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When Alexis Summit arrived on the Fordham College Rose Hill campus, she did so with an eye for photography and parents not seeing the practicality in an art degree. So she did something that would appease her artistic and creative brain as well as her parent’s valid concerns of seeing their daughter become a struggling artist in the Bronx borough of New York City. Summit majored in history. Until she noticed a poster of a familiar face at a university club fair. It was Warren Buffett.
“I grew up admiring him and listening to my parents talk about him,” Summit says of the prolific investor and philanthropist. She approached the table and learned about Smart Woman Securities, a small not-for-profit dedicated to fostering investment and financial management among undergraduate women. Summit began attending seminars and liked what she learned. “I became interested in finance and heavily involved with the club,” she recalls. Soon, she was voted to the Smart Woman Securities executive board and became a chief investment officer, leading a team of students researching and pitching stocks for a virtual portfolio.
Also, Summit changed her major.
“Becoming a finance major and transferring into the Gabelli School seemed like a no-brainer,” Summit, who is now an associate at New York City-based investment management firm, Duff & Phelps, says. “People don’t think of finance as being a creative industry. But I think, especially in the line of work I’m in now doing observation and advisory, it really gives you the opportunity to think about things from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. A lot of assumptions of what business should be are very subjective. And I think someone who is creative can find an outlet in finance.”
A B-SCHOOL OF COMPASSION
Like Summit, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business also approaches business education in a distinct and divergent way. “In addition to the core principles of a global business education, Gabelli School students come away with an understanding that producing profit and creating positive social change are not mutually exclusive,” the school’s Dean, Donna Rapaccioli says. “Our students don’t feel an obligation to change the world through business—they are inspired by that idea and excited to achieve it.”
Before students step foot on campus as freshmen, they are expected to read David Bronstein’s social entrepreneurship manifesto, How to Change the World. During orientation, students are asked by faculty members what it means to be a positive change maker in the world. “That’s where it all begins,” Aksoy says.
Gabelli’s introduction business course, The Ground Floor, is part of a two-year stage-setter for undergraduate students called Integrated Projects. The school places its 600-plus incoming freshmen into three sections. One focuses on business in Asia and includes a subsidized trip to Singapore. The other two focus on the “power of business to produce positive change in society.” Within the sections, students are placed in teams of about five and are charged to create a new business idea and business plan.
Then, during their sophomore years, those same teams are all assigned the same company and tasked with identifying the company’s most pressing threats and opportunities to create business solutions. Aksoy says the exercise covers nearly all aspects of business — and by the end, when more than 150 teams present in a competition for a “financial award,” a transformation has occurred.
“The project separates Gabelli students in the eyes of recruiters,” Aksoy says. “Whether it’s an internship or job interview, it impresses recruiters.”
STRONG EARLY CAREER NUMBERS
Indeed, Gabelli’s job reports the past two years have yielded above-average numbers. Within three months of graduation, 91% of the Class of 2015 reported taking jobs with an average salary of $64,997. What’s more, 91% of the graduating Class of 2016 reported having internships before their senior year. These numbers are somewhat surprising considering the business program’s career advising efforts received the lowest marks of all categories in the Class of 2014 alumni survey.
One reason, Aksoy says, is the recent development of Gabelli’s Personal and Professional Development (PPD) Center. Since 2014, he says, the school has significantly increased the PPD’s industry-specific advisers. Within the last year, the school hired a director of the center. “One of the issues we’re also seeing is the awareness of the services we do have,” Aksoy admits, noting the need to reach the students.
At the high end of the alumni survey was the school’s ability to nurture and develop business skills and the likelihood of alumni to recommend the school to a friend. Nurturing and improving the entire self is definitely a priority set by faculty and administration. When asked what differentiates Fordham from competitor universities, Aksoy is quick to rattle off the Jesuit principles of cura personalis, or care for the entire person; magis, which is pushing students to be the best individuals they can be; eloquentia perfecta, or how students present themselves; and homines pro aliis, which is “men and women for others.” A unique innovation stemming from this is the development of optional two-day, off-campus student retreats that the school says “allow for reflection and restoration, but with a career-development focus.”
DON’T BASE A DECISION ON RANKINGS, ‘IT’S REALLY IF YOU FEEL THE FIT AT A SCHOOL’
For Nikki de Castro, a graduate of the Class of 2014, the value of Gabelli was in its alumni network and the school’s ability to offer internship opportunities. “We wouldn’t have the jobs we have now in the city without the internships at Fordham,” Castro, who grew up in the Connecticut suburbs, says, noting a strong and loyal Fordham alumni network in New York City. The networking opportunities and specific academic program are what she advises prospective students to examine while researching schools.
“I wouldn’t base a decision on rankings, because it’s really if you feel the fit at a school,” she says. “I think every school will have a specific major but that doesn’t guarantee a job after school. That really depends on networking opportunities and what the college offers.”
No doubt, Gabelli offers an intriguing and specific fit. With class sizes around 30 to 35, the school offers a personal touch.
“New York City is the business capital of the world,” Aksoy says. “Being in New York provides opportunities for our students that other cities just can’t. The opportunities for internships and jobs–from Wall Street to Madison Avenue to Silicon Alley startups–is literally at your doorstep. And with a large, strong alumni network, there are Fordham alums in executive positions at leading companies throughout New York and around the world.”
What alumni say:
“For two semesters, I was part of the Student Managed Investment Fund, which managed over $1 million of the endowment fund. I acted as a financials sector analyst then the Chief Investment Officer of the fund. The selective class offered vast, hands-on experience, operating and making decisions in the global marketplace.” – 2014 alum
“Global Business Honors Program. In short, a group of 16 students who took core business curriculum classes together and participated in one international trip per year to learn about international businesses and foreign cultures. It was an invaluable experience which exposed me to different business strategies all over the globe and drastically changed my world view.” – 2014 alum
“I was in the service learning program and the Manresa Honors Program. In particular, the service learning program changed my perspective on the Bronx and helped me understand the borough I was living in on a deeper level.” – 2014 alum
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
JPMorgan Chase & Co.: 34
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC): 12
Ernst & Young: 12
Morgan Stanley: 7
Citigroup Inc.: 5
Grant Thornton LLP: 5
Duff & Phelps LLC: 4