Some changes in life are big. In March 2017, my wife and I decided to turn our lives upside down and move from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin. I had just been promoted to Managing Director in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley, one of my top professional goals that took me over 10 years to achieve. Weeks later, I told my boss that I was leaving to join the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as Director of the Nicholas Center for Corporate Finance and Investment Banking.
My Rationale for Choosing the Nicholas Center
It sounds “kind of wonderful,” my boss at Morgan Stanley said after I explained my rationale. And I agreed.
I chose the Nicholas Center for the following reasons:
- UW’s reach – I was impressed by the scope of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s influence in the world. This is exemplified by its comprehensive teaching and research activities, its finance faculty members, the size of its student body, its distinguished alumni, and its mission as a public academic institution.
- The Specialization Model Works – As an alumnus of a general MBA program, I see tremendous value in the Wisconsin School of Business specialization model. Students apply and are accepted to the Corporate Finance and Investment Banking specialization – not an amorphous general MBA program where the curriculum choices can be haphazard. Although choosing their specialization requires more work from students upfront, this choice makes all the difference. Under the leadership of Faculty Director Professor Antonio Mello, the Nicholas Center designs its program to develop the next generation of leaders in finance, and the training starts even before new students step on campus in the fall. Given this focus, my expertise and experience as an industry practitioner is highly valued at the Nicholas Center.
- Applied Learning is Critical for Student Success – Just knowing an equation or the theory behind a finance concept is not enough at the Wisconsin School of Business. Students must engage their community and confront challenging, real-world problems that do not have straight forward answers. The “live” consulting projects that require second year students to advise real companies on current corporate finance problems are a hallmark of the Nicholas Center’s program. This inspires me – both as an opportunity to guide students and to continue to expand my own knowledge and skills.
- The Nicholas Center is a Compelling Opportunity for Me – This role offers something my career on Wall Street never could. It offers a chance to apply my specialized knowledge to confront difficult corporate finance problems, but to do so with the primary purpose of giving back and developing the next generation of business leaders. This educational mission is personally fulfilling to me, especially at a place like the Wisconsin School of Business that values the contribution of practitioners.
- Personal Impact – The Nicholas Center currently has 12 students in its second-year class and 11 students in its incoming first year class. Although the students are part of a large university system, the instruction at the Nicholas Center is personal. I will get to know each student well and can provide individualized attention based on each person’s specific development needs.
- The Nicholas Center Executives in Residence, Board of Advisors and Passionate Alumni – Wisconsin alumni are passionate and take seriously their commitment to Nicholas Center students and the broader University community. I was surprised to learn how engaged alumni and supporters are and how much of a team effort there is at the Nicholas Center. Don Condon and Tom Tefft, the Executives in Residence, are both accomplished business leaders that spend a significant amount of their time mentoring students. In addition, the Nicholas Center Board of Advisors not only helps oversee the program, but also provides assistance to students on an individualized basis. It was refreshing to learn that these constituencies, in addition to Faculty Director Professor Antonio Mello and Assistant Director Lisa White, are as committed to the Nicholas Center as I am.
- Outstanding Students – I’ve already spent time meeting each of the students in the Nicholas Center Classes of 2018 and 2019, and I am impressed. One example among many is a rising second year student Jacob Smith. Jacob sought a venture capital internship this summer (which is notoriously difficult to land), hustled and received multiple offers, ultimately joining Lewis & Clark, a venture capital firm in St. Louis. Jacob’s tenacity confirmed that I made a great decision in joining the Nicholas Center.
What I Seek to Bring to the Nicholas Center
I’m excited to build upon the success of the Nicholas Center. I believe my background, which combines 10 years of professional experience on Wall Street and strong academic preparation, is well-suited for this position. While at Morgan Stanley, I advised CEOs, CFOs, Heads of Business Development and Boards of Directors on consequential corporate finance problems. In addition, I have hired, trained, evaluated and promoted a large number of MBAs from diverse backgrounds. I have seen firsthand what it takes to succeed in the world of finance. And most importantly, I hope to bring to the students a passion for learning and the courage to tackle even the most complex concepts in finance.
To the Nicholas Center community (Board of Advisors, Alumni, students and prospective students), you will hear more from me later this summer when I officially start my role as Director. You can expect that I will reach out directly! I would also like to thank Matt Clayton for his excellent work at the Nicholas Center. Antonio Mello, Lisa White and I are looking forward to partnering with you to take the Nicholas Center forward!