Student experiences shine at spring 2023 Investors Circle event
By Sarah Murphy
The impact of philanthropy on student lives was the topic of discussion at the spring 2023 Investors Circle gathering on Wednesday, May 3 — the first Investors Circle event held in-person since the fall of 2019.
For senior finance major Sam Dhillon, a first-generation student from India, philanthropy made it possible to complete her bachelor’s degree at VCU in just three years.
For senior accounting and marketing double major Gabriella Segears, philanthropy afforded her the opportunity to attend college at a university that celebrates diversity; where she was able to connect with more businesswomen of color who shared her goals and interests.
For junior finance major Olin Kolar, philanthropy gave him the chance to intern as a Lester Fellow, a program through which VCU students explore different areas of the risk management and insurance industry during a three-month paid rotational internship and travel to New York City twice to engage with executives and managing directors on wall street.
The panel of three students was moderated by Kevin Nicholson, M.B.A. ‘06/B; M.D.A. ‘21/B, global fixed income CIO and co-head of the investment committee for RiverFront Investment Group. Joining them to also discuss philanthropy and the integration of financial knowledge to student success was Amy Pridemore, M.B.A., executive director of the Virginia Credit Union Financial Success Center at VCU.
Overcoming Financial Challenges
Following a welcome reception, Naomi Boyd, Ph.D., dean of VCU Business, greeted attendees and introduced Nicholson as panel moderator. She highlighted recent student successes — including a 93% job rate for Class of 2022 graduates — and set the scene for the future of VCU Business.
“As we move forward, we’re looking towards a new tomorrow. We are committed to creating tomorrow’s leaders who are resilient, nimble and have a strong desire to create meaningful impact in our world. One of the amazing opportunities that we have is to fully embrace being VCU; to embrace being a nimble and dynamic community who can lead in the higher education space. What we do here at VCU is truly remarkable, and I can’t wait to show all of you what our future will hold.”
After each panel guest opened up about their personal background stories and how philanthropy has helped them get to where they are today, Nicholson asked the students to reflect on how they want to be remembered at VCU.
“I hope I leave the impression of being a good student, first and foremost,” said Olin. “In the future, I hope to help create a more direct pipeline for VCU students at some of the most pristine firms, that are really only pristine because of exclusion. I want to change that.”
“I’m a big believer in paying things forward,” said Segears. “I believe that if we all support one another and develop a system that helps everyone be strong, then we have strength in that. It has been my mission to inspire women of color, and I think if we can all continue to pay that forward, that is a beautiful thing.”
For Dhillon, looking ahead was simple. “I hope I get to come back here for this event one day, but be seated in a different chair,” she said to Nicholson.
Teaching Financial Success
Throughout the discussion, Pridemore talked about the Virginia Credit Union Financial Success Center at VCU, which was founded in 2019 as a benefit to VCU students and the entire Richmond community. The center is fully endowed by Virginia Credit Union.
When asked what the most important thing is that students take away from the center, Pridemore said it’s two-fold. She teaches a personal financial planning class, and within her classes she also requires students to visit The Money Spot: one-on-one scheduled appointments where students can discuss a range of financial topics with financial coaches, including cash flow plans, creating savings goals, affording college, improving your credit score and paying down debt.
“We have students coming in who are very low income, just trying to survive. For those students we ask, how do we help you to create a budget? How do we move forward and still create a wonderful experience at VCU? We’re a service, here to help all of our students succeed financially.”
Nicholson closed the discussion by sharing his own personal story about why he gives back to VCU Business. As an African American, he was the only person of color on the trading floor of his first job for years. He wants to change that for future generations.
“I always wished there was just one more [person of color], just one more,” said Nicholson. “When I came to VCU and got to experience all of the wonderful professors and things we have to offer here, I realized that I want to make a difference in the lives of future students. I want to give back so we can see more people of color, women and other groups who are underrepresented in the financial industry.”