St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights, recently concluded its free online summer course that strove to provide business students of color with not only the resources they need to be successful, but an immersion in real-world experiences of what it takes to be a person of color in financial and technological corporations.
The Wall Street Bound program was founded by Troy Prince, an equity trader and investment analyst, specifically to open Wall Street’s doors to college students of color because they are historically underrepresented in these careers.
St. Francis College President Miguel Martinez-Saenz said that as a Catholic institution with about 65 percent Black and Brown students, the school wants to serve, represent, and empower this student segment as much as possible.
“We kind of take for granted that young people know what the options are and it’s like they don’t,” said Martinez-Saenz. “One of the things is getting students access to folks that look like them and do things because they may not be aware of what the paths are. To create conditions of hope and also expectations. People don’t get there by chance, there’s some grind that takes place.”
The three-week boot camp and workshops, fully online from July 21 to August 6, focused on building students’ professional skills and providing guidance and mentorship. The curriculum deep dove into financial services and fundamental business areas, including equity, fixed income, law, issuer services, private markets, customer care and technology.
The courses also went over basics like how to properly interview, craft cover letters, negotiate salaries, and develop their narratives.
Guest speakers included IHS Markit [which co-sponsored the event] experts and investing moguls Leon Cooperman, founder and CEO of Omega Advisors, Inc., and Mario Gabelli, founder and CEO of Gabelli Asset Management Company Investors.
“There are not that many billionaires in the world and the fact that our students had the opportunity to meet and be in the presence of two is amazing at their age,” said St. Francis College Chief of Staff Monique Moore Pryor in a press release.
Martinez-Saenz said that integrating “social, cultural, and professional capital” into the curriculum was just as crucial as teaching students math in some cases.
He referred to skills that can be considered assets, like “code switching” used in many ethnic and minority groups or if someone is multi-lingual to blend into the dominant culture.
“That’s one thing we try to get students to understand is that there’s a power dynamic and you have to learn the rules of engagement,” said Martinez-Saenz. “So you can undermine them.”
Many Black men and women on ‘Wall Street’, or in similar careers, speak of a feeling of being the “only one in the room” and how it can be immensely stressful to adapt to corporate cultures that may inherently see them as a threat, out of place, or incapable because of their appearance or race, reported Bloomberg.
Martinez-Saenz said that Prince and he are very direct about this feeling and what it means to achieve in these spaces despite insurmountable odds.
Martinez-Saenz said that there are norms and cultural elements to every job. He said the problem with big firms is that they can just cherry-pick diversity because they attract talent. With the Black Lives Matter movement those huge schools and firms with low diversity may be changing, but mid-tier companies are making a solid effort to fix underrepresentation, said Martinez-Saenz.
“Are people more accommodating? I think they’re going to be but the bottom line is,” he said referring to what one hiring expert told him, “there’s still going to be biased, and if they can explain away for not hiring the Black guy, they are going to.”
Martinez-Saenz said their job as teachers is to train students of color so that people can’t find excuses not to hire them, and even if they don’t choose finance, they are better prepared for the professional world in whatever career they do end up pursuing.
“For me, the failure is if a student didn’t learn something,” said Martinez-Saenz on what he considers a successful summer. “If you come into that space, and go ‘you know what I thought it was something else and I want to do something different.’ That is a win for us educationally. The only loss is if someone doesn’t learn something about themselves, about others, or about the world.”