From Peachtree Street to Wall Street
Students in the Panthers on Wall Street Program are passionate about its influence on their lives.
The Robinson alumnus had a great deal in common with the group before him. He graduated with a perfect GPA and knew he wanted to work in New York. So did his eager Robinson guests.
But most significantly, they were all participants in Panthers on Wall Street – a highly selective, multi-faceted program that culminates in a four-day experience in the financial center of the world. Steed had been part of the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2008, the inaugural year. Now, he was welcoming the Class of 2012 to his firm.
“If you’re going to be part of Panthers on Wall Street, it’s not just a one-semester, two-semester deal, it’s a commitment,” he said. “I feel compelled to pay it back.”
Passing the Test
Panthers on Wall Street was given the go-ahead for a one-year pilot, after which it would be evaluated for continuation or cancellation.
“The program was designed to identify our most outstanding students and introduce them to top New York firms,” recalled Board of Advisors member Jefferson Harralson (MBA ’91), a managing director at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods who has been involved with Panthers on Wall Street since its inception.
Eighteen of Robinson’s best and brightest, including Steed, were tapped for that first foray to the Big Apple. Visits were arranged to nine top-tier firms including J.P. Morgan; Deloitte; Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (Harralson’s firm); and KPMG.Just one rub: They were in New York during September 2008 – one of the bleakest months of the global financial crisis. “The markets were melting down around us,” remembered Jason Aldrich, executive director of Robinson’s Career Management Center.
Would executives keep the appointments amidst the crisis? Fortunately, they did. And the well-prepared Robinson team was not rattled by the chaos.
“The upside of the collapse was that it gave our students a chance to shine,” Aldrich said. “They asked good questions, and several of them landed interviews while we were there.” Aldrich recounts a particularly gratifying moment from the trip: “One executive told me, ‘that’s one of the best groups we’ve ever had visit the firm. You’re welcome back anytime.’”
Panthers on Wall Street was here to stay.
Getting In, Getting Ready
By the time they board the flight to New York, Panthers on Wall Street students have invested dozens of hours in a rigorous application and preparation process that starts in January and continues through wheels up.
Competition is stiff. The selection committee receives 75–100 applications each year from which it chooses 16–18 undergraduate and graduate students.
Hopefuls attend a non-alcoholic “mocktail” party to see how they interact in group settings and communicate on their feet. Those who move to the next round are interviewed by the selection committee, which then chooses the Panthers on Wall Street class – typically by the end of February.
Then, the real work begins. There are professional development sessions, teambuilding exercises and assignments to research the firms they will visit.
“By the time we got to New York we were inseparable,” said Mariya Skovardanova (B.B.A. ’10), who was in the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2009. “We met during the summer almost every Saturday.” Skovardanova, who received Georgia State’s Kell Award for having the highest GPA in her graduating class, is an investment banking analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.
The Ultimate Confidence Builder
Although it’s unlikely any Panthers on Wall Street student could recite – or sing – “New York, New York” from start to finish, they surely know the song’s concluding line, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” They come away from the program knowing that they can, indeed, “wake up in that city that doesn’t sleep.”Krishna Vora (M.P.A. ’12) was part of the Panthers on Wall Street group that visited Travis Steed at Macquarie this past September. “Seeing Travis and knowing that he’d gone through this program showed that there is this possibility to succeed. A lot of people worry: Am I ever going to end up in New York? Am I going to have that opportunity? But we’re in this group because we have what it takes.” Vora will join Ernst & Young this fall.
Michael Holtgrewe (B.B.A. ’09) was in the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2008. Today the summa cum laude graduate is an account manager with Google. “The ultimate thing I gained from the experience was confidence,” said Holtgrewe. “Being in meetings with senior level leaders from different companies gave me confidence that I would be able to make it in the city. Going to New York with Panthers on Wall Street let me know I’d be able to make it there.”
Paying it Forward
And now Holtgrewe meets with each Panthers on Wall Street class when they are in the city. “I give them advice on how to make the most of the trip and how important it was to getting me where I am.”
Holtgrewe’s and Steed’s commitment to paying it forward is a sentiment shared by most program alumni, including its most recent participants.Ammar Raza (B.B.A. ’12) was part of the Panthers on Wall Street Class of 2012. Raza, who routinely made the President’s and Dean’s Lists for his high GPA, is in New York for an internship at a Big Four accounting firm. He will return to Atlanta this summer for an internship at a Fortune 500 company, then plans to enter Robinson’s Master of Professional Accountancy program.
Although Raza’s dance card is pretty full, he foresees giving back. “What I’m taking away from this program is, you know, everything,” he said. “If you look at me from a year ago to now I am a completely different person. The program has helped me become more professional and more mature. Thank you, Panthers on Wall Street.”