2024 Best & Brightest Business Major: James Collett, New York University (Stern)

James Collett

New York University, Stern School of Business

“As formulated by my friends: Upstarting well-mannered southern charmer with an unrelenting attention to detail.”

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a huge fan of mountaineering.

Hometown: Morganton, North Carolina

High School: Freedom High School

Major: Business and Political Economy

Minor: Data Science

Favorite Business Course: Business & Government or Political Economy of Development

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Director of Conference & Initiative Funding, Student Government Assembly

Chair, Stern Judiciary Committee

Student Leader, BPE Program

Student Senator, Student Government Assembly

Teaching Assistant, Business & Government

Mentor, BPE Program & Student Council

Director of Finance, Student Government Assembly

Club Soccer

BPE Student Representative, NYU D.C.

Where have you interned during your college career?

Sia Partners – New York – Junior Consultant Intern

RPM, Inc. Specialty Products Group – North Carolina – Intern

Who is your favorite business professor? Professor Gian Luca Clementi. I would easily place him among the best business professors. His intellect is apparent even in short conversations. Having taken his classes, it is clear that he is an adept educator. What I like, in particular, about Professor Clementi is that he is a realist. Much of business school is filled with theory and idealistically simple cases. Without a doubt, there is a purpose for this, as theory and cases build the foundation of good business savvy. However, the most important questions in business are not so straightforward. Professor Clementi’s realism in approaching problems that exist in business environments, in particular at the intersection of business and government, has been invaluable to my education.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field?  First, consider it very seriously. While it was one of the right choices for me, I don’t think the same is true for everyone I’ve met in business school. Second, if you do decide that business school or a major in a business-related field is right for you, be careful not to be the type of student who focuses on their career to the detriment of other interests. Ultimately, it is your other interests that make you an enjoyable person to work shoulder to shoulder with and which will have an important bearing on your career prospects.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Building off my answer to the previous question, being an interesting and kind person is one of the biggest indicators of success. It isn’t always apparent until you get closer to the working world, but a large portion of any person’s success can often be attributed to their personality. Intelligence, competence, and ability to lead are, of course, important to success. However, these are also all traits I have come to view as prerequisites rather than determinants. Especially given the common cultural perceptions of business, it’s encouraging (and perhaps naive, only time will tell) to find that being a good person does help you get ahead.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I’m most proud of helping to launch the Initiative Fund. This is an evergreen, student-run, discretionary grant fund endowed by the university to the student government assembly for the purpose of bettering the NYU community and the lives of NYU students. The fund is still in its inaugural year, but is already on track to fund the creation of a food pantry in Steinhardt, living walls of plants in Stern and other buildings around campus, the installation of new water fountains, and the provision of new seating areas for students. I’ve really enjoyed being involved in student government, but these sorts of tangible projects are by far the most rewarding to work on because I know my efforts will be directly felt by my peers.

Which classmate do you most admire? Iola Cheng-Thomas. In addition to being one of my closest friends, I have a never-ending stream of admiration and respect for Iola. It is hardly a groundbreaking revelation that business students have a tendency to be career obsessive. What has always impressed me about Iola is her ability to remain seemingly insulated from the pressures and stresses of finding a job and yet also manage to be remarkably successful. This balance of tone and achievement is pervasive throughout all of Iola’s life. She manages to maintain a light and fun demeanor while also consistently being a high achiever in everything she does. It is this balance that I seek to emulate in my own life, and I can certainly say that she has had a markedly positive impact on my life.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Perhaps stereotypically, but absolutely sincerely, I would thank my mother. She has always been there to support me and offer advice. Even more importantly, she has imbued in me a strong set of values. She has always pushed me to be the best person I could be in every aspect. Words are a poor proxy for the gratitude I feel for her.

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


Take an entrepreneurial venture public.

What made James such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“When trying to fathom how James manages to keep up with all his commitments, I envisioned the possibility that his days are 25 or 26-hour long. Aware that this cannot possibly be the case, I began by factoring in that he’s actually very smart. However, that’s not enough. James manages to accomplish so much because of his intrinsic motivation and boundless energy. From my vantage point, James stands out for his unusual intellectual curiosity and leadership skills. When faced with an issue, James puts in the time and effort to comprehend it, strives to address it, and leads to conquering it. I have never met a person of his age who shares his ability to bring people together.”

Gian Luca Clementi
Professor of Economics


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