Program in 1983, taking courses in Midtown Manhattan. “Berkeley’s curriculum provided me with the confidence and ability to hone business and leadership skills to seamlessly blend in the professional marketplace,” she said. “The mentoring I received from faculty, and company executives through Berkeley’s internship program made for an enriching experience.”

Berkeley College helped arrange Ms. Conits’ first internship with conglomerate ITT Corporation, which led to a full-time position in the Shareholder Investor Relations division upon graduating. When ITT Corporation was acquired by Starwood in 1998, Ms. Conits stayed on for a position in the hotel company’s public affairs department. In 2013, she became the Director of Community Relations & Charitable Giving at Starwood Capital Group, overseeing the investment firm’s community involvement and philanthropy. Ms. Conits also manages private Foundation giving, and mega fundraiser projects for charity events, raising millions of dollars for worthy non-profit causes.

Ms. Conits’ corporate achievements and charitable work in the non-profit community has led to her receiving 2009 New York Alumnus of the Year award from Berkeley College, as well as the “Good Gal” Award from the New York Press Photographers Association in 2010 in recognition for her community work. She also received proclamations from the Mayors of Yonkers, White Plains, Greenwich, and New York City, as well as the New York governor and other government officials, in recognition of receiving the “Good Gal” Award.

Up Close with Katherine Conits

What does success mean to you?
My definition of success is engaging in rewarding and meaningful work every day, and investing in communities for a sustainable future.

What initially inspired you to enroll in Berkeley College?
The College has strong brand recognition for business school program excellence and it offers a valuable internship program. Berkeley College celebrating 85 years is powerful testament to that!

How did Berkeley College prepare you for success?
Berkeley College’s executive internship program provided me with instant access to executives’ mentorship in the company workplace where I was assigned. The College’s advanced business curriculum also provided the necessary tools to succeed and excel as a student.

The overall valuable experiences, and in-depth knowledge gained, provided many beneficial teaching moments, which carried me through a successful corporate workforce entry. Those experiences also resulted in my becoming a contributing member of ITT and confident leader at a very young age, catapulting to high-level positions, including when I was named the Legal Transfer Agent for ITT Corporation Shareholder Services division.

In which way(s) do you see yourself being successful in the future?
I consider myself already fortunate. Throughout my 30 plus years in the corporate world, I have had many rewarding opportunities and memorable experiences to last a lifetime. Continuing to serve as a company ‘goodwill ambassador,’ developing and cultivating fruitful relationships with the non-profit community, and providing charitable grants to meaningful organizations in need is where success is measured. It’s a privilege and honor to work for industry icon and compassionate philanthropist Barry S. Sternlicht, Chairman & CEO of Starwood Capital Group and Founder of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

What was your most memorable moment at Berkeley College?
When I earned the exciting job offer lined-up at ITT after graduating from Berkeley in 1983. I completed my internship program with the Human Resources division of ITT, and was immediately hired full-time by ITT in the Shareholder Investor Relations division. To this day, I’m forever grateful to Berkeley for the curriculum and grand opportunity with the ITT internship program.

What advice would you offer today’s college bound students?
To achieve high goals, you need perseverance, thirst for knowledge, strategic thinking, and respect for others. If you can dream big, remain focused on and passionate about what you do, you can achieve rewarding, inspiring, and fruitful results. Don’t be resistant to constant change. Embrace challenges, and take on new job responsibilities for career advancement.

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