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Wall Street Council shifts focus to the future



Bob Doll '76, vice chairman and chief investment officer of global equities at BlackRock, sat down for this five-minute interview with Paul Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics, about the current financial environment and the changing role of business education.

The headline in the Wall Street Journal was ominous: “For ’09 grads, job prospects take a dive.”

The rest of the article, published last week, followed suit, pointing out that this year’s graduating class will find a relatively weak job market that may be among the most competitive in years.

But there is a silver lining, says Michael Lowenthal, a human resource professional from the financial sector. On campus to discuss employment prospects with over 150 Lehigh students this past Saturday, Lowenthal said there were job opportunities for those that were aggressive enough to find them.

“The article said, ‘Employers plan to hire just 1.3 more graduates in 2009 than they hired this year.’ That’s not a misprint,” he said. “What does that tell you? There are jobs to be had, if you are going to do something about it.”

It was a clear message to students attending the Lehigh’s second annual Financial Services Forum. The popular event, sponsored by the Lehigh University Alumni Association’s Wall Street Council, connects Wall Street professionals with undergraduates and offers a networking platform for students and Lehigh alumni.

“A point that you’ll be hearing throughout the day is that the Lehigh presence in the financial world is very strong. You should view this as an asset, and I encourage you to develop and grow your list of Lehigh contacts,” said Michael Connor ’80, chief executive officer of Market News International.

Connor made that point, along with the 25 returning alumni who visited Lehigh to lead a series of interactive breakout sessions ranging from asset management to investment banking, from technology to hedge funds and private equity.

It was also a perspective that keynote speaker Bob Doll ’76 shared during his keynote address. Doll is vice chairman and chief investment officer of global equities at BlackRock, where he also holds a seat on its board of directors.

Doll spoke with Wall Street Council crowd before sitting down with Paul Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics, for a conversation about the current financial environment and the changing role of business education. The five-minute interview can be seen in its entirety on Lehigh’s new financial crisis Web page.

"There will be wonderful opportunities"

Doll said he sees the financial services sector rebounding and regaining its focus—a “retrenchment” that will occur when people are in the business for the right reasons. “For the interested, passionate, bright student, there will be wonderful opportunities.”

“I think what we need to continue to talk to students about is their passion for doing the things that we do,” he said. “We will have a healthy, vibrant industry with the right people behind the desks.”

Though headlines like those appearing last week in the Wall Street Journal reflect current industry concerns, Lehigh is in a strong position to counter those national trends. In a College of Business and Economics townhall meeting last week, Donna Goldfeder, director of career services, said there are 603 openings posted to Lehigh University Career Information Exchange, or LUCIE.

At this time last year, there were only 547 openings on that board. And at this fall’s 2008 Career Fair, Lehigh hosted 190 employers—a total that is second only to last year’s.

Traditionally, Lehigh students seeking employment in the financial sector have better than a 99 percent placement rate six months after graduation, regardless of whether they were enrolled in Lehigh business school or its two other undergraduate colleges.

“Lehigh’s alumni base is especially strong in business, and that’s reflected in the success of the Wall Street Council,” says Goldfeder. “On a cold and rainy Saturday morning, nearly 175 students packed Perella Auditorium just to have the opportunity to get to know our alumni a little more closely.”

“The Wall Street Council provides such an incredibly important network for students interested in finance,” she added. “And it’s a network they’ll be cultivating for years to come.”

--Tom Yencho


Posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2008

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