Joan Lacagnina ’88CBA Remembers Her
of the University’s most remarkable young alumnae, Joan Lacagnina
’88CBA has flourished in the field of Global Investment. As a
Director at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR), she’s
emerged as one of the company’s highest-ranking Finance executives.
And, of course, she hasn’t forgotten her St. John’s roots.
We recently caught up with Joan to talk about her role at KKR,
how her college years prepared her for the professional world and
why she so generously supports today’s students.
You’ve always been complimentary of the
University’s Career Services and how it helped prepare you for the
professional world. What stands out as some of the most important
lessons you learned?
Lacagnina: There is no doubt in my mind that were it not for the
help of Career Services, I would not have landed my first job at
Deloitte & Touche. When on-campus interviews started, I thought
I was prepared, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I learned the hard way the benefits of mock interviews and
rehearsing your answers to what now seem like basic
questions. Career Services taught me the importance of
understanding the role I was interviewing for and how to conduct
myself in a professional manner. Most importantly, however, Career
Services reminded me that the interview process was not only an
introduction of me to the company, but the company to me. It was
equally important for me to gather enough information to determine
if this was where I wanted to begin my career.
As Director at KKR, you interact on a
daily basis with other St. John’s graduates. What makes your St.
John’s connections so special and how has that bond translated
beyond college and into the business world?
My education did not come easy to me. I had to study hard for my
grades and I worked part time while I attended college. St. John’s
helped me develop a strong work ethic and an even stronger
ambition, reminding me of how fortunate and grateful I was for
everything I had. I always find these traits in the fellow alumni I
encounter in the business world, and that’s why I like to work with
You’ve graciously given not only your
resources to the University, but your free time, sponsoring and
co-hosting business etiquette seminars for students both on campus
and at the KKR offices. What do you hope students gain from that
Not long after I graduated, we started these lunches as a way to
help the students feel comfortable in situations they may not have
had much experience in, such as lunch interviews. Over the years,
our goal has evolved into something much bigger – overall
professional awareness. Social media and technology have played a
big part in how the world has evolved. It is my hope that every
student leaves our lunches knowing how to distinguish personal from
professional behavior, including how to dress, correspond and
socialize. I’m a firm believer that first impressions say
everything about a person, so I want students to feel comfortable
and confident when they start the interview process.
You created the Michael and Gloria
Stelmokas Scholarship Fund in honor of your aunt and uncle, helping
students achieve their dream of a St. John’s education. What
prompted you to establish that scholarship?
My family and my education are the two things that have made me
the person I am today. My Uncle Mike and Aunt Gloria left an
indelible mark on my life – they always stressed the importance of
education, but, more importantly, the significance of family,
open-mindedness, forgiveness and unconditional love. St. John’s
teaches those same values, so it is my honor to help someone else
achieve those same goals.
Finally, as one of our Staten Island
alumni, you can answer this better than anyone: what makes the
Staten Island campus such a unique and cherished
The “smallness” of the Staten Island campus helps foster a
family-like atmosphere. The professors and staff get to know all
the students and take a personal interest in our education and our
lives. As an Accounting major, the friends I made in my early
classes stayed with me through my senior year, and two of them are
still my best friends today. Its nice having a constant support
group throughout the years, and it is these relationships that
develop the special bond and make the Staten Island campus so