Panthers Take Manhattan

RCB program builds careers, connections in the Big Apple


Panthers on Wall Street

A stockbroker chats with the Panthers on Wall Street students on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange.

A stockbroker chats with the Panthers on Wall Street students on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange.

NEW YORK — On a balmy September morning in Manhattan, a handful of smartly dressed Georgia State University business students navigates a 10-block commute at a brisk New Yorker pace. The group arrives at the Bloomberg Tower and disperses to the check-in lines. A few of the young women — the practical ones — retreat to a corner of the lobby, where they discreetly swap their flats for heels they had stashed in their large purses.

Past security and six floors above in the building’s central atrium, the group marvels at the slick design of Bloomberg’s headquarters. Headlines and market numbers crawl across an outsized array of long screens in the break area, where all the snacks are free; splashes of bold color punch up the mostly glass interior. “Could this place be any cooler?” one student muses.

While Bloomberg might seem an impossibly glamorous, unattainable ideal, all of these students are one step closer to getting a foot in the door here or at another big-name New York firm because of this trip.

GSU’s Panthers on Wall Street program, now in its fourth year, provides a select group of Robinson College of Business upperclassmen and graduate students with an entrée to a career in the Big Apple. During a four-day immersion, students interact with some of the city’s power players and learn firsthand how business is done in New York.

“The mission is to help students seeking jobs in New York identify opportunities and position them with not only the companies, but alumni there,” says Jason Aldrich, executive director of the Robinson College of Business Career Management Center, which leads the program. “[We want] to build a network of contacts in New York who can help the students.”

Competition for the program is stiff: This year only 17 students were selected from about 100 applicants. All candidates attend a speed-networking “mocktail” party as their first challenge, after which Aldrich and his colleagues decide who will advance to the next round of individual interviews. Once admitted, the students complete a professional development boot camp, learning what to wear, how to enter a room, how to prepare for interviews and more.

The itinerary is packed with eight company visits, a tour of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor, an alumni reception and, new this year, an excursion to Rockefeller Plaza to try to get on camera at the “Today” show. (They do, for seven seconds of Bleed-Blue glory behind weatherman Al Roker.)

The trip is planned and executed with military precision — it has to be, with such a large group. The two-day marathon of back-to-back business meetings makes stops at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Deloitte, KPMG and Chartis, among other companies. A typical session includes a recruitment presentation, a Q-and-A or panel discussion and time for networking.

“There is a level of intensity that you can’t even describe in New York, and this program is an introduction to that,” says David Pacer, who will graduate this winter with a double degree in finance and actuarial science. Pacer is one of several students to land an interview as a result of the group visits.

The alumni reception is a good indicator of how the program has grown. The first year, only about 10 New York-based alumni showed up; this year, more than 40 came. “Several of them are alums of the program who have found jobs in New York,” Aldrich says. “We’re really starting to build that network now.”

Back in Atlanta after the trip, Aldrich and the other advisers continue to meet with participating students as they follow up with potential employers and launch their careers. “The students are part of a program that attracts ongoing opportunities, and we encourage them to stay active as alums of the program and the college,” Aldrich says. “It’s a pretty special group of people.”

Click here for a slideshow from the trip.