2016 DFE Leadership Award Winners Embody Curiosity, Collegiality

2016 DFE Leadership Award Winners Embody Curiosity, Collegiality

28 March 2016 2:00PM

The Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE) is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 DFE Leadership Award. Seniors Jenna Garand and Diana Lam are the deserving recipients as true representatives of qualities the DFE seeks to foster in students: initiative, intellectual and professional curiosity, and commitment to collaborating meaningfully with others.

Through their responses to the questions below, Jenna and Diana leave no doubt that they took full advantage of their DFE and Duke experiences and developed dynamic leadership skills in the process.

What is your major/minor/concentration, and what are your plans after graduation?

Jenna: Im an economics major with a finance concentration and a math minor, and I have a Markets and Management Studies Certificate. After graduation, I’ll be working for McKinsey in their Atlanta office.

Diana: I am double majoring in economics and computer science. I will be in the Mergers & Acquisitions Investment Banking group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York City.

How did your interest in finance develop?

Jenna: After taking economics in high school, I joined a club called Fed Challenge. We studied monetary policy and held a mock FOMC meeting at the NY Fed, and I absolutely loved it! I knew at that point that I wanted to continue studying economics and particularly finance.

Diana: I was naturally interested in business as a result of growing up in NYC with two entrepreneurial parents. However, I explored different avenues during my freshman year, and it wasn’t until my sophomore year that I began to develop a passion for finance. Student organizations such as the Duke Investment Club and Business Oriented Women (BOW) played a large role in shaping my interest in finance. Via these groups, I was able to meet seniors and alumni working in finance, who spoke to me about their experiences and the opportunities available in the industry.

What finance-related activities have you participated in at Duke?

Jenna: I have been involved in several business/finance groups including BOW and Duke Business Society. My largest involvement, however, is with Duke/Durham Saves, a group that Emilie Melvin, Steven Blaser, and I started in 2012. Duke/Durham Saves works to teach personal finance to students at Duke and in the Durham community and has been the most rewarding experience of my Duke career.

Diana: I participated in many of the competitions that the DFE sponsors and have taken a number of finance classes, including Global Capital Markets with John Caccavale, Intermediate Finance with Emma Rasiel, and Inside the Hedge Funds with Linsey Hughes. I’ve also had the honor of serving on the boards of a number of great student organizations, including BOW, Duke Investment Club, and Diversity Outreach. I have learned so much from everyone in these groups, both older and younger members — a big thank you to all of you who’ve opened my eyes and mind!

How did you come to be involved with the DFE?

Jenna: My freshman year I applied to be John Caccavale’s intern for the First-Year Internship program. The project he put me on was developing Duke/Durham Saves. As a freshman, I never would have guessed that Duke/Durham Saves would become my most important involvement at Duke!

Diana: I first became involved with the DFE during my sophomore year, as I was looking for opportunities to learn more about finance. I began attending the Diversity Outreach Discussion events and the Lunch & Learn series, which exposed me to many senior leaders in the industry.

What events, programs, and people had the most impact on you as you’ve pursued finance? What skills have you picked up?

Jenna: The faculty I’ve had the privilege of learning from and working with have definitely had the biggest impact on me as I’ve pursued finance. Emma Rasiel and John Caccavale led an incredible Finance Boot Camp my junior year that taught me many of the hard financial skills and the ways to think critically about solving problems, as well as the important communication skills I needed to succeed in interviews. In addition, working with John and Emilie on Duke/Durham Saves has really honed my leadership skills. Ive learned to teach, to present in front of large groups, and to manage a team and many simultaneous events.

The entire DFE team has done a tremendous job of creating a comprehensive and accessible program for those interested in finance. Through the DFE, I’ve learned much about the industry and developed relationships with Duke alumni. A number of recent alumni, including Tony Hernandez ’15, Max Lipscomb ’15, Zhou Fang ’15, and Kristin Cole ’14, put their faith in me and have advised me endlessly. Working with the Duke Investment Club, BOW, and the Diversity Outreach teams have taught me everything from how to build a model to what it means to have an impactful career to the importance of diversity of thought and experience in the workplace.

These opportunities have also equipped me with skills beyond the necessary technical ones, namely the importance of communication and listening. These two skills are key to developing a deep network and facilitating interactions both inside and outside of the workplace.

Of all the contributions you’ve made through finance-related activities (both DFE and non-DFE), of what are you proudest?

Jenna: I am proudest of the work we’ve done in Durham through Duke/Durham Saves. We’ve been teaching at the Salvation Army Boys’ and Girls’ Club, as well as Brogden Middle School for three years, and the development we’ve seen in the kids’ understanding of and interest in personal finance is astounding. That’s where we’ve made the biggest difference, and I hope that this knowledge can really change the students’ lives. It’s also been fun to build relationships with the kids and see them grow up!  

Diana: I am proudest of my work with the Diversity Outreach organization, which was founded by Tony Hernandez ’15, Ross Emory ’15, and Zack Freeman ’15 last year. This year, Raina Bisson-Orr ’16, Ryan Chavis ’16, Tomas Gimenez ’16, and I organized a hugely successful event, Minorities in Business. We invited 10-12 alumni within the finance and consulting industries to participate in a panel and speak about their experiences in finance. The event was very well attended and is one of my top accomplishments.

Beside finance, what other interests have you explored while at Duke?

Jenna: I’ve really enjoyed exploring the opportunities Duke has given me to travel and serve. I learned Portuguese at Duke and spent the summer in Brazil after my freshman year and my junior fall in Lisbon, Portugal. When I came to Duke as a freshman, I participated in Project BUILD, which gave me a great introduction to service in Durham. I’ve continued to pursue my interest in service through DukeEngage in Uganda, where I taught a second grade class. 

Diana: I’ve explored my interests in computer science and education, both academically and through extracurricular activities. I am the web editor for The Standard, a student-run publication that seeks to elevate the way in which students see and talk about the Duke lifestyle. I also tutor with Student U, an organization that believes all students in Durham can succeed and creates a pipeline to support students from middle school through college.

What advice do you give underclassmen, in general and in terms of pursuing finance?

Jenna: Find something in finance (or another area of study) that really interests you. If you’re not fascinated by what you’re learning, it’s not going to be any fun, and you won’t be as successful in it as you could be. Try everything and take advantage of every opportunity because you could be surprised by what you love! Also, try to build relationships with professors – it makes your Duke experience so much richer. You can learn so much from them and benefit from their mentorship. Take advantage of flunches and office hours!

Diana: For underclassmen interested in pursuing finance, I encourage you to take advantage of all the resources that are available at Duke, including the DFE’s programs, student organizations, mentors (both professional and student), and the incredible Duke alumni network. I also advise you to follow the people who are willing to go the extra mile to support you; these are the people you want to work with and who have the potential to create future opportunities.