The Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022-2023 DFE Leadership Award: Lily Vore ’23 and Jason Zhang ’23. The annual honor recognizes seniors who have made singular contributions as peer mentors and demonstrated robust leadership in finance-related activities. Vore and Zhang are among 29 recipients of the award since 2010-2011.
As they discuss in the Q&A below, Vore and Zhang have articulated their passion for finance through a wide range of activities, including seeking out mentorship, taking leadership positions in student organizations, and being a resource to their peers.
This spring semester, Vore and Zhang’s mutual commitment to supporting their fellow students culminated in a new competition series open to all Duke undergraduates. Working closely with alumnus Brandon Foreman ’19, they coordinated five firm-sponsored competitions that offered practical experience in diverse finance spaces, from mergers and acquisitions to value investing.
“Lily and Jason’s initiative and dedication to their fellow students is extraordinary,” said Foreman, “I am grateful for their leadership and for flawlessly executing these first-time competitions. They are model students for the Duke community, and I look forward to engaging with them as active alumni.”
“Lily and Jason spent a significant portion of their senior year at Duke giving back to students through the competition series,” said DFE Teaching Director Emma Rasiel, “They represent the cycles of mentorship that we love to see in students, the evolution from mentees to mentors and learners to leaders.”
What has been your academic focus at Duke, and where are you headed after graduation?
Lily: I’m majoring in Chinese and political science with a minor in economics. After graduation, I’m going into investment banking at Goldman Sachs in the Consumer & Retail Group.
Jason: I’m a statistical science major with a data science concentration, minoring in finance and Chinese. I’ve taken a full-time position in investment banking at J.P. Morgan. I’ll be in the generalist M&A group.
How did your interest in finance develop?
Lily: I came to Duke with pretty much no finance experience or knowledge. I actually grew up completely set on becoming a pediatric surgeon but realized I have a very queasy stomach following a brief foray into the operating room. Knowing the medical path was out of the picture and that I enjoy analytical problem-solving and decision-making, I immersed myself in clubs, classes, and internships related to finance.
Alongside my economics courses, I completed the Duke Investment Club’s Investor Training Program (ITP) and joined Business Oriented Women (BOW) and Scale and Coin business society. I also interned in real estate private equity as a Girls Who Invest scholar, at a search fund based in Raleigh, and in banking at Goldman — all of which I really enjoyed. Coupled with continual mentorship from upperclassmen and alumni, I knew I found something I really liked.
Jason: I was always interested in pursuing a career in business, and finance stood out to me as an opportunity to blend quantitative skills with qualitative advice and recommendations. The more I learned about finance and how broad it is, I became very confident that there existed a small subset of finance where I could find my place and thrive in, though I’m still exploring exactly what that is.
How did you become involved with DFE?
Lily: I first became involved with DFE through the course ECON 256 Practical Financial Markets, taught by DFE Directors Emma Rasiel and John Caccavale — two of the most helpful and giving mentors on campus. This course provided an opportunity to participate in several finance competitions, which solidified my initial interest in the field. I also served as a teaching assistant for the course this past fall.
Additionally, I participated in the DFE’s Finance Mentor Program, through which I got to know Anyi Lee ’06. She helped me immensely during my time recruiting and beyond. Lastly, the competition series Jason and I helped run this spring would not have been possible without the support of several DFE alumni.
Jason: I started off taking Duke Investment Club’s ITP my freshman fall. DFE and Investment Club are highly aligned, with Emma Rasiel serving as the club’s faculty advisor. After going through the training program and joining the club as an analyst, I was exposed to many peer mentors who were involved in DFE in various capacities. On their recommendation, I took courses with and sought advising from DFE faculty, which later led to more involvement with DFE.
What events, programs, classes, and people have had the most impact on you as you’ve pursued finance? In what ways have they helped you grow?
Lily: In addition to the aforementioned classes, professors, and programs, there are several people who have made a significant impact on my time at Duke and path to finance. Alongside Anyi, I would also like to thank Audrey Kornkven ’20, Hannah O’Sullivan ’20, and Thomas Schaefer ’22 — among many others — who provide unwavering support and guidance for those pursuing finance, including myself. As I have received extensive mentorship while at Duke, it’s essential that I continue to do the same for any and every student I can.
Lastly, I encourage students to explore DFE and all it has to offer. The professors, courses, networking events, mock interview program, markets discussions, competitions, and more remain invaluable resources for every Duke student interested in a career in finance.
Jason: DFE’s competitions have helped me hone valuable skills and receive meaningful feedback from professionals. I credit the Duke Investment Club’s ITP with introducing me to a career in finance and helping me build my initial skillset.
As for classes, ECON 390S Private Equity Buyouts with Ben Thomason and ECON 381S Inside Hedge Funds with Linsey Hughes gave me deep insight into those respective spaces from finance professionals-turned-instructors.
Finally, the people who have impacted me are too many to count. Mentors from organizations such as Scale and Coin and Bull City Beds have guided me immensely in finding my career path. Peers from organizations like Duke Investment Club supported and pushed me onward as I was undergoing internship recruiting.
Of all of the contributions you’ve made through finance-related activities (both DFE and non-DFE), of what are you the proudest?
Lily: I think I’m proudest of both the formal and informal mentorship I’ve been able to provide during my time at Duke. On the formal side, I have served on the executive boards of both BOW and Scale and Coin the last three years. From educating a new class of members in business fundamentals to initiating university-wide events like the annual BOW holiday party, I seek to create environments where all students have access to the same resources and networks that I’ve been lucky to encounter.
Just as important is the informal mentorship I’ve engaged in — from having coffee chats to holding mock interviews to reviewing résumés for students. I strive to be a resource and a friend for any student reaching out for advice or help in all realms, finance or otherwise.
Jason: Within DFE, I’m most proud of developing the framework for a new spring competition series for students with Lily. Outside of DFE, I’m grateful for my time in Duke Investment Club, leading a community of finance-oriented undergraduates as they found their way in the space and helping them learn through firm partnerships and the hands-on experience of making pitches for the club.
Outside of finance, what other interests have you explored at Duke? What non-finance accomplishments are you proud of?
Lily: I’m happy I continued studying Chinese and East Asia generally at Duke. After growing up in Singapore, the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) Department helped sustain and bolster my passion for and interest in the region. I also really enjoyed meeting with students learning Mandarin at the Montessori School of Durham, tutoring local middle schoolers through StudentU, and serving as a TA and student-athlete tutor for nearly 300 Duke students over the past three years. I have always enjoyed teaching peers and younger students alike.
Finally, I’m glad to have served since my freshman year as a peer responder for Peer For You, a resource students can reach out to for support and wellbeing resources. I think it’s really important for students to know that they can rely on those around them, particularly in high-pressure circumstances. Those who lack support systems in other environments will never fail to find one in me.
Jason: I’ve been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities such as pre-orientations, Greek life, and faith-based organizations. Although there’s still a way to go, I hope to look back and be proud of how I’ve given back as a peer mentor and new grad, paying it forward for those who continue to come up the ranks here at Duke.
Watch the video below to learn even more about Lily and Jason, from Jason's favorite West Union order to Lily's best tenting story.