For Wharton alumni, it’s all about giving back. While the School’s curriculum offers all of the tools and raw materials a student might need to succeed, its alumni possess an intangible yet precious commodity — advice and insight about what to expect once students leave campus.
This is the thinking behind the annual Colloquia program, which brings together successful alumni and students who want to hear real-world stories about what life might be like after graduation. In early September, 10 alumni shared their thoughts on everything from managing personal finances, getting the most out of a summer internship, or nailing that first job interview.
“As a freshman, I think this was a really great event to attend. It’s great to learn from people who are out in the world, and get to hear what kind of experiences they’ve had,” said Noah Sinclair, W’20. “It gives us a benchmark of what we should do going forward.”
Alumnus Steven Yanis, W’85, is the co-founder of Net Return Asset Management LLC and a participant in Colloquia since 2006. Prior to his involvement in the hedge fund industry, he served as managing director, senior equity analyst, and research group head at Bank of America Securities.
Yanis hosted the workshop “The Hedge Fund Industry: Past, Present and Future,” breaking down the history, features, and financial outlook for these investments, and why they should be a crucial part of any portfolio. He also addressed the philosophy of the short sell, adjusted returns, and other unique wrinkles of the hedge fund.
Yanis peppered his presentation with real world investment strategies, engaging tales about short selling, and what students might expect from the financial climate to come when they graduate. Afterward, a large group of students lined up to pick Yanis’ brain.
Loyalty to Wharton motivates Yanis to share his industry knowledge with students; having conversations with undergraduates is a fun and invigorating side effect.
“At first, I wanted to give back, because this place has given me a lot, and that’s still part of the motivation, but I have to admit that I just enjoy it,” Yanis said. “The student body here is eminently qualified for their age, genuinely talented, and they exude an energy level that’s nice to be around.”
Yanis advised students to keep their options open and not to skimp on available courses and other lifelong educational resources. The most important thing, Yanis said, is to “learn how to learn” and stay well ahead of change, as it’s going to happen constantly.
Colloquia featured alumni with Yanis’ years of experience as well as more recent graduates, including a Young Alumni Panel. A session hosted by Triston Francis, W’12, “The Difference Between Relationship Building and Networking,” was a standing-room only affair just a few watts short of a rock concert.
Francis works in firm management at Morgan Stanley. A leader on campus, he was inducted to the Friars Senior Society and served as president of the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association and the Onyx Senior Honor Society.
As it turns out, the key to building relationships and networking is less of a plan set in stone than a bit of a Rube Goldberg device, going off in many directions, but finally achieving its goal. The recipe is part Facebook, part LinkedIn, and part alumni contacts, with a dash of following your desired mentor into the elevator for some coveted (though potentially awkward) conversation. Relationship building, Francis says, happens through thoughtful one-to-one contact, while networking is better done at large events and through social media.
“One of the things I appreciated most while at Penn was the breadth of caring alumni and students that I was able to learn from while on campus,” Francis said. “I am honored to have been invited to speak to students, and it was a pleasure to pay it forward by passing along knowledge I learned from those who came before me.”
“My hope,” Francis said, “is that each student walked away with at least one tangible piece of advice that they can implement along their journey to a life where they are both happy and excited about the impact they are able to have.”