2023 Best & Brightest Business Major: Lauren McNichol, University of Pittsburgh

Lauren McNichol

University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration

“Ambitious and enthusiastic first-generation finance student continuously learning while educating women using creative approaches.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have lived in Baltimore, Buffalo, and Philadelphia suburbs and was the “new kid” at school 3 different times before the age of 14. Being the new kid really helped me develop my outgoing personality and taught me a lot about inclusivity!

Hometown: Audubon, PA

High School: Methacton High School

Major: Finance

Minor: Spanish and Economics

Favorite Business Course: My favorite course was Efficiency of Capital Markets, which is a Finance course that taught different theories and research behind the debate on if stocks include all available information in its current price. I loved getting to learn about the experimental side of finance more, along with numerous case studies that re-enforced the new knowledge. The style of class strongly encouraged participation which allowed all students to engage more. Class styles that foster conversation have always been my favorite and mixing it with an extremely relevant financial theory made it even more captivating.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Smart Woman Securities (CEO and CDO) – Smart Woman Securities is a female-focused investment portfolio that manages roughly $200K in real funds. I have served as both the CEO of the University of Pittsburgh chapter during my senior year and Chief Development Officer during my junior year after participating as an analyst during my sophomore year. The 60 analysts of this organization work together to complete economic and sector outlooks, research potential stock selections, and ultimately create a stock pitch with all of their research. We then vote to invest our funds and how we want to reweight our portfolio. As CEO, I help guide analysts through this process, manage the portfolio, lead educational workshops, facilitate guest speakers, teach financial valuation methods, and introduce members to various financial software such as Bloomberg and Capital IQ. All analysts go through a 10-week Seminar Series, where we teach about personal finance and investing topics using engaging lessons and activities.

Strong Women, Strong Girls (Financial Coordinator and Mentor) – Strong Women, Strong Girls is an organization that mentors young girls at roughly 10 elementary schools in the Pittsburgh community using a weekly curriculum with lessons and games to teach about strong females. Our goal as mentors is to empower young girls through teaching self-confidence and create impactful relationships. I also served as the financial coordinator where I handled the organizations funds, budget, transactions, and ordering of supplies to ensure smooth operations for a club of over 100 members.

Professional Development Consultant – At the University of Pittsburgh, I am a professional development consultant, which allows me to offer peer-to-peer support to students needing assistance with resumes, internships, interview prep, and anything else they might need. Throughout the week, I meet with students to offer advice where I can. As a PDC, I also serve as a teaching assistant for a course introducing transfer students into Pitt Business, which gives students the opportunity to learn about various business areas. I assist in teaching professional development topics along with making sure students feel welcomed and comfortable in a new environment.

Alpha Kappa Psi (Member) – I was a member of Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity, which allowed me to develop both my professional and soft-skills. As a member we would focus on community service, education on professional topics, and networking.

Women and Girls Foundation (Student Consultant) – Through my Certificate in Leadership and Ethics program, I had the opportunity to serve as the project manager of a student consultant team for the Women and Girls Foundation of Pittsburgh. Our group worked to develop a new business model for this non-profit organization and created numerous proposals on how to improve the financing of over $100K in yearly grants.

University of Pittsburgh CBA Budget Committee (Student Representative) – I serve as the student representative for the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration Budget Committee after being selected by the Director of Career Development. This committee has members from the budget staff, administration, and numerous professors.

Dean’s List – I have made Dean’s List every semester at the College of Business Administration.

Where have you interned during your college career?

Summer 2022: KeyBanc Capital Markets in New York City as a Corporate and Investment Banking Summer Analyst

Summer 2021: The TJX Companies in Philadelphia as a Finance and IT Intern

Summer 2020: Bryn Mawr Trust Bank in Ardmore, PA as a Retail Banking Teller Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation I will be working at Citi as a full-time Sales & Trading Analyst in the Institutional Equities Group at the Philadelphia office.

Who is your favorite business professor? My favorite business professor at Pitt Business is Audrey Murrell, who has taught many of my courses during my time in the Certificate for Leadership and Ethics program. Dr. Murrell is a Professor of Business Administration, Psychology, Public and International Affairs, and former Associate Dean for Pitt Business. Dr. Murrell taught such a unique side of business education and for that I will always appreciate her.

She has taught me the importance of being an ethical business leader and how to handle difficult issues that may be faced in the professional world. Dr. Murrell led impactful consulting projects for small businesses around the Pittsburgh community and taught about important DE&I ideas. It was amazing to see the passion she had for education, helping the community, and making connections with her students. Her courses allowed me to become a well-rounded business professional and made my experience as a business student remarkable. Her teaching has taught me many lessons about mindfulness that I know will be relevant as I move into my career. Her courses have impacted me deeply and I know this wisdom will make me a better leader. I will always carry her teachings with me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? You can learn from everyone and anything. As a business student the world of business is everywhere waiting to be explored. I learned that talking to different people from varieties of backgrounds and career paths can only add to your understanding of business. Trying new things as a business student is also so important. Through this I discovered that it is okay to change your mind about career paths, which can be an intimidating thing at first. In fact, keeping your mind and options open to anything is something extremely important. There have been internships where I realized that the job I was doing was actually not where I wanted to take my career. Using positive reframing of the situation, I made peace with the fact that everything I try that makes me realize it is not my career aspiration is only leading me closer to it. I learned that even if you are a business student who feels like they may know exactly what they want to do, being open to everything is only going to add new experiences and foundational knowledge to your life. In the end, I learned that I am the one controlling my career decisions and that the more things you explore along the way the better.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? The biggest advice I have for a student looking to major in a business-related field is to stay true to your personality. When you are comfortable with yourself and your abilities, others will notice and start to feel more comfortable being themselves too. Doing this will only make the business field a more welcoming and exciting place. Many times, students believe they have to play into a specific role based on their area of study. The saying goes that as a business leader you can either “be liked or be respected”. I believe that you can be yourself and be successful.  As a student, breaking down these concepts by being enthusiastic about what you do and making meaningful relationships is so powerful. Success is more than being good at your job. Success is being happy with yourself and feeling fulfilled by what you do.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? What surprised me most about majoring in business is the versatility and specializations that you have the opportunity to explore. Coming into Pitt Business, I was relatively unsure about where I wanted my career to end up and, honestly, I did not know many of the options. When I started learning more about the field of business, I started to realize the opportunities were endless. If you had a passion for another field or wanted to work in a specific line of business, those companies needed business people. There was so much room to work in not only a career that you were interested in – but also in an industry that you are passionate about. For example, one of my professors worked in business strategy for many years at airline companies, which he enjoyed specializing in. It surprised me because when I used to think about business, it seemed like a very clear-cut career. Pursuing a career in something you are enthusiastic about and having the opportunity to explore what your passions are is highly valuable and should be cherished. I have come to realize that you can make business anything that you want it to be.

What business leader do you admire most? Kathy Foody-Malus is the business leader that I admire most. Kathy had an extremely successful career in finance, most recently as a Senior Portfolio Manager at Freddie Mac. Now, Kathy is an Executive-in-Residence at Pitt Business and a mentor to three finance organizations, where she spends her time mentoring and advising students. Kathy’s background is very inspirational, especially as a female in the finance industry when that was still relatively uncommon. Her stories about times she had been stereotyped or excluded from important work events clearly left a lasting impact on her, with her mission in life being to “send the ladder down” for other women to get into the field. Despite all the hard times she faced, she persevered and came out even stronger. She made it her mission to make females feel more comfortable with working in finance and learning about investing. Kathy has become a mentor to me, giving me crucial advice on my career aspirations as well as assisting in portfolio management for the club Smart Woman Securities where I am the president. I admire her for being so passionate about her mission to get more females interested in the industry of finance and making sure they have opportunities as well. Kathy is a firecracker and does what it takes to make sure her mission is being carried out. I aspire to have her level of determination one day.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? My proudest academic achievement is the completion of a new Seminar Series curriculum for members of Smart Woman Securities. Smart Woman Securities is a female-focused investment portfolio that trades real funds and focuses on educating members on relevant finance topics. Before members become an analyst in the portfolio where they assist in trading funds, they complete a semester in the Seminar Series, which is a 10-week program with weekly meetings that teach about personal finance and investing.

I decided to run for CEO of Smart Woman Securities because I strongly believed that the baseline curriculum could be improved. Over the summer I spent many hours researching and completely reconstructing the 10-week program. I made 10 new lessons that were more relevant for our club. Most importantly I added an element of fun – because finance is fun! Throughout the lessons there are guessing games, group discussions, exciting examples used to convey difficult topics, and engaging activities that complement each lesson. One example is a dice rolling game that displays the importance of portfolio diversification. In the first semester that we started the new Seminar Series curriculum, we had 70 members in the program, which tripled the size of our entire club. Many women going through this program are in other major areas outside of the business school, which has given them the chance to learn about finance – something they might not have learned if not for the Seminar Series program.  All around, I am very proud of myself for creating this new curriculum and have received feedback from Seminar Series members saying how they feel more confident and comfortable with investing. I have heard that the lessons are engaging and enjoyable too. This made me incredibly happy because all along this was my goal. I felt extremely fulfilled knowing the impact I was able to make. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to spread knowledge and ensure a new generation of financial literacy.

Which classmate do you most admire? The classmate that I admire the most is Sarah Golden, a senior accounting student who is also the Chief Investment Officer of Smart Woman Securities. Sarah is extremely well-organized, always offers her support, and gives great advice. The reason I chose Sarah is because she has the calmness and reliability that a lot of people can learn from. Her mentality has always been that things will work out and that everything happens for a reason. I have learned from her that it is worthless to worry about things out of your control and that you should think out the ways you want to approach a problem that you can control. I feel lucky to have Sarah around when things in Smart Woman Securities become overwhelming. I aspire to learn from these qualities and actively display them in my life.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would most like to thank my mom for my success. As a first-generation college student, I have had opportunities that I am forever grateful for. My mom is my biggest supporter, who always pushes me to follow my dreams and encouraged me to get a college education. I am most grateful for the motivation that she instilled in me. She always taught me the meaning of education and how impactful it can be in someone’s life. For this reason, I have never taken my college education for granted and truly understand the value of it. Therefore, I made sure to push myself to take advantage of any opportunity that I can. My mom helped me select The University of Pittsburgh, did everything she could to make sure I could go to New York City for an internship, and would calm me down minutes before an interview. I could never thank her enough for the lessons she has taught me and support she has shown me.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? One of my biggest career goals is to become a professor and teach classes to college students one day. I absolutely love teaching and being in educational environments, which is a passion that I developed while creating the curriculum and teaching the Seminar Series for my club Smart Woman Securities. I have had professors at Pitt Business who after successful careers in finance decide to give back by teaching at colleges. I hope one day to have enough knowledge and career experience to share with students. Some of my favorite courses have been taught by professors like this – who truly understand the ins-and-outs of the business world.

Another item on my professional bucket list would be to work in Latin America for a period of time. At the University of Pittsburgh, I have completed a minor in Spanish, which has been one of my passions. I loved learning a new language and about a different culture. It would be a dream to work with a team from Latin America or work with clients from this area. This would be amazing, not only to develop my comprehension of the language but to work globally. I feel that it is so enriching to get this experience and would broaden my knowledge of the business world so deeply.

What are your hobbies? My hobbies include hosting themed dinner events and charcuterie boards with my friends, participating in weekly run club meetings, playing soccer and tennis, journaling daily, and playing board games. I also love reading and collecting classic books, my favorite being the Count of Monte Cristo. Every Saturday morning, my friends and I try a new breakfast spot around the Pittsburgh area and rate them each using our established criteria – we attempt to act like food critics when deliberating the ratings.

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

“There are several reasons why Lauren is an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023 and deserving of this important recognition. First, she is an outstanding student in terms her academic achievements and impact. As a Finance major with minors in both Spanish and Economics, she has also completed a unique Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE). As the only program of its kind in the United States, the CPLE offers select undergraduate business students an integrated and sustained program of study of the relationship between leadership, social responsibility, and ethics. Students receive meaningful and experience-based exposure, both inside and outside of the classroom, to better understanding ethics and leadership from diverse organizational contexts. The program curriculum is based on the assumption that an emphasis on leadership, without proper consideration of ethics, will not generate leaders who approach their roles with a sense of responsibility and accountability. By the same token, an emphasis on ethics, without proper consideration of leadership, will not produce effective leaders with the necessary tools to develop and implement their vision and commitment to ethics. This has provided the opportunities for Lauren to excel in her major and functional area of expertise, but to develop her skills as an ethical leader of impact.  You can clearly see this in her engagement outcome of the classroom and leadership roles such as Chief Development Officer and Chief Executive Officer of our first ever chapter of Smart Woman Securities (SWS).

Not only has Lauren led this important organization, but she was also one of the members of the leadership team that successfully helped restructure the organization after recently being approved as one of the few universities to be granted an SWS chapter. This chapter involves managing a real investment portfolio that assists members across the campus in developing their financial literacy and investment knowledge. Her leadership impact in shaping the within the SWS chapter is outstanding and a strong compliment to her work within the community.  For example, she has been very involved with the non-profit organization, Strong Women, Strong Girls where she serves as a mentor and business manager. Also, as a program manager for the Women and Girls Foundation, she provides advise to board members on innovative and sustainable approaches for generating revenue to support their mission. Clearly Lauren has impact not only had a lasting impact across the campus and our community, but has also expanded opportunities and pathways for the next generations of women in finance to pursue their passion while making a difference.”

Audrey J. Murrell, PhD
Professor of Business Administration
Psychology, Public and International Affairs
and former Associate Dean for Pitt Business


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