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Values

Impact: How Excellence Unlocks Change

By Impact No Comments

At Scholars of Finance, we have six core values that are at the center of what we teach and strive to lead with: Integrity, Compassion, Humility, Curiosity, Impact, and Courage. Each month, our members vote on the “Value of the Month”, which has increasingly been at the center of discussions we have at both undergraduate chapters and among our national team.

For the month of February, our Value of the Month is Impact. Some of our members asked me to share a brief background on why Impact was selected as one of our core values and how it helps us achieve our mission at SOF. So, I am going to walk through the value, its “epithet”, and the 4 principles we believe reflect this value. I hope to explain the rationale behind them and provide you with some examples and questions to help you consider how these may apply to you personally. Here they are:

Impact

Do excellent work

  • Accept nothing less than your best
  • Develop credibility through consistency
  • Operate patiently and think long term
  • Live a healthy and balanced life

We use the term “Impact” interchangeably at the organization to mean two things. Most commonly, we use  “making an impact” to mean doing excellent work that advances our mission. Secondly, we “make an impact” on others, our organization, and the world by doing good, making a difference, or making lasting, positive contributions to society. The latter has become incredibly common today. We believe our mission of inspiring character and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow will make an enormous impact on the world in this sense. Ultimately, It will change how billions of dollars are invested and allocated – toward solving problems, improving communities, and helping people thrive.

Do excellent work

We define Impact as “doing excellent work” because we believe that is integral to making an impact (the “doing good” kind). Our vision is a future where all finance leaders steward the world’s capital to serve the greater good. This requires several components. First, we need ALL finance leaders on board. Yes, they need to view themselves as stewards – as fiduciaries who are entrusted with capital on behalf of others in a role of service. They do need to be motivated by improving the world around them, rather than self-gain, greed, or power. Accordingly, at Scholars of Finance, we often emphasize developing “highly principled” future leaders as the means of achieving this vision. But a clear reality is that we also must be the “highest performing” future leaders as well if our members are to enter finance, succeed, and ascend the ranks of leadership and reach a level of seniority where they can make a significant impact. They need to do excellent work to get in the door and then climb the ladder.

So, with that in mind, let’s break down our four principles for Impact, which we believe define the behaviors that reflect this in action – and also discuss why they are so important.

Accept nothing less than your best

Finance demands this from us. The gravity of our future decisions demands it. We believe members of Scholars of Finance will one day allocate millions or even billions of dollars. That’s an enormous responsibility and deserves our very best effort because those decisions can influence thousands of lives – and many more. I sometimes reflect on the precision that engineers at NASA or SpaceX have to employ in their work, and I genuinely believe investors should apply the same level of rigor in trying to allocate capital to its highest purposes – where it can do the most good. Practically, today, this looks like being detail-oriented, doing thorough research, and thinking critically. It’s putting in the extra effort.

Develop credibility through consistency

Finance is largely a relationship business. Our ability to bring projects to fruition or deals to close requires that others trust and respect us. Large and complex projects also require the collaboration of many people, so we need to consistently build credibility, across teams, companies, and contexts. We need to be consistent so people know they can count on both our word and our work. They need to know we will deliver. Many of our speakers and mentors share that they only want to work with people they trust, and in Wall Street, expectations of excellence are incredibly high – trust has to be earned constantly. Ralph Acampora, one of our Advisors, who is renowned on Wall Street, often says “it took me 50 years to build my reputation, and it could take me less than 5 minutes to destroy it”.

Operate patiently and think long term

Short-termism has been argued to be one of the largest hindrances to advancing society as quickly as we are capable of through investment in innovation and moving capital toward businesses and products that are in our collective, long-term best interest. For example, many have argued that short-term profit pressure has slowed our transition to renewable energy sources, leaving us with the prolonged effect of pollution and carbonization of our atmosphere – all of which are creating growing costs we will have to pay for years from now. In addition to the need to be patient with our investing to unlock progress for society, we need to be patient to advance deals, as they are often complex and take time. For example, I spoke to the former CEO of a top investment bank that had once acquired another sizable firm, and the CEO said that they had been building the relationships needed to close that acquisition for more than a decade.

Live a healthy and balanced life

This may seem counterintuitive, and to some, almost tone-deaf considering what we hear about the lifestyle and workload of investors. Our members pursuing roles in investment banking dread the 80-100 hour work weeks they’ve heard horror stories about. Rightfully so, because that kind of lifestyle drives burnout and sleep deprivation, which can lower our moral awareness and, not surprisingly, dramatically reduce our cognitive performance. In finance, the stakes are often high, with millions of dollars on the line. Tending to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health is critical for our decision-making under those intense circumstances. Excellence requires us to operate at our highest levels, so sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships, and every aspect of our lives need to be in order. Becoming an executive is also a multi-decade journey, which burnout would halt before we even get close to the “finish line”. We need to operate sustainably.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this begins to paint a picture of what Impact means to us at Scholars of Finance and why it’s important. Like most, we think it guides us toward making a difference in the world and people’s lives. And we also believe it entails holding ourselves to a high standard of excellence in the process. 

In the months ahead, with members, mentors, and speakers, we will dive deeply into each of these principles. We hope that, as February winds to a close and you reflect on your impact, you can identify a few ways to do even better work – excellent work – that advances a mission that’s important to you. 

Ask yourself: Are you doing your best work or spread so thin everything you produce is just “good enough?” Are you building credibility through consistency or creating for yourself a reputation for underdelivering? Are you thinking long-term or only thinking about this quarter, this month, or even this week? Are you living a healthy and balanced life or are you stressed, anxious, eating poorly, and barely sleeping? 

Taking a bit of time to pause and soberly face these questions will almost always yield actionable insights. I hope that you’ll set aside even just 15-20 minutes sometime after reading this to ponder these questions, and ideally identify 1-2 things you can change in the week ahead to make more impact. 

As I do the same, I am raising a virtual toast to you and to all of the long-term impact you’ll unlock as a result. 

A Call to Character Amidst a Defining Moment

By Compassion, Courage, Curiosity One Comment

Dear Scholars of Finance,

After reflecting on the events that recently transpired in the U.S. Capitol, I am writing to offer some encouragement and guidance on how we can grow and act as leaders in a time when our leadership is more important than ever.

On Wednesday, January 6th, millions of people went online and watched violent rioters storm the U.S. Capitol, witnessing the chambers of democracy being desecrated and looking on in suspense as the very principles the U.S. was built upon were challenged. The character of this nation was threatened. The House of Representatives and Senate reconvened safely that evening and completed the election certification. The democratic process prevailed over violence and intimidation. 

Following this day of infamy, five have been reported dead. The FBI has identified dozens of rioters to be prosecuted for egregious crimes. The current President of the United States has been banned from Twitter and Facebook indefinitely, and impeachment is under consideration. 

We’re living through a moment that will define our generation.

Many of us have felt scared or confused by what has in some cases been portrayed as the unraveling of the safety and security of democratic processes and institutions. Many of us were shocked or deeply disappointed that people would so recklessly defile the halls of Congress. Many of us are angry about the obvious inequality and inequity displayed, recognizing that several Black Lives Matter protests were treated more harshly, leading us to question how Capitol police would have responded had the rioters not been predominantly white. Some are not even surprised by the events, given the divided state this nation has devolved to and the vitriolic rhetoric of the current President. Some simply don’t know what to think or what to say.

The moment continues. With a presidential inauguration approaching and the deep division of our nation becoming increasingly apparent, it may last for weeks or months, maybe even years. 

Many of us are asking ourselves what our role is in this moment. What can we do? What should we do? The problems can feel so much bigger than us. The solutions can seem far out of our reach, lying in the hands of national officials, courts, or political leaders. How do we make an impact? Can we?

Yes we can. We can take action within our circles of influence, whether we only reach our family members down the hall or we reach hundreds or thousands. We can do something now and we can make a difference.

Our mission is to inspire character and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow. We may wonder what action we can take while still so early in our paths to becoming finance leaders and investors. What role does finance play in all of this? 

Eff Martin, a former Partner at Goldman Sachs and a close friend of SOF, once told us that “you need to build character now, so that in 15 years, when you’re put to the test and your decisions carry much more weight, you have the character to do the right thing.” One day, some of us will make decisions with millions of dollars and impact many, many lives. So, in this moment, as future finance leaders, we seek to examine how we can act with character to prepare ourselves for our future impact. In doing so, we can also make an impact right now.

I encourage all of our members, and anyone else reading this, to consider our core values of Courage, Curiosity, and Compassion and how to apply each of them in the weeks ahead. Here are a few thoughts to help you get started with your reflection and next steps:

Courage — There is deep division in the world which threatens the foundations of our society. Help solve this large and important problem. The situation in our country may get better from here, or, for a period of time, the state of affairs may get worse. Remain calm. Maya Angelou said, “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Courage overpowers the fear that resigns us to this new status quo.

Curiosity — There will be many debates about what has happened, is happening, and will happen. First, seek to understand, then to be understood. We will naturally bias toward talking about these events only with people who share our worldview. Embrace diverse perspectives. Abraham Lincoln, who led the U.S. through arguably the most divided time in our national history, said, “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.” Curiosity extinguishes the flames of anger between us.

Compassion — There are people severely affected by what’s happening. Show empathy to those suffering. There are people who view this situation differently than we may. Show them respect and kindness. People will say things that initially offend us. Extend them forgiveness. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Compassion is our primary antidote to the divisiveness that plagues us.

Again, one day, many of us will be leaders in finance who help shape the economy and our nation’s political agenda. It is incumbent upon us to practice these values now to help heal our nation and prepare for the days when our actions have far greater implications. My sincere hope is that the last week and the months ahead can become one of the greatest periods of growth in our lives to date so that we can help avoid events like these from happening again, and that in the process, we help shape this moment into a foundation for a brighter future.

If you have questions, need someone to talk to, want to discuss how to uphold these values in more detail, or perhaps want to be a resource for others seeking clarity through this period, you can always reach out at hello@scholarsoffinance.org and a member of the team will be grateful to talk with you.

Best,
Ross Overline
Co-Founder, CEO

A Lesson in Curiosity, Humility, and Courage

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility No Comments

Next to the entrance of every Sam’s Club nationwide is the consumer electronics section. In this section stands a sales representative dressed in a suit promoting the store’s latest deals. To adult shoppers, the consumer electronics department is their go-to place for discounted TVs on Black Friday or a new phone when a family member needs a replacement. For children, this section offers the most captivating gadgets to play with while parents complete their weekly grocery run. The consumer electronics department in Sam’s Club was my home last summer.

Like many high school graduates, I pursued a summer job in the months before heading to college. This opportunity was the ideal time for many of my classmates to earn some spending money from a stress-free retail or tutoring job. For my friends, my decision to sell DirecTV and AT&T plans for the summer was a complete mystery. I was an introvert; in the classroom, I did not draw attention to myself by jumping to answer questions. Every action I made was carefully calculated until I was sure I could succeed. The sales rep role was the complete opposite, as conversion rates averaged only 5%. Why would someone like me take a job that required me to seek out attention and rejection from disinterested shoppers? The answer was simple – I had never done it before. This split-second decision only took 5 minutes of courage, but it made a world of difference.

This display of courage led me to a week of sales training where I was taught to smile, laugh, make conversation, and recite a sales pitch. Too quickly came my first day “in the field.” I leaned against the phone display waiting for customers to pass the station. As they walked through the sliding doors, I straightened my blazer, stood up straight, and took a few steps forward. My heart pounded and I opened my mouth to greet them.

“Hi y’all, who’s your TV provider? We’re doing a promotion to–,” I was cut off by a quick wave of a hand and they turned brusquely away. My first rejection. Another one came a few minutes later. Then another. And another. I didn’t make a single deal that day, or even in the first week. I finished my week in the field dejected and began to echo the doubts of my classmates. I thought, “maybe my personality just wasn’t cut out for this role.”

Motivated by my less than satisfactory performance, however, I wanted to improve. My courage had allowed me to take the first step in stepping out of my comfort zone, but I needed to continue growing in that direction. To achieve this, I utilized humility and curiosity. I knew the bounds of which I still had yet to learn and sought the resources to do so. Over the course of the next two weeks, I arrived at weekly check-ins early and stayed later to work with senior executives. They threw every possible scenario at me while I practiced navigating client interactions. I also remained curious about each team member’s unique sales strategies and learned how to apply their sales “personas” to my own. As I improved my communication skills, I also gained confidence. My poor first week stemmed from being so focused on closing deals rather than genuinely engaging with customers. After overcoming this obstacle, I returned to the consumer electronics section with a newfound excitement. My goal would be to connect with people, and deals would come naturally.

Monday morning came around and I once again waited for the first customers to come through the sliding doors. Using a tone similar to that of talking with an old friend, I greeted, “Good morning, y’all, how are you doing?” The members started to talk about their day and I learned about their kids, gardens, and pets. Immediately, I noticed a difference in my sales. I had formed personal connections with customers and even if they did not need a TV or phone right then, they gave promises to return. My first day back, I closed two deals.

My experience as a DirecTV sales rep was a lesson on the importance of courage, humility, and curiosity, and it transformed my perspective on life. Although I still am an introvert, I learned to utilize courage and take risks in order to grow. In pursuing a role that starkly contrasted my personality, I broke through my own doubts that introversion made me unfit for a sales role. Today, I continue to seek opportunities to make genuine connections and meet new people with diverse perspectives. I also strive to help others, promote positivity, and remain humble and curious in each relationship, whether it’s with friends, colleagues, or mentors. It only takes five minutes of courage to venture beyond your comfort zone and exceed your limits, and I challenge all of you to find that moment. What’s something you’re afraid of that’s holding you back from where you want to go?

A Brief Reflection On Courage…

By Courage No Comments

Following Courage being voted as the value of the month, I began thinking about everything that’s taken place over the last several months, for myself and for the rest of our community here at Scholars of Finance.

We’ve all been faced with a lot.

Undoubtedly, the elephant in the room is the COVID-19 and navigating its effects, but in addition to that we’ve had an election, several friends and family members pass away, and a wave of civil unrest in the United States to name a few things. 

While these examples don’t encapsulate everything we’ve faced this year, they serve as a testament to how courageous everyone in our organization has been.

Watching this all unfold from a bird’s eye view, it’s been inspiring to see how boldly our entire organization has acted.

We’ve all remained focused on our team goal of creating a future where all finance leaders steward the world’s capital to serve the greater good. Not only that, but several members of our community, from all walks of life, stand up for what they believe in and speak up when they felt something wasn’t right.

Most of us have been online for the majority of the semester and have been secluded from our chapters and classmates. Some of you are living internationally and have to wake up at 4am to attend class, others were forced to either stay home or leave home, and others have certainly had family members be furloughed or laid off because of the impacts of COVID-19. Regardless, the two themes that I’ve seen have been endless uncertainty and relentless courage from you all to combat that uncertainty. 

It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less next month or next year. I can personally say I’ve been inspired by how quickly everyone in SOF has adapted to this new normal. Watching chapters mobilize and make progress while being fully remote, seeing you all put forth your best effort even when it’s much easier to get distracted and multi-task, and hearing about how many of you have found new interests and internships have been just a few of the ways that I’ve been inspired to keep learning and keep moving forward. 

With everything that’s in front of us now and in the future, I’d encourage you all to focus on courage for the rest of November. Work toward solving the world’s biggest problems. Stand up for what you believe in. And most importantly… stay bold.

Richard Davis is Joining Our Advisory Board!

By Values No Comments

 

We have some very exciting news to share as an organization. Richard Davis, the former Chairman, President, and CEO of U.S. Bank has joined our Advisory Board!

Richard is a luminary of ethical finance leadership. He has more than 30 years of experience in financial services, including spending 2006 to 2017 leading U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the U.S. Under his leadership, the institution became recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute in 2014, an award it’s received every year since.

Richard also has an impressive track record of governance and nonprofit leadership. He is on the Board of Directors for many large for profit companies, including MasterCard, and several leading nonprofits, including The American Red Cross. After leading U.S. Bank he stepped in to become the CEO and President of Make-A-Wish America, where he serves today.

More important than his accolades, Richard exemplifies the character and values we stand for at Scholars of finance. Every time you interact with him his genuine humility, integrity, compassion, curiosity, and courage all shine through.

Looking back on his career, we can say with confidence that Richard has helped make finance a force for good, and we are very excited to have him join our Advisory Board to help all of us at SOF do the same.

To learn more about Richard and the experience and values he brings to our board, you can check out his profile on our website here

If you’d like to extend Richard a warm welcome into the Scholars of Finance community, you can do so by sending an email to hello@scholarsoffinance.org, and we’ll forward it along.

Thanks again for all of your support and, in the meantime, we hope you have a great rest of your week.

 

Cheers!

The Scholars of Finance Team

A Message To New Yorkers

By Courage No Comments

New York City is dead forever.

A claim so comprehensive and all-encompassing that it lacks the substance to garner true attention from New Yorkers. Still, it conveniently reaches the tongues of pessimists and spreads like wildfire in an already-tense social, political, and economic climate—the perfectly chaotic and anxiety-inducing combination for students, professionals, and families transitioning back into New York City. Of course, to say that New York is the same bustling metropolis, holy grail of nightlife/culture, and flooded tourist attraction it was last February is to reject the truth. And how could it be? But to say that New York is dead, lifeless, and unrecoverable is to turn your back on your home—and that is a notion I must reject.

Back in late February when COVID-19 first posed a threat in New York, there was just one overarching emotion that found commonplace among the city’s population—fear. As we faced the brunt of COVID-19’s effects throughout the spring and into the summer, this deep-rooted fear unfolded, grew, and took the shape of real, tangible, life-changing tragedy. Tens of thousands of human lives were taken, and countless measures of human progress—long-developed businesses, future study/travel plans, or major events including that of athletics and politics—were delayed if not wholly eliminated. New York City would quickly become the COVID-19 capital of the world, making a name for itself as the singular most unsafe place to reside during the pandemic—and yet, remarkably, New York proceeded to crawl up from the depths of COVID-19’s effects, stand as a model, leader, and forward innovator to urban spaces around the world in the areas of COVID-19 prevention, research, and recovery, and come to be defined by its overall solidarity, compassion, and genuine regard for human livelihood and safety. Never before in my entire life did I feel so proud to call a place my home than I did during the aftermath of the pandemic’s worst, and never did I predict a city as large, iconic, and reputably unforgiving as New York—with residents hailing from every corner of the world, practicing every faith, and living such drastically different lives from their mere closest neighbors—to become small. Shrink. Integrate into a single unit bound by genuine hope, unwavering commitment, and calculated action. To express the slightest bit of disregard, lack of empathy, or fruitless negativity toward a city that has shown such resilience in the face of a pandemic would be a grave disservice.

And oftentimes—conveniently, of course—those claiming that New York City is “dead forever” have absolutely no will, plan, or desire to change it. There is undeniably a certain demographic that criticizes from a comfortable distance, and far too often that demographic is comprised of people who would rather moan over basic inadequacies than make the first step toward solutions (i.e. donating to local hospitals/healthcare workers, staying indoors/following safety protocols, supporting local restaurants and businesses, etc.). This mindset is not unique or original in light of the current pandemic, but rather holds true through an array of different topics and institutions—politics, policies, social issues, and so on. Logically speaking, how much easier is it to complain about an issue than to actually solve it? Or rather, attempt to solve it? Contribute to solutions? Much, unfortunately. And while many of us recognize that such a mindset is unproductive and vain, it’s quite effortless in its execution. Why exert effort into hope, optimism, and practicality when you can comfortably slide into the groove of pessimism—a fan favorite and easy conversation starter! In fact, I’m beginning to sound pessimistic myself.

Thus, as you can imagine, it upset me when I announced to family and friends that I was moving back to New York City for my sophomore year of college and was met with this exact sort of negativity. Not only did it bother me, but it opened my eyes to the ubiquity of such a thought process—one marked by blind and utter complacency. Complacency in our current systems, institutions, and problems. Complacency in accepting the fact that there is greater comfort and familiarity in negativity than in forward thinking and progress. While it can be daunting to speak on ideas, solutions, or topics you’re passionate about in a genuinely positive manner, it will be personally rewarding to know that you’ve moved in the direction of change and haven’t fed into the negativity that is oftentimes so welcoming and comfortable. Courage is a value we hold deep to our core here at Scholars of Finance, and it’s one that New Yorkers unapologetically express as they stay positive, aid in the city’s social and economic redevelopment, and make their way back to residence. Facing such criticism and negativity not one but several times before my move back to New York has been quite difficult, but as mentioned, I’ve confronted it with my passion for positive change, commitment to forward thinking, and loyalty to New York’s recovery—and haven’t looked back since.

In a world where one can choose to be anything, I may never understand why so many choose to be negative. How can you live a positive life with the weight of a negative mind? Moving forward, when prompted with “Why would you move back there now? New York City won’t ever return to normal!” I’ll simply make it known that normal wasn’t in the cards—New York will be back and better.

Important News About Our Vision, Mission, and Values at Scholars of Finance

By Values No Comments

At SOF, our vision, mission, and values are at the core of what we do and what we teach our students and members. 

In keeping with “Curiosity,” one of our core values, we’re always learning and growing. As our organization has matured, we’ve learned a lot about the world, finance, and ourselves. Our mentors and advisors have continued to help us improve how we inspire character and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow. Throughout this process and period of growth for SOF, we’ve decided to refine our vision, mission, and values to best represent what we believe future finance executives and investors need to embody.

Our team has spent countless hours discussing our vision, mission, and values, learning from experts, and gathering feedback from our community. After sending a survey to over 600 students and professionals in the SOF community to collect data, we then hosted 2 virtual town hall discussions with our community. We also held numerous one-on-one conversations with our mentors, Board of Directors, and Advisory Board Members, including Katie Lawler, Chief Ethics Officer of U.S. Bank, and Deb Schoneman, President of Piper Sandler.

We are pleased to say that we have finalized our updated vision, mission, and values at Scholars of Finance

Among many improvements, there are a few key changes you’ll notice:

  • “Compassion” is a new value on the list. We believe that serving others and fostering relationships through kindness, empathy, respect, forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity are critical for us to make a positive impact on people.
  • Principles were changed and are explicit. Now, our principles are closer to being mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, while retaining brevity, and they are explicit and direct. We removed metaphors.
  • Each value includes an epithet. This was to summarize the essence of each value and provide additional clarity for what exactly its intent is. 24 principles are a lot to memorize and these epithets are a good starting point.

Here they are:

Vision: A future where all finance leaders steward the world’s capital to serve the greater good. 

Mission: To inspire character and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow.

Values:

  • Integrity (Do what’s right) 
    • Do the right thing, always
    • Build trust through transparency and accountability 
    • Honor your responsibilities and commitments
    • Speak the truth at all times
  • Compassion (Serve others) 
    • Foster relationships with respect and empathy
    • Offer kindness and forgiveness to everyone 
    • Be generous with your time, energy, and resources
    • Champion diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Humility (Know thyself) 
    • Serve a purpose greater than yourself
    • Cultivate gratitude for what you have
    • Recognize both your strengths and limitations
    • Ask for and share honest feedback regularly
  • Curiosity (Know the world) 
    • Seek first to understand, then to be understood 
    • Realize that there is always more to learn
    • Value every situation as a growth opportunity
    • Pursue and embrace diverse perspectives
  • Impact (Do excellent work) 
    • Accept nothing less than your best
    • Develop credibility through consistency
    • Operate patiently and think long term
    • Live a healthy and balanced life
  • Courage (Act boldly) 
    • Solve large and important problems in the world
    • Stand up for what you believe is right
    • Remain calm during difficult times
    • Embrace change and help others do the same

We strongly believe that our updated vision, mission, and values more accurately represent an effective and ethical finance leader—the model our members should strive to emulate. As our mentors have taught us, building character will be a lifelong journey. We’re excited to be on it.

To ensure our vision, mission, values shape the culture of our organization and our community, we are committed to deepening their integration into everything we do, including by:

  • Centering our National Speaker Series around these values and their significance to our speakers.
  • Making our values the themes for our SOF Symposia in each of our core markets.
  • Revising our Leadership Development Program to better instill these values and relate them to finance.
  • Incorporating guidance for mentors and mentees in our Mentorship Network to help facilitate discussions about these values.
  • Fostering conversations about these values and principles at our internal meetings

If you are as excited about this as we are, you’ll be happy to hear we created a SOF Culture Book to easily share our values with others. This was inspired by the work of our friends at charity: water and is a great resource to pass along.

Thank you to all of you who’ve played a part in this process and for your continued support for Scholars of Finance. It’s you who have inspired our vision, mission, and values, and for that we are grateful. We believe the finance industry will be better off because of it.

Cheers,

Ross Overline

Co-Founder, CEO

Scholars of Finance

A Lesson From Shoveling Mulch

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility No Comments

A Lesson From Shoveling Mulch

One of the earliest memories I have of life back in Ohio is shoveling mulch in the summer.  I could feel the oppressive rays of the sun persuading me to race back inside where I was promised cold, refreshing water, but my older brother always insisted we continued piling black mulch on top of the soil. 

“The faster we work, the sooner we get done,” he assured me. I wasn’t amused. The ache in my muscles did not care for his cliche captain obvious remarks. As I felt my skin cooking in the midwestern heat, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself: What’s the point?

It didn’t make sense to me; we would spend the better part of two days piling on at least 20 bags of mulch to cover the plot in the garden only for the wind to blow and the sky to rain, eroding all the mulch we worked so hard to place. Why were we spending so much time and putting so much work into something that could never last? Every summer we’d repeat the same cycle of buying mulch, piling it on, and waiting for it to blow away.

When I got a little bit older and was less afraid of questioning my parents, I asked them the question burning in my head for years: why? Why do we spend so much time and money on this? My mother gave me an answer that puzzled me.

“It looks nice. Even if it’s for a moment, it looks nice.” I could tell she did not put much thought into her response, as if it should have already been clear. Again, I was not amused. 

At that time, I was about 13 years old, I was still going through that annoying pre-teen phase, and my first reaction was well, why should I care? After all, if someone sees our yard and thinks it looks disheveled or horrible, that’s their own opinion. How should that affect me? But as I learned more, read more, and took more classes in high school, I started to realize that appearance isn’t vain. Appearance doesn’t have to be people-pleasing, and appearance at its base can serve a bigger purpose.

For instance, if you have ever seen me write with a pencil or pen, you’d know I have very neat handwriting, but it does come at a price: I write extremely slowly. Often, people would notice and comment that those perfect round letters aren’t worth the cost of my glacial writing pace. To them, this is just another ploy to gain approval from my instructors when I turn in a prim and proper paper. 

But they’re wrong. Though I’ll admit I did play the role of teacher’s pet from time to time, that was never the aim with my neat handwriting. Whenever I doll up my paper and worsen my writer’s callus, that is me putting on my gardening gloves and shoveling mulch. I’m putting that work in for my lawn, for my growth, for my plants.

And let me be clear– it’s not because I want to have the best lawn in the neighborhood or that I want my lawn to be the object of everybody’s envy. It’s simpler than that. It’s because after working for long hours over two days, I can have a sense of accomplishment. I can lean back, have a glass of water, and say it looks nice. Even if it’s for a moment and even if nobody sees, it’s okay– it still looks nice.

My challenge to all of you is to reject the idea that your accomplishments only matter if there is someone to congratulate you, to perceive you. Have the courage to say “no, I’m not trying to impress anybody but myself,” because, at the end of the day, the mulch is going to wash away anyway.

Six Questions with Jenny Han

By Curiosity, Impact, Values No Comments

Six Questions with Scholars of Finance is a series intended to highlight the thoughts and lives of our students at Scholars of Finance. In the series, the students are simply asked six questions which we think embody the SOF experience and their answers are shared right here on the Scholars of Finance blog. In this second edition, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Jenny Han, a rising Sophomore at UC – Berkeley. If you are a student and would like to be featured in a segment of Six Questions with Scholars of Finance, please reach out to Jake Kranz via email.

What school do you go to?

University of California at Berkeley Class of 2023

Do you have any employment plans in the near future?

I am interning at a company called Kaali that is part of UC-Berkeley’s SkyDeck accelerator program.

Could you tell me a little bit about your experience with Scholars of Finance so far?

I joined Scholars of Finance in the spring of 2020 and gravitated towards it because of how differentiated of a business club it was, and still is. I was drawn in by the focus on morals and values and my strong belief in the mission. I’m a part of the associate team for the LDP out here and I’ve really enjoyed building deep, meaningful relationships with members through this program.

What is your favorite memory from Scholars of Finance so far?

My favorite memory so far is definitely the LDP. It’s given me the opportunity to learn about myself and others much more than I have in any of my other clubs or classes at college.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from Scholars of Finance?

The most important thing that I’ve learned to do in my time at SOF is the ability to implement my values and morals into everything that I do. Instead of thinking of success in the traditional way, I now think of success as sticking true to my values and living life in accordance with them.

If you could tell the next generation of SOF students anything – what would you tell them?

Take this time to truly reflect on who you want to be and what you really want out of life.

South Asian Allyship in the Age of BLM

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

It’s bad to be Black in Desi culture.

Hasan Minhaj described it best. We shy away from the awkward discussions at the dinner table, let the racist comments slide, because, what do our parents know? British colonization (which ceased in India as late as 1947) had adverse effects on our parent’s values and biases. They grew up surrounded by Fair and Lovely ads, taunted by their classmates and parents for being “kala” (which means dark, or black in Hindi and carries a negative connotation), and exposed to these notions of anti-Blackness subtly throughout their lives. It only makes sense that once they immigrated, they translated these biases into American society. These stereotypes were reinforced by the de-facto racism that plagues our social and political institutions and the harmful rhetoric that our leaders spew, brushing the notion of white privilege under the rug.

Spending all of my formative years in Staten Island, New York, sheltered in the most-suburban and least-diverse borough of New York City, I easily internalized the casual racism and the “model minority” myth touted around my community. My parents instilled in me the drive that us first-generation Indian kids know too well. Anyone can work hard, get into the best-gifted programs and magnet schools, get the highest scores on all standardized tests, and eventually, get into the college of their dreams. So when I began attending a magnet school in Coney Island, Brooklyn, I was armed with the notion that everyone had an equal means of succeeding if they worked hard enough. Attending this school, however, came with an unintended side effect- for the first time in my life, I was exposed to children of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. I went to school with the children of Academy Award winners, Ivy League legacies, and, alternatively, low-income students with drug-addicted and absent parents. Interacting with my peers helped me discern the intersectionality of race and socioeconomic status- it just so happened that the majority of the low-income students were people of color. It enabled my understanding that only a few years into their schooling, these students were already at a significant disadvantage compared to their privileged peers. But it was not until I took AP United States History my junior year of high school, however, that I could pinpoint the institutionalized racism in America, and the ripple-effect of longstanding policies that allow it to proliferate and adversely affect our Black community. It took an optional Advanced Placement class for me to recognize the significant whitewashing of our history curriculums, and the Eurocentric ideals that govern our social norms and beliefs, the effect of which has not been lost on the Asian community.

As Asian students, we proudly tout this “model minority” narrative, in which our immigrant parents have excelled as business leaders, innovators, and pillars of American society. We buy into this myth that we made it because we did the hard work, the work that our fellow Black Americans are too “lazy” for. We are so quick to ally ourselves with conservative groups intent on ripping apart affirmative action admissions processes, despite the fact that our minority is overrepresented at these leading academic institutions, and have minimal barriers to entry compared to our Black peers. What we fail to recognize, however, is that our families could only immigrate to this country subsequent to the Civil Rights movement, through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which increased Asian immigration by five times. We turn a blind eye to the fact that our success in America has been directly contingent upon the bravery and struggle of the Black community throughout the 60s. We buy into this divide and blissfully ignore our privilege as non-Black people of color. And now, our silence is deafening. How is it that we proudly support examples of Black excellence such as the Obamas, rappers, and NFL and NBA athletes but remain silent as our Black brothers and sisters are ruthlessly murdered in our communities by the very force that has sworn to protect them? How is it that we ingratiate Black culture into our own through the likes of Nav and Drake, but are hesitant to step forward and speak up against the injustices and casual racism that persist in our Desi communities? How is it that we have normalized our silence on these issues, simply because they don’t affect us? 

A lot of us, as first and second-generation immigrants have the privilege of handpicking the elements of our culture that we identify with. And for us, racism and the model minority myth will not be one of them. Educate yourself, it is not the burden of Black people to educate you. Have those tough conversations at the dinner table. Share Black stories. Uplift Black voices. Utilize your privilege and platform to support the people and culture we revere so deeply. For our Black communities, this is more than just an Instagram trend. It’s reality. 

 

Educational Resources

  • To Watch:
    • Stream “Views for a Vision” to donate money to BLM
    • When They See Us
    • 13th
    • Dear White People
    • Who Killed Malcolm X?
    • All Day And A Night
  • To Read:
    • Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making Black Lives Matter, by Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Candis Watts Smith
    • No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, by Jordan Flaherty
    • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
    • Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
    • This Book is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work, by Tiffany Jewell
  • To Donate:
    • Black Lives Matter: funding the BLM movement
    • Innocence Project: Non-profit dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and bring reform to the justice system
    • National Bail Out: Black-led and Black-centered organization aiming to create a national community of leaders who have experienced incarceration
    • Black Visions Collective: Minnesota-based Black, trans, and queer-led organization committed to dismantling systems of oppression and violence
    • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund: Nationwide organization that fights for racial justice and investigates police-involved murder