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New guest-speakers seminar is a hit for finance majors

When Anne Anderson sent a recent email request to a select group of people, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

Anderson, director of the Financial Services Laboratory (FSL) and Joseph and Amy Perella Chair of finance, asked more than 20 prominent Lehigh graduates and parents to teach in The Guest Speaker Series Seminar, a new one-credit finance class designed to help students navigate the financial services industry and make career decisions.

The response to her email astounded Anderson. “Within an hour I heard back from almost half the alums I’d contacted. Within a week the course schedule was full. I had to turn people away.”

The executives who signed on included Carl Rinaldi ’79, senior vice president of AllianceBernstein; Christopher Hite ’89, managing director of Healthcare Investment Banking at UBS Warburg; Joe Long ’88, chief of staff of the Technology Division at Goldman Sachs; and Peter Hopper ’86, president and cofounder of DH Capital.

The idea for the seminar resulted from conversations Anderson held with business alumni, parents and FSL corporate supporters. In the discussions, alumni often reported that younger graduates did not fully understand the many areas of financial services.

The problem is common at business schools, Anderson was told. But alumni said Lehigh was in a unique position to help students see professional opportunities in a new light, thanks to a cross-disciplinary approach to business education that mirrors the marketplace.
 
Anderson agrees. “More than half our students don’t know what they want to do. What we are trying to accomplish with this course is to give them more information and allow them to make a real choice.”

Finance senior Aman Sareen enjoys the seminar. “A traditional classroom helps foster the fundamental and technical skills necessary on the job. The guest-speaker course allows you to see how these skills are applied in the real-world.”

“This course highlights what Lehigh alumni are all about”

In the 90-minute class, which began this semester, visiting lecturers share their professional experiences with sophomores, juniors and seniors. Anderson gives her guests latitude about topics to address.

“A course like this highlights what Lehigh's alumni are all about,” says Sareen. “It shows they are dedicated and willing to help. Many of the speakers have given up a day of work not only to share a few thoughts with the class, but to meet with other students as well.

“It’s comforting to know you can always turn to alumni for help, especially with traditional resources stretched thin.”

The seminar is valuable as an interview preparation tool, says Alex Ziets ’10.

“It has helped me get a better idea of different career opportunities as well as the types of career paths people have taken—or chosen not to take—to get where they are today,” Ziets says. “It has exposed me to areas of finance and finance careers I have not learned about in the classroom.”

This exposure, says Anderson, gives Lehigh students an advantage over their peers at other schools.

 “Our students are gaining a valuable understanding and preparation that few of their counterparts can get. That’s what a business education at Lehigh can offer.”

 

Story by Freddy Marianacci

Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010

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