No Major? No Problem: First-Year Students Learn It’s Never Too Early to Explore Business

March 15th, 2017 by 


First-year students hear from alumni from Goldman Sachs on day one of the COES workshop. Photo by: Tom Rettig

“Major in anything and succeed in business.” That’s the motto of the Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies (COES) Professional Program and Prebusiness Program, which connects Holy Cross’ liberal arts education to the marketplace.

But what about first-year students who have yet to decide on a major?

COES proved last week it’s never too early to start exploring the business world with a first-of-its-kind workshop designed specifically for first-year students. The sixteen students, all undeclared, spent two days getting a crash course in finance — from the ins and outs of markets to the wide range of jobs available in the industry — during the alumni-led workshop titled “Introduction to Wall St. & Asset Management.”

Day one of the workshop connected students with five alumni from Goldman Sachs who made the trip from New York to campus, while day two unfolded in Boston where students spent the morning at Natixis Global Asset Management with 11 alumni in the company’s Boston office.

“Immediately after stepping through the doors of Natixis, I felt welcomed not only by the Holy Cross alumni, but by the other workers at the firm,” says Alyssa Silge ’20, who is considering majoring in economics. “There was a strong aura of community that ran through the small, close-knit company that reminded me of the strong community here at Holy Cross.”

Smartly dressed and settling into the formal environment of the internationally-known asset management company, the students listened eagerly to the alumni, who gave examples of the pivotal undergraduate experiences that supplemented their education, including working for congressmen during the Washington Semester Program and leveraging the resources of the Center for Career Development. With graduation years spanning nearly three decades and majors ranging from political science to English, their vastly different career paths that culminated in the finance world all shared one thing in common: a liberal arts education.

“At Holy Cross, you are building transferable skills — how to write well, speak articulately, make persuasive arguments, build relationships, multitask,” John Deprete ’90, vice president, counsel, said to the students in a Natixis conference room. “These are skills that will make you successful at any job.”

This success is only amplified when students combine Holy Cross’ academic rigor with the ranging out-of-classroom opportunities available to them.

And the sooner students begin capitalizing on these opportunities, the better, says David Chu, associate professor of accounting, director of COES, and prebusiness advisor.

“The earlier a student understands what business is and gains exposure to the many industries within business, the more opportunities that student is going to be open to and ultimately have,” Chu shares.

But why the sense of urgency? The creation of this workshop targeted to first-year students is in response to the changes happening in the finance field itself.

“Major banks have all pushed their application and interview deadlines to the beginning of fall in the junior year,” explains Chu. “This means students must be prepared for bank interviews by the end of their sophomore year. Thus, we needed to expose students to the world of banking and finance as early as their freshmen year.”

“These events help educate our students beyond the classroom and allow them to see how their liberal arts background can come into play in a business environment,” says Beatriz Pina Smith ’87, CFO at Natixis. “I hope the students learned about the asset management industry, the types of jobs that exist in our industry and what they can do now to best prepare them to enter the workforce upon graduation.”

For Silge, the workshop showed her that there is no set career path for any job.

“Each speaker had taken a different route to gain the role they were in today, and each found their way differently,” she says. “It has inspired me to work hard to achieve a role in the financial industry, and know that I can take many routes to get there.”

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