Beta Alpha Psi candidate Spring 2013
In early April 2013, 23 members and candidates for membership in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) visited New York City for BAP’s annual educational enrichment experience. Accompanying us were BAP Faculty Advisor Deborah Swanquist, accounting and information management lecturer Eric Martin, and accounting PhD candidate Quinn Swanquist. The trip provided an exciting platform for relationship building, post-college-life training, professional networking, and broadening our business acumen.
We kicked off the weekend by attending “Annie” on Broadway. On Sunday, Andrew, a former Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) trader, guided us through the Financial District. Not only did we learn about the history behind Wall Street, but we were also treated to a first-hand explanation of how the financial instruments involved in the housing collapse function. Our guide painted a vivid image of life as a trader; the hours, the competition, the egos, and the potential for building unimaginable wealth.
In the afternoon, we took a ferry tour of the Statue of Liberty; many of us reflected on what it would have been like to arrive in this great nation, perhaps alone after enduring the hardships and sacrifices required to gain passage to the new country, and then to be greeted by this beacon of freedom. It had to be an emotion never forgotten.
On Monday we were ready for business. After a quick maneuver through the subway, we made our way uptown to tour the Major League Baseball (MLB) offices. Rich Hunt, a MLB retirement services associate and friend of UT PhD candidate Jonathan Shipman, had arranged a tour for us. We posed with baseball memorabilia around MLB Commissioner Selig’s desk and took some great pictures; truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
After the tour, we walked to Grand Central Station. Noel Scruggs, a 2012 UT Master of Accountancy graduate and first-year investment management associate with PwC, met us at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse. PwC treated us to a fantastic lunch. We could not have asked for a more gracious host than our fellow Volunteer, Noel. Later that afternoon, we were greeted by another UT alum, Peter Costa, stock analyst and president of Empire Executions, who welcomed us onto the floor of the iconic New York Stock Exchange. He assigned a few traders at Barclays to explain how everything functions on the trading floor. Peter was also kind enough to put us in the background of CNBC’s Closing Bell while he was being interviewed. He gave us his card, invited each of us to “link” with him, and shared some sage business advice to help us succeed in any business, such as look people in the eye, have a firm handshake, maintain a professional appearance, and you only get one chance to make a first impression. UT is fortunate to have him as an ambassador.
We wrapped up the day by visiting the 911 Memorial and paying tribute to the lives lost on that wretched day. The memorial features unique, inverted waterfalls that were planned to “drown out the noise of New York City” so that visitors could focus on the memorial without distraction.
On our final day, we visited the National Football League (NFL) headquarters. UT alumnus, Steve Short, serves as a director in the Internal Audit department. He welcomed us into the owner’s boardroom, where he had prepared the enormous conference table, normally reserved for the 32 team owners, for us. Each seat had a football-style-bound notebook bearing the NFL internal audit logo along with a professionally prepared agenda.
Our first presentation was a great short film shown on a giant screen at the end of the boardroom that highlighted last year’s football season. Next, Tony Luchese, a former CPA in a Big-4 accounting firm who now works as an internal auditor for the NFL, talked about his job and the skills he looks for in new hires. Christine Vicari, a director in labor finance, then explained to us the unique profit-sharing model used by the NFL. She is responsible for negotiating major contracts pertaining to player salary caps and franchise equality.
After a quick break, Michael Signora, vice president of communications, spoke about brand management. He explained the importance of maintaining integrity within our personal brand and how hard it is to recover from a tarnished reputation. He also shared his story of climbing the ladder at the NFL by being willing to sweep floors during his college summers to be around the organization. His willingness to work and willingness to learn was evident by the joyful way he performed tasks that others might consider mundane. After two summers and graduation, Michael was offered a position in public relations; he has worked for the NFL ever since.
The last presenter, David Coleman, a director of officiating, gave us a tour of command central. It is a large room filled with big screens playing tapes of last season’s games. Officials watch and re-watch the tapes to analyze call accuracy and penalties. They also watch in order to form better player safety policies. We concluded our visit by viewing the Super Bowl trophy and the entire collection of past Super Bowl championship rings. We jumped on the subway like natives and rode to Times Square, where we shared a delicious and bountiful meal at Carmine’s. It was a great finish to the trip.
We left the city later that day with memories that we will take with us as we graduate and start our careers all over the country. The trip was a chance to better get to know each other outside of the classroom and to make real Big Orange connections that will last a lifetime. We will all enthusiastically heed the call when asked to open a door or arrange an enrichment opportunity for future UT Beta Alpha Psi students.
The trip also prepared us for business travel and exposed us to accounting and financial professionals in many industries. We will enter the workforce more confidently with first-hand knowledge of fast-paced cities and offices.
On behalf of Beta Alpha Psi, I would like to thank all of the faculty and alumni who gave their time, resources, connections, and money to make this trip happen. I feel fortunate to be part of the UT network, and I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that the students who follow in my footsteps get similar high-quality exposures to the business world.