When Susan Hanna '72 arrived at UVM in the fall of 1968, women had curfews, were required to wear skirts for dinner, and were escorted to the library by male students. When she graduated four years later and sought to enter the banking field, she found the only jobs available for women were tellers. She knew she wasn't long for that world after cashing her first check, which left her with three dollars after paying the rent. Many 70-hour work weeks built Hanna's rise in the business world to her current post as capital markets managing director at GE Commercial Finance.
Hanna's retelling of her experience as part of the School of Business Administration's "Careers in Finance: It's More than Money" forum, seemed to both inspire and shock students on hand for a UVM Homecoming and Family Weekend event. "It personally provided me with a glimpse into the future … and with role models and inspirations who taught me lessons that I will take through my career in business," said senior Vanessa Paulen.
Some sixty alumni participated in a dozen panels, including "Women in Finance," "Private Wealth Management," and "Venture Capital." Although some of the advice given by panelists — whose graduation years ranged across four decades — reflected their eras, there were at least three common themes: working hard, being passionate about your job, and making your own breaks.
The number of alumni panelists for the "Careers in Finance … " event more than doubled since the 2006 inaugural forum. Rocki-Lee DeWitt, dean of the School of Business Administration, says career panels offer a unique opportunity for alumni, parents, and students to engage in discussion about their professions and work lives. She also was impressed by the number of connections that existed — and that were made — at the event.
"I was struck by how few degrees of separation there are in the UVM community," DeWitt says. "Whether it was growing up in the same community, going to the same elementary school, working on a deal together, or playing on the same sports team … It's not so close that you're in each other's way, but it's close enough to build a bond of trust. And in a relationship-driven world, UVM grads certainly have an advantage."