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Lehigh’s Wall Street Council Alumni Engage, Advise, and Motivate Business Students

In his keynote address, John Chrin ’85 ’86 ’10P (right), partner, Circle Wealth Management, LLC, shared with students that even though a Lehigh education does set you up well to succeed, it takes hard work and demonstrated ability to achieve your goals. Michael Connor ’80 ’14P, principal, Tower Hill Advisors, and vice president and founding member of the Wall Street Council, moderated the presentation. Click here to see more photos from the 2017 Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum.

Learning from and networking with those who blazed the Lehigh trail to the financial sector was the focus of more than 200 students who attended the 11th annual Wall Street Council (WSC) Financial Services Forum on October 7. Each year, alumni who are members of WSC, Lehigh’s largest affinity group, return to share wisdom, insight, and career development savvy with the next wave of students soon to enter the business world. More than 60 alumni came back for this year’s event.

With a record-breaking number of student and alumni attendees, and thanks to the generosity of sponsors John Carl ’89, president and founder, Retirement Learning Center, and the Wall Street Council, the prestigious forum was held in the Zoellner Arts Center, in addition to the Rauch Business Center.

The day was packed with general information sessions, as well as smaller, personalized breakout sessions, and featured John Chrin ’85 ’86 ’10P, partner, Circle Wealth Management, LLC, as keynote speaker. Opening remarks were provided by Paul Brockman, associate dean, College of Business and Economics, and Andrew Fife ’85, Wall Street Council founding member and president. Brockman emphasized Lehigh’s exceptional academic and social influence, both on campus and into graduates’ careers, and Fife lauded the unique engagement of Lehigh alumni.

“Lehigh alumni take a genuine pride and interest in trying to help students and the entire alumni community find opportunities in the financial sector,” said Fife. “The network is just amazingly strong, supportive, and helpful.”

In speaking about the opportunities available to Lehigh business students, Brockman said, “A Lehigh degree is an excellent way to launch a career. With a Lehigh degree, you have no bounds.”

In his keynote address, Chrin built upon these messages by reminding students that along with the opportunities that a Lehigh degree presents, comes hard work.

“You have to work. Don’t expect that you’re going to get a high-powered, fast-paced job if you’re a mediocre student,” he advised, during a “fireside chat” conversation with Mike Connor ’80 ’14P, vice president and founding member of the WSC. “You have to put in the hours. You have to learn. You have to demonstrate that you’re better than the average person. It’s not going to be given to you, but Lehigh does set you up well to succeed.”

Chrin also highlighted the value of the alumni presence and the importance of giving back to help others.

“The alumni network of Lehigh people that work within financial services is a very strong and powerful group, and passionate about the students at Lehigh,” he commented. He also praised his personal support system, most notably his wife, Lehigh University Board of Trustee member Maria Chrin ’87 ’10P, for helping him with his success.

“Networking” was the unofficial buzzword of the forum. Experienced and young alumni alike emphasized the importance of making connections – not just to get an interview, but to form lasting relationships.

“Don’t just take; give. It’s not just what you get out of it. It’s not just asking for a job or internship. It’s about asking for advice,” said Karen Kuczynski, director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, who spoke about career development, job seeking, and the center’s services available to students.

Howard Dingle ’04, director of the Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, and Joseph “JC” Stephanak ’03, vice president of the Leveraged Finance Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, gave an overview presentation on investment banking, and familiarized students with job options.

The forum also featured a panel of young alumni — Vera Liu ’17, analyst, GTS Securities; Neha Rachemallu ’15, investor relations analyst, Blackstone; and Carlos Rosario ’17, associate analyst, RMBS Primary — who discussed their first jobs, a typical work day, and the importance of networking in a question and answer session moderated by Jennifer Miller ’82, portfolio manager, International Equity strategy for J.M. Hartwell.

The day included students attending two of seven morning breakout sessions offered that included sales and trading, consulting, real estate, investment banking, research, asset management, and wealth management. The small size and private setting of the sessions, led by alumni, allowed students to dive deeper into topics that interested them and gave them the opportunity to speak with alumni on a more personal level.

“It’s a nice part [of the forum] because you might hear a job title, but you don’t really know what it means. Having smaller sessions lets students dig in a bit more to what it means to be in that specific position,” said Kristin Agatone, Lehigh’s Chief Investment Officer and panel member of the asset management group.

Junior Max Rodenborn ’19, a double major in analytical finance and business information systems, named asset management as his favorite breakout session.

“I learned the most [in asset management], specifically about the careers of professionals and also about the industry in general,” said Rodenborn, who attended two Financial Services Forums.

Other students attended the event just to explore potential academic pursuits. This years’ forum, with the highest number of freshman attendees ever, reflected an increasingly successful effort to get students engaged earlier in thinking about their careers and what area of business they should study for professional alignment.

First-year student Jia Mei Li ’21, a finance and accounting double major, said that she was attracted to the forum because she thought it would help her decide what academic path to pursue.

“I just wanted to find out more about finance because it’s something that I don’t know much about. It’s so broad that I’m really trying to explore more and see what I’m interested in,” she said.

The second half of the forum gave students time to network with alumni, who were excited about the opportunity to meet and advise the next generation of Lehigh business students.

Recent graduate Ryan Kautz ’17 who attended the forum when he was a junior and senior at Lehigh, said that returning as an alumnus gave him a different perspective.

“You look at everything differently [as an alumnus]. You’re still networking yourself, because these people can be future contacts, but you’re also now in a position to help students. It’s a really great opportunity,” said Kautz.

The sentiment goes both ways.

“Every time we come back and go through the day, you realize why you do the work to organize this forum. Having young alumni come back who participated as students just gives me the biggest thrill I could ever have in terms of my volunteering here,” said Fife, who established the forum. “I hope the students were able to learn today the value of being able to use the resources that Lehigh has provided to help them prepare for opportunities in the real world.”

Carina Bonasera

Photos by John Kish IV