Residencies, City Tours Immerse Allegheny Students in Business

Allegheny College economics students are learning from the best in business — here on North Main Street in Meadville and on Wall Street in New York City.

A group of students and faculty will participate in the Center for Business and Economics Major City Business Tour to New York City, a biennial trip designed to expose junior and senior economics majors to the daily business world in the banking and financial services industries. Students will also explore careers in those industries and network with Allegheny alumni working in business and finance.

This sixth tour, Oct. 26–27, includes planned meetings with John Gregory ’89, managing director at Wells Fargo Securities; Bruce Thompson ’86, vice chairman at Bank of America and chairman of Global Acquisition Finance and Capital Commitments; Karen Ubelhart ’77, industry analyst with Bloomberg; and Jonathan Drescher ’84, senior vice president of project development for The Durst Organization. Thompson and Ubelhart serve on the college’s Board of Trustees.

“We want our students to have valuable experiences and opportunities that complement what they’re learning in the classroom and prepare them for life after Allegheny,” said Russell Ormiston, assistant professor of economics and co-director of the Center of Business and Economics with Chris Allison ’83. “This trip does that.”

“The trip to New York puts students where the action is and allows them to learn from seasoned executives who are living what we’re teaching,” said Allison, who is Allegheny’s entrepreneur in residence and a visiting instructor in the Department of Economics.

The trip follows an on-campus visit earlier this month by Allegheny’s 2016 Executive in Residence Terry Dunlap, principal of Pittsburgh-based Sweetwater Consulting LLC and the recently retired president and executive vice president of Allegheny Technologies.

Dunlap spoke with students and met with community leaders during his residency, part of an Executive in Residence Program started in 2001 to connect Allegheny students and faculty and Meadville leaders with prominent business executives. Like the Major City Tour, the EIR Program is coordinated by Allegheny’s Center for Business and Economics, which provides unique business-related experiential learning opportunities that complement traditional in-classroom learning.

Previous executives in residence have included Thompson of Bank of America, in 2015; Kyle O’Connor ’03, who led commercial excellence globally for GE Capital, the financial services arm of General Electric, in 2014; and Jim Spalding ’80, founder of Vanguard Health Systems Inc., in 2013.

Dunlap said he sees the executive-in-residence program as a chance to “bring a different voice, a different perspective,” into the classroom and to complement what faculty members are teaching.

It’s beneficial for both students and professors, he said.

“It makes sure (what is being taught and discussed) is current, is relevant, and is in real-time,” said Dunlap, who prior to Sweetwater spent 31 years as a senior executive with Allegheny Technologies. “I think it’s also very helpful for academic leaders to have the opportunity to stay current in a very fast-moving world with what’s going on right now. What was real two or three years ago can change radically overnight.”

Dunlap spent much of his time at Allegheny talking about a concept he’s very familiar with: Return on investment.

The question students need to be asking is “What do I need to be doing starting today to put me in a better position to get a job tomorrow?” Dunlap said.

“Getting a degree from college is absolutely the base,” he said. “It’s nothing more than that. What else are you going to do to separate yourself, to make your brand unique from all the others?”

For some first-year students in particular, the message that job preparation begins now is a wake-up call, he said. He offered a few pieces of advice: Update your résumé. Become a Microsoft Excel expert. Watch less Netflix and read more of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Dunlap likens walking into a job interview without ever reading the Wall Street Journal to drafting a fantasy football team without ever watching a NFL game.

“You can’t cram for it,” he said. “You can’t learn stuff in an hour. It’s a discipline. Start paying attention.”

Allegheny offers a unique environment in which to prepare. The liberal arts approach of the managerial economics program teaches students to apply the tools of finance, accounting, statistics and technology management within historic, institutional and global contexts.

“In today’s world, being the most well-rounded, most well-informed person you can be is always helpful,” Dunlap said. “In international business, if you think you’re going to be successful if you’re just a fabulous accountant, not so much. If you understand global economies, you’re going to have a much better chance at being successful. Liberal arts degrees teach students to think critically and work collaboratively, and that’s the way the world works today.”

The Center for Business and Economics also coordinates the college’s Entrepreneur in Residence Program. Since 2007, Allison has served as the entrepreneur in residence, where he oversees the Gator Social Venture Challenge and other programs, and as a visiting instructor. He also sits on the college’s Board of Trustees.

Allison served for nine years as the chairman and chief executive officer of Tollgrade Communications, Inc. While Allison was CEO, Tollgrade was honored in 2000 and 2001 as one of the Best 200 Small Companies in America by Forbes magazine and in 2001 as one of the 100 Fastest Growing Companies in America by Fortune magazine.