2023 Best & Brightest Business Major: Maddy Whirledge, University of Illinois (Gies)

Maddy Whirledge

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Gies College of Business

“Ironically not British: I like tea, corgis, Harry Potter and my name is Madeleine Windsor.”

Fun fact about yourself: I got to be a kid scientist on the Late Show with David Letterman!

Hometown: Naperville, IL

High School: Naperville Central High School

Major: Accountancy and Finance

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: FIN 463 – Investment Banking

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Prime Mergers & Acquisitions (Analyst, Associate, Executive Board Member, Vice President, President)

Margolis Market Information Lab (Assistant Fellow, Senior Fellow)

Gies Scholar Executive Board (Mentorship Chair)

Phi Chi Theta Professional Business Fraternity (Service Chair Committee Member, Senior Board Member)

CS 105 – Intro Computing: Non-Tech (Course Assistant)

Investment Banking Academy

Illini Dancesport

Investment Portfolio Organization

Women In Finance Academy

Awards and Honors:

Gies Scholar

James Scholar

Dean’s List Recipient

Stanley C. Golder Academy and Seminar Member

Children of Veterans Tuition Scholarship Recipient

Where have you interned during your college career?

Crowe LLC – Chicago, IL; Summer Financial Services Consultant

Perella Weinberg Partners – Chicago, IL; Summer Investment Banking Analyst

CIVC Partners – Virtual; Private Equity Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Perella Weinberg Partners – Investment Banking Analyst

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The biggest lesson I’ve learned while studying business at Gies is how important it is to live with intention. At Gies, we are constantly saying “Business on Purpose”, and when I first arrived as a freshman, I had no idea what that meant. However, throughout my undergraduate career, I have come to realize that this saying implies so much more than just figuring out what career you want to pursue or even what your individual purpose in life should be. Business on Purpose is a saying that reminds every Gies student and staff member to live with direction and a goal in mind. Through every class and conversation, it is important to act with intention and understand that every opportunity can be a chance to learn. Sometimes putting yourself into unfamiliar situations can be the most valuable learning experiences. However, while knowledge alone is a privilege, it cannot change the world. We must each do more and intentionally take meaningful steps to incite positive change. Together, with purpose, we can accomplish amazing things.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? One piece of advice I would give to any prospective student looking to study business would be to not be afraid to take a different path from your peers. College is a time of transition and change, and it’s often difficult not to get swept up in the need to constantly compare yourself to others. However, it is important to understand that everyone is on their own timeline, and you should not compare your journey or process to anyone else’s. There are so many different ways to achieve personal success and it is okay to explore all your options and paths before deciding what is best for you. Trust yourself and the process and know that you will get to where you are meant to be in the end. And once you get there, don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you along the way and pass it forward by giving back!

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? The one thing that has surprised me the most about studying business, specifically at Gies, is how collaborative the students are. I came into the business school with the mindset that it was going to be an incredibly cut-throat environment where each student focused solely on themselves, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite being in such a competitive field, the students are incredibly supportive of each other and constantly root for one another to reach their goals. Gies fosters an incredibly tight-knit, collaborative community that is an excellent academic environment. Every time I’ve walked into the Business Instructional Facility, I am immediately surrounded by laughter and conversation. Throughout every opportunity I was given there have been incredible people to support me, and I would not be where I am today without them.

What business leader do you admire most? There are countless inspiring business leaders in the world today, but the one I most admire is Dr. Devi Shetty. Dr. Shetty is known for revolutionizing social entrepreneurship through the medical tourism industry. He sought to not only generate economic value at the bottom line, but to also improve society. He did this by offering specialized surgeries at a fraction of the traditional cost to patients who were not typically able to afford tertiary care. Dr. Shetty found ways to ensure that the level and quality of care remained the same for his patients despite cutting numerous costs in location and hospital design. His goal was to create more accessible and affordable healthcare for all while providing the most amount of good for as many people as possible. Dr. Shetty embodies countless positive qualities that I hope to exemplify as my own career progresses, and I have immense respect for him.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? The one extracurricular achievement I am most proud of is serving as the president of Prime Mergers & Acquisitions and expanding the program to be more inclusive and diverse. This organization is something I have been dedicated to since my very first semester on campus, and it is the reason I chose to start my career in investment banking after graduation.

Prime is an organization geared toward helping undergraduate freshmen and sophomores explore investment banking as a career and decide whether or not they want to pursue it. As a woman going into a heavily male-dominated field, I am often aware of how little visible representation there is. When I first joined Prime as a freshman, there were perhaps a total of six women in the organization. For that reason, I am all the prouder to have been trusted with this responsibility and help break the glass ceiling for other women who want to push themselves. My goal coming into college has been to be an example and inspire others by leading and being a force for change. Prime has allowed me to not only grow as a student, teacher, and leader but also as a person in countless ways. If I have been able to impact just one student in a positive manner, then it has all been worthwhile.

Which classmate do you most admire? I have had the chance to make incredible friends here at Gies and am lucky to have surrounded myself with such amazing people. However, one who really stands out is Sarah Abraham. As a fellow member of the Gies Scholars program, I was fortunate enough to meet Sarah before I even stepped onto campus. First, she is not only extremely intelligent but also an incredibly hard worker. I admire her because she is the student willing to speak up when the room is quiet and asks questions others are too afraid to voice. While these qualities are already admirable on their own, I most admire Sarah for the way that she positively affects those around her.

Sarah is always looking for ways to help others and be a better version of herself, and she pushes me to do the same. Her dedication to others is inspiring, and she has been a mentor to countless students through her extracurricular commitments. She exemplifies the values of a top-tier Gies student by leading with empathy, integrity, and purpose. Sarah has been an incredible friend, and I have so much respect for her. I cannot wait to see where life takes her and I’m excited to watch her succeed wherever she goes.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? The one person I would most like to thank for my success is my sister. Throughout every phase of my life, she has been there to support me and help me navigate the various challenges I have faced. No matter what goal I set for myself – whether it was professional, academic, or personal – my sister has encouraged me to be the best version of myself and reach for the stars. She is brilliant and creative and has been a mentor and my best friend through it all. I cannot truly express how grateful I am in words and how lucky I am to have her in my life, but I’m confident she knows.

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

  1. The first item on my professional bucket list would be to work abroad. In several of my business courses we’ve discussed how differently business is conducted across the world. I would love to broaden my horizons and immerse myself in different cultures by eventually working internationally.
  2. I would also love to come back and teach in an academic setting. Teaching has become a huge part of my undergraduate career and I have really grown to enjoy it. One day I would love to give back and share what I’ve learned in my career with future students.

What are your hobbies? I love dancing, singing, reading fictional novels, playing board games, binge-watching crime TV shows and failing trivia nights with my friends.

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

“As the instructor of a class that attracts high performing juniors and seniors and as the Director of the Investment Banking Academy, I have the privilege of working with the best and brightest students at Gies. With the benefit of that context, I can say that Maddy Whirledge is an outstanding student and leader. Her strong desire to learn, tireless commitment to extracurricular activities and unwavering willingness to give back set her apart. These characteristics have also enabled her to get an outstanding return on her investment here at the Gies College of Business.

Maddy and I started working together during the fall of her junior year when she took my investment banking course. Maddy completely embraced the subject matter and not only wanted to understand the “what”, but also the “why”. In my experience, such intellectual curiosity is what separates high performing students and investment bankers from others. We also did a lot of group projects in the course so Maddy’s easygoing style and strong interpersonal skills made her a sought-after teammate. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to see her excel as a student leader and mentor to the next generation of high performing students within Gies. As president of Prime, she leads a team of seniors and juniors who expose freshmen and sophomores to the field of investment banking. Maddy leads by example and is always willing to help a fellow student whether in Prime or not. These traits have allowed her to earn the respect of a wide array of students. As such, I asked Maddy to be one of my chaperones during a three-day trip where we led 38 sophomores around the city of Chicago to meet with 24 investment banking firms. Maddy’s organizational skills kept the group on track and her good humor ensured everyone had fun at the same time.

I have truly enjoyed working with Maddy over the last couple of years and look forward to watching her succeed in all her future endeavors adding to the power of the Gies brand.”

Jim Bertram
Director of the Investment Banking Academy and Instructor of Finance
Gies College of Business


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