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Calculated Risk: Tufts Students Talk Finance

Opinion | November 7, 2011

Throughout our young adult lives, financial markets have been in a tumultuous state. As high school students in 2008, we saw the collapse of our overextended, highly-leveraged financial system, an event that had irreparable damages for our country as well as the global economy. The financial crisis of 2008 has brought about a host of increasingly more precarious and intricate problems for our global financial system. This summer, a highly partisan U.S. Congress irresponsibly engineered one of the most precipitous point drops in the history of our stock market, essentially evaporating the modest gains investors have made since 2008. In addition to these partisan debates and the downgrading of our country’s debt, the global financial system has been further pummeled by its exposure to the sovereign debt crises of Europe, which have caused foreign investors to seek safer markets, further contributing to the continent’s crisis of confidence.

Meanwhile, throughout these tempestuous years, Tufts University has witnessed a consistent increase in the number of students pursuing a career in finance. Some may argue that this trend reflects our generation’s greed or obsessive pursuit of material satisfaction; however, based on the moral values engendered by our liberal arts curriculum and community, we would argue that Tufts students are exactly what is needed in today’s world of finance.

While recent years have proven tumultuous for the financial sector and the job market as a whole, Tufts students have displayed a growing interest in pursuing careers in finance. With many big banks slashing jobs in large numbers, an already competitive job market has increased in selectivity. Nevertheless, Tufts students—now more than ever—are setting their sights on the variety of careers the finance industry has to offer. With the sector as whole on the precipice of a new era and regulatory practices and the shape of the industry evolving constantly, the financial system in the United States and abroad is in need of a new generation of leaders. The concept of active citizenship figures prominently as a cornerstone of the Tufts liberal arts education. As such, the opportunity to reform an industry so key to the existence of our current political and economic systems is a worthy calling for Tufts students whose aspirations to change the world may have previously trumped the appeal of big paychecks offered by banks.

Beyond the opportunity to serve as reformist leaders in the finance industry, Tufts students have before them a considerable array of opportunities within finance. While the industry is frequently stereotyped based on portrayals in popular culture of frantic traders shouting across a trading floor, or investment bankers watching their social lives dissipate as they work 20-hour days on the weekend to get ready for a big deal, careers in finance are diverse in both the type of qualifications they require and the workplace environment they provide. From high-octane fields such as investment banking, asset management, and sales and trading, to the more contemplative and deliberate side of divisions like research, structuring, and compliance, the financial sector has a wealth of different career paths to appeal to college graduates seeking challenging yet rewarding work.

The growth of finance at Tufts can also be attributed to the active involvement of a group of generous and successful alumni. On September 17, Tufts alumni working in concert with the Office of Career Services and the Tufts Financial Network organized the second annual Wall Street Crash Course, a day where students had the opportunity to learn from and network with Tufts alumni working in finance. Listening to the experiences of alumni from institutions such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and UBS, students felt compelled to enter the challenging field of finance. Author of Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul, Anthony Scaramucci, Managing Partner of SkyBridge Capital and Tufts Class of ’86, passionately promoted the need for Tufts students to responsibly enter the world of finance. These dedicated alumni create an environment at Tufts in which students feel compelled to become actively involved in finance, while still maintaining the university’s principles of social responsibility.

As Tufts students continue to pursue careers in finance, many have been deterred by two factors: the tremendously competitive nature of breaking into finance, and the widely publicized vilification of Wall Street as a source of corporate greed. While many blame the financial sector for the global economic woes in recent years, setting one’s sights on a Wall Street career may seem to contradict the responsibility of Active Citizenship which Tufts strives to instill in its students. With that said, Tufts students may actually be ideally equipped to succeed in finance, and to become leaders as the financial system attempts to rebuild itself with sweeping reforms. Due to the nature of the Tufts liberal arts education, Tufts graduates are uniquely prepared to approach jobs in finance and take a holistic approach in their assessment of complex obstacles that exist in the world of finance today. Thinking globally and openly, Tufts students may be ideal candidates to propel the financial sector into the future, working to avert the types of crippling crises that have afflicted global economies in recent years.