2023 Best & Brightest Business Major: Grace Oakey, Fordham University (Gabelli)

Grace Oakey

Fordham University, Gabelli School of Business

“Manhattan coffee shop lover usually found at the New York Public Library or taking walks exploring NYC architecture.”

Fun fact about yourself: One of my favorite parts about attending the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan has been living steps from Lincoln Center itself. Here I’ve been able to attend the New York Film Festival each year, including screenings of the North American premieres of The French Dispatch and White Noise, with live appearances from the likes of Wes Anderson and Cate Blanchett.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

High School: Notre Dame Preparatory School

Major: Global Finance & Business Economics

Minor: None

Favorite Business Course: Credit & Special Situations Investing

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Investment Banking Society of Fordham – President
  • Finance Society at Lincoln Center – Co-President
  • Smart Woman Securities – Chief Development Officer
  • Cunniffe Presidential Scholar (2019 – 2023)
  • Global Business Honors Program (2019 – 2023)
  • Woolworth Award
  • Dean’s List
  • Investment Banking Society of Fordham Case Competition Winner (2020)
  • Invisible Hands Deliver – Summer 2020 Delivery Volunteer, NYC
  • Cross Campus Network – Board Member

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Berkery Noyes – Investment Banking Intern, December 2019 – March 2021
  • CapM Advisors – Investment Banking Intern, March 2021 – May 2021
  • Citi – Investment Banking Summer Analyst, Summer 2021
  • Blackstone – Real Estate Private Equity Summer Analyst, Summer 2022

Where will you be working after graduation? Blackstone, Real Estate Private Equity (Asset Management) – Analyst

Who is your favorite business professor? Not only have I been in multiple classes that Professor James McCann has taught throughout my time at the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business, but I also have had the opportunity to work with him as a leader of the Finance Society at Lincoln Center the past two years and on my capstone honors thesis this year. Professor McCann takes a practical and application-driven approach in his teaching, largely contributing to what makes him such a trusted and respected source of advice for finance students year-after-year. He has played an important role in shaping my Fordham experience both inside and outside of the classroom.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? One of my largest takeaways from my school and work experiences over my four years in college centers around the importance of communication. I have learned that no matter how groundbreaking or insightful an idea one may possess, it will rarely prove possible for that idea to be fully realized without being able to properly communicate its merits to others first. For example, a candidate in a job interview could have a compelling background, which positions them as well-qualified for the role. However, this will serve the candidate no benefit if they are unable to properly relay those qualifications and communicate their aptitude both directly and indirectly to the interviewer. This same notion applies in countless other situations throughout a person’s career, whether in winning new clients or pitching management for a promotion.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? While classroom-taught knowledge and technical theory certainly serve an essential role, there also is a foundational element to a business education that can only be gained through speaking with others (especially those with years of experience). With the countless career paths a business student has open to them, this is the best way to learn exactly what options exist to pursue. It is never too early to begin connecting with people who work in roles you think you may find interesting and asking to hear more about what they do and how they got there. A single conversation has the potential to open the door to an opportunity that could frame your entire career, so seek out every chance to meet someone new, learn their story, and ask questions.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I have been most surprised by the extent to which psychology holds such a critically relevant role in the business world, whether it be in presenting yourself intelligently in an interview to receive a job offer, crafting a winning proposal to potential investors or clients, understanding the market’s view, gaining the trust of a future business partner, or negotiating a difficult deal. I have learned the great degree to which a successful business career can be traced back to the relationships an individual has cultivated. The ability to form, preserve, and strengthen these critical relationships is driven by one’s ability to understand how others think and feel, and to frame decisions with that perspective in mind.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? On a similar theme to my comment above about communication, I would have made more efforts to involve myself in opportunities for public speaking, whether in classes on campus or through external organizations in the city. Adept control of the verbal and physical aspects of delivering information to an audience, which may be unfamiliar, serves as an important skill in nearly any career or aspect of life. On a personal note, public speaking was an integral part of my work as a member of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Youth Advisory Council during my high school years. I miss this type of public speaking role and hope to identify more opportunities like it in the future!

What business leader do you admire most? As a lover of writing myself, I quickly found that Howard Marks, co-founder and co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, stood out in my mind among other business leaders whom I learned about in my classes. I’ve read several of his investor memos, which he has been publishing for more than three decades. I also read his book, The Most Important Thing Illuminated. This has greatly increased my appreciation for the way that Marks proves able to break down his views and strategies in a manner that is personal and straightforward, yet rich in its insights. Marks not only has demonstrated his penchant for investing through the decades-long success of Oaktree, but also has acted beyond this financial success to devote significant time and energy to sharing his insights through his compelling writing. This is what makes me admire him most as a business leader.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Upon receiving a diagnosis of the autoimmune neuromuscular condition juvenile dermatomyositis at nine years old, I spent a good deal of the years that followed trying one medication after another in search of relief from my symptoms—the most prominent of which was muscle weakness that, at its worst, made it difficult for me to walk farther than a quarter mile or climb more than a flight of stairs at a time. The medications, some of which were more commonly used as the treatment for certain cancers, unfortunately created abdominal issues that would necessitate a type of operation which I later learned had a 50% survival rate and which would keep me experiencing unpredictable hospitalizations in the decade following due to the original operation’s many complications.

All this is to say, I did not experience the most ordinary childhood in certain aspects, but it is from this that one of my proudest achievements emerged. Over these years, I remained focused on my schoolwork and committed to not falling behind; I used academics as a motivator to continue persevering through the medical obstacles I faced. This persistence began to evolve into the academic and career ambitions I would carry with me, the grit which would push me to the accomplishments I achieved in high school and college. And thus, while I can look back with a degree of gratitude that these medical difficulties served as a situation from which I could forge perseverance in my pre-teen years, it is equally so that I consider the way I used the circumstances I was dealt to forge the resolve to succeed in other areas of my life as an achievement.

Which classmate do you most admire? As a fellow member of the Class of 2023 Global Business Honors Program cohort, Michelle Lai has been a great friend and a trusted source of advice both inside and outside of the classroom the last four years. Hard-working, generous, and persistent in the face of challenges, Michelle has played a leading role in planning and facilitating the Gabelli School’s annual Finance Diversity & Inclusion Night, an event that convenes 100+ attendees and provides diverse students with the opportunity to hear from dozens of alumni working in finance. Through the event, valuable connections are formed, which often lead to interviews and internships down the line. It is a gathering that has certainly played an impactful role in the career foundations of numerous Gabelli School of Business students. Michelle has strongly contributed to the feeling of community I’ve experienced at Fordham, one which I am confident will continue as we launch our careers in and around the NYC area post-graduation.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? A classmate from kindergarten through high school graduation, Caroline Borja not only became a treasured friend from our many years in school together, but also a rock of support and insightful advice. Having known each other since the time we stood less than four feet tall, we have been there for each other through so many important milestones and pushed each other on through difficulties along the way. She certainly has served as a valuable force in my development into the qualities that define who I am today. Moreover, our time physically apart in different cities since the start of college has helped teach me what characterizes a true friend and molded the way I view friendships in my life.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

* Reach a scope of impact from my work that extends beyond the boundaries of the corporate world.

* Give back to my all-girls high school, Notre Dame Preparatory School, by formalizing a means to connect students with myself and other alumni who work in business in order to promote awareness of career opportunities in business fields, specifically finance, where women have been historically underrepresented.

What are your hobbies?  Outside of school and work, I enjoy reading nonfiction (a recent favorite being Behave, authored by neurobiologist Michael Sapolsky) and boxing. I also enjoy food photography as a fun, creative outlet to document everything I’ve been able to try living in NYC the past four years!

What made Grace such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“It is a pleasure to share my thoughts on Grace Oakey. I had the privilege of having Grace as a student in two finance classes. Grace is an “exceptionally talented student who strives to excel in her studies while being a mentor to so many underclassmen” proclaims James McCann, an advanced lecturer in the Finance and Business Economics department at the Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University.

Fordham’s undergrad business program is spread across two geographic locations. She is involved with student special interest clubs and alumni networking sessions on both campuses. Prior to her tenure as a managing director of the Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) she made recommendations on real estate investments. Her selection as managing director is a demonstration of her knowledge and leadership skills.

I am advising her on her final senior thesis titled: “Regional Economic Factors and Mortgage-Facilitated Homeownership Investment Within the United States”. Throughout this process I have found her to be exceptional in data research, organization and thought process in developing her conclusion.

Grace is passionate for real estate investment and understanding the complexities involved with real estate development.  In pursuing her chosen career, she has accepted a position at Blackstone Real Estate Partners as a Private Equity Analyst on the Asset Management team. I am convinced Grace will exceed her own personal goals and will have a flourishing and fulfilling career after she departs Fordham.”

James McCann
Advanced Lecturer, Finance and Business Economics
Gabelli School of Business


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.