High Rollers
TAGS: Alumni StorySpringfield

MGM Springfield is one of the largest and most ambitious economic development endeavors western New England has ever seen. The development of this resort casino, the first of its kind in western Massachusetts, has brought with it more than $1 billion in investments and thousands of jobs to Springfield and the surrounding area.

Jason Randall, MBA ’07 (left) and Keith Cosmini, MBA ’17 (right) standing outside of an MGM Springfield logo
Jason Randall, MBA ’07 (left) and Keith Cosmini, MBA ’17 (right) standing outside of MGM Springfield casino

According to MGM Springfield General Manager and AIC Board of Trustees Member Alex Dixon, “Since opening in August, MGM Springfield has partnered with local businesses and organizations to assist in enhancing the economic and cultural landscape of Springfield, Massachusetts. We are thrilled to have American International College alumni as part of the dynamic and forward-thinking team we have assembled to bring a world-class entertainment experience to the Pioneer Valley.

“MGM’s investment in Springfield did not end with the construction of our $960 million resort casino. Rather, it is just the beginning, and these AIC alumni will continue to play a vitally important part in MGM Springfield’s partnership with the city as well as our considerable contributions to the financial growth and success of the state and region.”

For Jason Randall, MBA ’07, and Keith Cosimini, MBA ’17, a pair of western Massachusetts natives and alumni of American International College’s MBA program, MGM has also offered the career opportunity of a lifetime. As members of MGM Springfield’s human resources team, Randall and Cosimini have been about as hands-on as you can get in making the MGM Springfield experience a reality.

“I never envisioned myself being someone who loved coming to work,” says Cosimini, “but today, I’m in that role. I owe a lot of it to AIC and MGM.”

While the two have a lot in common, the paths that led them to AIC, and eventually intersected at MGM Springfield, were very different.

Jason randall leaning against brick wall
Jason Randall, MBA ’07

For Jason Randall, MBA ’07, the career path to human resources was fairly direct, the positive influence he could have on the lives of others being an attractive aspect of the profession.

“What I’ve enjoyed most about working in human resources is the impact that our roles make. With our employees, it’s guiding them through their career path, supporting on personal matters, and ultimately providing the same level of service that we expect to be provided to our guests. With leadership, it’s being their guide through providing them with the support and tools necessary for them to drive success in their departments,” explains Randall.

The Granby, Massachusetts, native earned his associate’s degree from Springfield Technical Community College in 1998 and received his bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Massachusetts’ Isenberg School of Management in 2000. While starting his career as a human resources training and development supervisor at Six Flags New England, he decided to enroll in AIC’s MBA program in 2002, with its focus on accommodating working professionals being a major draw.

“I liked the flexibility that AIC’s MBA program offered, with night and weekend classes available,” says Randall. “The biggest takeaway from the AIC program has been to be honest in my feedback. I recall one class in particular that gave students the opportunity to give other students feedback on their presentations. While some pointed out only the positives of the presentations, it was the honest constructive feedback that was most valuable and I’ve always wanted my feedback to help others grow.

“Spending time with [AIC Associate Professor of Marketing] Marshall Epstein was always a hoot,” he adds. “Marshall engaged us in stimulating conversation each class, while sharing nuggets of wisdom along the way.”

Randall completed his MBA in 2007, having conducted his studies while employed by TeamStaff and Gevity HR as a benefits administrator and later Grynn & Barrett Studios, a family-owned photography business. He also launched CountryClubCritics.com, a website that assessed and rated golf courses.

In 2011, Randall was hired by the Springfield, Massachusetts-based Peter Pan Bus Lines, Inc., as its director of human resources where he stayed until 2015 when he took a similar position with Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

In May 2017, he was brought on by MGM Springfield at its director of talent acquisition, a position he was interested in largely because of the company’s vision for Springfield. “Having followed the campaigns and votes from all proposed casinos in the region, MGM showed itself to be a group that was interested in more than just putting up a casino. They wanted to integrate into downtown and be a part of the rebuilding of a once-vibrant downtown,” he explains.

“Having spent time in hospitality after college at Six Flags New England, I knew I wanted back into the field. I left my HR role at Peter Pan Bus Lines to join Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg to be exposed to hotel and food and beverage operations. It all paid off in my interviews with MGM when I could share success stories in positively impacting operations via HR initiatives in a large hospitality operation.”

Keith Cosmini sitting at table with globe
Keith Cosmini, MBA ’17

Keith Cosimini, MBA ’17, admits a career in human resources was never the plan.

Growing up in Agawam, Massachusetts, and graduating from Agawam High School in 2003, Cosimini joined the Army shortly thereafter and developed an interest in law enforcement. Originally stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, his two years of service as a military police officer included several months in Kirkuk, Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom where his responsibilities comprised training Iraqi police forces. After his honorable discharge from the military in September 2008, Cosimini stayed at Fort Riley for nearly three years, serving the Department of Defense as a civilian police officer until he returned to western Massachusetts to pursue higher education at Westfield State University.

Earning a bachelor’s degree, he continued his studies at Westfield State with a Master of Science in criminal justice in 2015, but realized his passions had shifted. “The irony of it all is when I was getting a master’s degree in criminal justice, I realized I just didn’t want to carry a gun and wear a vest every day to work,” he said.

During his master’s studies, Cosimini was a graduate assistant performing recruiting and outreach duties for Westfield State’s graduate programs. Upon completion of his degree, he carried that experience into a role at AIC as an academic advisor for the School of Education in 2015, providing student support and also assisting with the state’s accreditation review of the College’s licensure program.

Meanwhile, he enrolled in AIC’s MBA program where his professional life took another turn. This time, it was his human resources management class with Professor Bill Abrahamsen serving as inspiration.

“I never really had an inclination to become part of human resources, but it was in that class during my time in the MBA program at AIC that I found it was a really interesting field,” explains Cosimini. “I had the classic view of HR as doing the hiring and the firing and that’s it. That class really opened my eyes to all of the things that human resources does for businesses these days where they’re really a strategic partner. You have a total understanding of what’s going on from a big picture and day-to-day standpoint at really any business.”

When MGM Springfield began its hiring push in 2017, Cosimini decided to take a chance, applying for a data analyst position in the Human Resources department. He wasn’t selected, but was later offered a job as employment supervisor, officially joining MGM in October 2017.

Randall and Cosmini playing checkers

Together, Randall and Cosimini were pivotal in MGM Springfield’s grand opening.

Randall, as director of talent acquisition, was responsible for ensuring the property would be fully staffed. As employment supervisor, a role overseen by Randall, Cosimini was tasked with overseeing the process of onboarding new hires, from necessary drug and background screenings to licensure to uniform fitting and orientation.

“Basically, it involved not only keeping that train on the tracks, but also keeping it going at a pace that was acceptable so MGM could open when we planned to open in August 2018,” according to Cosimini.

On August 24, 2018, MGM Springfield hosted its long-awaited grand opening, drawing tens of thousands of people and offering an entertainment experience never before seen in the city of Springfield. “There is nothing quite like being part of an opening. There’s an excitement in being part of the team that creates a property’s culture from the beginning,” says Randall.

Both men have since taken on more responsibility and new job titles with Randall now the director of human resources and Cosimini taking on the title of labor relations partner.

For these two AIC alumni, the resort casino also represents something far greater than an entertainment venue. On the personal side, MGM has provided a unique opportunity for personal growth and has had a profound impact on the area they call home.

“I walk through here regularly and to see it from its skeletal phase to now fully staffed, fully occupied, and fully operating, and having grown up here and knowing what this area used to be and what it is now, it’s the most rewarding professional experience I’ve ever been a part of,” Cosimini says. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by the leadership here. Jason Randall and [Vice President of Human Resources] Marikate Murran gave me every opportunity to excel and grow with this company. That’s what I truly love about it. It’s all about personal and professional development at MGM and I’m a benefactor of that.”

Randall adds, “I think the greatest impact to the local community is summed up best in bringing people back to downtown Springfield. With that comes so many other impacts, like increased bus or rail passengers, support of surrounding businesses by our guests and employees, the return of large-scale entertainment acts like Stevie Wonder and Cher, and the notion that ‘something’ is happening in Springfield that you don’t want to miss.

“I’m most proud of the impact the MGM Springfield is able to make in the lives and families of our employees. Nothing will bring a smile to your face quicker than the stories from our employees on how their being hired with us has impacted them, whether they are now able to support their family without government assistance, can see a doctor for the first time in years thanks to our medical insurance benefits, or they can finally finish their degree thanks to our tuition reimbursement programs.

“I love what the future holds for the region,” he continues. “For years we’ve asked how do we keep talent in western Massachusetts. With the introduction of MGM, along with the growth of other industries and, eventually, regular east-west rail service; western Massachusetts can blossom as a region to raise your families and grow your careers.”

 

– By Chris Maza

Photos by Seth Kaye

Casino floor with card tables and games