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The Nicholas Center’s New Initiative Offers Graduate-Level Learning for Undergraduate Finance Students

By Clare Becker

September 14, 2018

A select group of top-performing undergraduate finance students at the Wisconsin School of Business will form the inaugural cohort of the Nicholas Center Analyst Development Program during the 2018-19 academic year.

The new initiative, developed by WSB’s Nicholas Center for Corporate Finance and Investment Banking, incorporates BBA students into the Center by giving them the opportunity to take MBA-level classes, join the center’s network and community, receive personalized mentorship, and contribute to thought-leadership initiatives.

Brad Chandler, director of WSB’s Nicholas Center

Brad Chandler, director of the Nicholas Center, says the pilot program’s goals are threefold: to train and nurture top talent, accelerate participants’ career development through mentorship and a practitioner-based curriculum, and to establish the program’s reputation with employers and potential students.

“Historically, the Nicholas Center has operated primarily as an MBA program,” explains Chandler. “We decided to create the Analyst Development Program—which all finance majors can apply for when they are rising seniors—as a means of expanding the center’s reach to undergraduate students. While the benefit to BBA students is obvious, I think it will help push the MBA students as well. Both groups will benefit from this.”

A unique vision

One of the program’s advisors, Tim Hotchandani (BBA ’04), was instrumental in planting the initial seeds back when he was an undergraduate student at the School, advocating for more undergraduate collaboration with the Nicholas Center. Hotchandani is currently the managing director in investment banking at the global financial advisory group, Rothschild & Co. Students in the program will gain expertise from Hotchandani and Chandler, whose experience includes 10 years on Wall Street, rising to  managing director at Morgan Stanley.

Admission to the program is highly competitive. Acceptance criterion weighed includes academic achievement, professional goals, areas of individual interest, and expertise. While the pilot program isn’t a certification—the BBA diploma remains the same—the benefit in addition to the graduate level courses is the push to be better in an environment of structured support. Ideally, Chandler says, the goal is to have the students become the “top performing employee at their first job.”

“We created the Analyst Development Program as a means of expanding the Nicholas Center’s reach to undergraduate students. While the benefit to BBA students is obvious, it will help push the MBA students as well. Both groups will benefit from this.”

-Brad Chandler, director of the Nicholas Center

For the inaugural class, he says 10 “superstars” were selected, with summer internship experience at firms such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Dell, and Procter & Gamble. Students in the cohort are combining their finance major with other field specializations such as risk management, real estate, computer science, accounting, math, and economics.

Sam Holland (BBA ’19) is excited to be part of the nascent program.

“I had the opportunity to meet Brad shortly after his arrival at WSB,” Holland relates. “I immediately sensed his energy and passion for contributing to and strengthening the Nicholas Center and its various ancillary initiatives, of which the inclusion of senior undergraduates in advanced finance courses is one. It is a unique opportunity to structure a program such that the development of course content and student activities is derived from a former practitioner—especially one intellectually curious and committed to making the production of thought leadership in the financial sphere one of its core tenets. As I conclude my formal education, I am honored, privileged, and looking forward to participating in the genesis of the program.”

Program plan of study

Students in the program will take three MBA-level classes: Financial Modeling and Valuation, Applied Corporate Finance, and Mergers and Acquisition. Two undergraduate courses—Corporate Finance and Investment Banking and Capital Markets—are also included in the plan of study.

Along with classes, participants work on individual projects tailored to their interests and strengths. The 10 projects are designed to establish each student’s thought leadership on a given subject, such as one student’s project that uses his computer science background to automate financial models. Other projects in the works include examining the private equity landscape, an analysis and forecasting of oil prices, a review of merger and acquisition trends in the health care industry, and a merger arbitrage analysis and case study. Upon completing their projects, the students will present their findings to the MBA students and other Analyst Development Program participants.

“The idea with these projects is to get students studying and perfecting those things that they really care about. And then, for the benefit of everyone else, asking them to share that knowledge in some way,” Chandler explains. “That’s nine other topics for everyone to learn about—that’s the practice of multiplying. Think how much better prepared they’ll be than if they only took regular classes for their senior year.”

MBA students Emma Ebert (MBA ’19) and Dave Klante (MBA ’19) say they look forward to that mutual sharing of knowledge and expertise.

“The caliber of undergraduate students selected for the new Analyst Development Program is inspiring,  and I look forward to working with, learning from, and mentoring these individuals,” Ebert says. “I believe this initiative will truly set them apart from their peers during interviewing and in their first roles post graduation.”

Klante agrees, adding that the program will “enhance” his own experience as an MBA student. “It’s a great opportunity to collaborate with and learn from an impressive group of incoming undergraduate students.”

Widening the network

Chandler is excited about the future possibilities for growth stemming from the Analyst Development Program. He envisions a widening of the network to include alumni, board of advisors, and program graduates reaching back to connect with new program participants. A commitment to stay engaged is an actual condition of acceptance for the incoming analysts.

“This program is really the next wave of getting undergraduates more integrated into the Nicholas Center,” Chandler says. “We’re reaching them early and hopefully in a way where they can connect with each other. They all have a shared vision about success for this program.”