About Us


Alex J. Plinio

Alex pic.jpg

Life & Career Planning LLC

Co-Founder - Institute for Ethical Leadership & the Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership Rutgers Business School, Newark NJ

In addition to his prior position as a faculty member of Rutgers Business School and currently as President of Life & Career Planning LLC, a consulting firm that coaches and advises students, managers and leaders on Life and Career Planning and executives and their boards on strategic planning and board development, Alex Plinio is the Co-Founder of the Institute for Ethical Leadership and the Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership at Rutgers Business School.  In these multiple capacities, Plinio coaches and mentors leaders, emerging leaders and students.  Formerly, Plinio was the President/CEO of AFS-USA, the largest nonprofit international and intercultural student exchange program in the United States doing business in 50 countries around the world.  He previously held senior executive positions at Prudential Financial in the areas of insurance, investments, financial services and public affairs and was CEO for Prudential Annuity Services, a billion dollar revenue retirement products business.  His business experience includes executive positions in marketing, operations and administration, change management and start-ups.  Plinio launched and served as President of the Prudential Foundation, a philanthropic organization known for expanding education, supporting social services and helping community-based initiatives to combat poverty.  

Plinio has served his community by founding and serving on the boards of many organizations devoted to community and economic development, youth, education and the arts. He served as Chairman of the Newark Collaboration Group and as a founding board member of the Governor's Schools of New Jersey, and nationally with Gifts in Kind Inc. and the Independent Sector. Plinio also served on the Board of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, the Corporate Advisory Groups of the Council on Foundations, the Conference Board, the United Negro College Fund, the national United Way, and the boards of the Alliance for International and Intercultural Education, the Association for International Practical Training.

As a faculty member, business leader, board member, consultant and executive coach, Plinio is frequently invited to speak at professional convenings and management retreats.  He has authored and contributed to publications including Resource Raising:  The Role of Non Cash Contributions in Corporate Philanthropy, the International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, and was a regular columnist for Fundraising Management Magazine.  Among his many honors, Plinio is the recipient of the Private Sector Initiatives Award from the President of the United States and the Rutgers Outstanding Alumnus Award.  He was honored by Thomas Edison State University with the Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, for his distinguished record of state and national service.


Melissa A. Smith


Managing Director
Life & Career Planning, LLC

Smith has spent her career leading and learning about leadership.  She began her career in Cincinnati, OH at the US Shoe Corporation where she was involved in sales, marketing, training, and operations.  In 1995, she became the National Sales Manager for the Easy Spirit Retail Stores and relocated to White Plains, NY.  Four years later she accepted the role of President of the Aerosoles Retail Stores and built a team that doubled sales and the number of store locations.  During that time, Smith counseled numerous employees at all levels on career development and growth to assist them in their professional journey. 

In 2005, Smith decided to pursue a new direction in her career and took a year and a half off to reorganize and reinvent.  Since that time, she has served as the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School, is a graduate of the Leadership Newark fellows program, the former Board Chair for The Wellness Community of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ, a former board member and Vice President of the Newark Arts Council, a former board member of the Rutgers Business School Alumni Association, and the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers.  Smith is now actively engaged in leadership and management consulting in the nonprofit sector.  In this role she has taught Ethical Leadership to thousands of Rutgers Business School Undergraduate students.  She leads multiyear leadership development programs for Emerging Leaders and Nonprofit Executives.  These programs focus on personal and professional development and have resulted in significant progress for many participants.  She regularly spends time on one-on-one coaching sessions with the participants.    Smith also serves on her town planning board and is the Chair of the Women and Family Issues Committee for the New Jersey League of Women Voters.

Smith holds a BS in Business Management and Marketing from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and received her Executive MBA from Rutgers Business School.  She also served as the Class President for the Rutgers Executive MBA program during her time as a student.

Smith loves outdoor adventure and summits mountains, hikes trails, and runs mud obstacle courses.