By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's not news that college students have packed schedules, with 15-plus credit hour weeks, extracurricular activities and often internships or part time jobs to balance. To have all of that, plus the responsibilities of a student-athlete on one of the country's top-ranked field hockey teams? That's a whole different story. Just ask junior goalkeeper Colleen Conway.
Conway, a junior from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, was recruited by Penn State for her impressive skills in front of the net, but says she chose Penn State not only for its athletic program, but for its stellar academic opportunities. Conway now balances the sport she loves, consisting of daily practices, weekends packed with games, flights across the country for away matches and other training time with the demanding course load of a mathematics major.
In addition to a challenging major, Conway was selected to be one of a small group of students accepted into a rigorous and selective finance program, the Wall Street Boot Camp. A training program in Penn State's Smeal College of Business, the exclusive class typically features no more than 40 students.
"The application process was kind of serious, it was like applying to a real job on Wall Street," Conway said. "It took a lot of time and attention and it's a huge deal because I feel like everyone in Smeal wants to be in this class."
Penn State University's Smeal College of Business enrolls an estimated six thousand students, ranked in the Top 20 overall by Bloomberg Businessweek for undergraduate education and eighth among public institutions. Based on enrollment numbers, that means roughly less than three in every five hundred students have the privilege of being accepted into the Wall Street Boot Camp training program, which is selected based on a student's academic merit, resume, business etiquette, communication and leadership skills.
The group meets once a week in the Rogers Family Trading Room, an advanced laboratory setting in the business school, created for students ranging from undergraduate to Ph.D. levels of education. The trading center, which was one of the first of its kind to be implemented in the nation at a university, replicates a real world trading experience on Wall Street with advanced software and technology.
"The class teaches us about investment banking, advanced accounting," Conway said. "We learned how to analyze financial statements, trade and invest. It covers all of those huge topics in class."
Held for three hours in the evening once a week, the training program is an accelerated hands-on environment for students to kick-start their understanding of what happens on Wall Street.
"There's not a lot of in-class time, so we have a huge amount of out-of-class preparation," Conway said. "We have group assignments that are very similar to things that are actually done in internships on Wall Street. It's awesome because the teacher's assistants have all had internships on Wall Street and have accepted full time offers upon graduation. The TA's are an open resource for us, people who have been in our shoes and have successfully earned full time offers, which is a pretty big deal."
Most of Conway's out-of-class time is already dedicated to field hockey practices, team bonding sessions, training, injury prevention and of course, mandatory study hours. All of this combined, leaves her with little free time, but she's focused on the big picture.
"I'm currently in the recruiting process for all of the big banks for internships in sales, trading, and investment banking right now," Conway said. "So on top of this class, that's another full-time thing. Just getting interviews lined up and networking."
When asked how she manages to juggle the stress of perfecting her applications and making herself a fitting candidate for internships, Conway admits it's a heavy load.
"It's extremely difficult to make sure I'm doing proper networking and applying to internships, just because field hockey is so important to me, but I want to make sure I'm getting all that too," Conway said. "It's a lot of work to get those internships because they're so competitive."
Although Conway has a sharp mind and is skilled with numbers, she originally thought her undergraduate career would lead her to medical school to pursue a career as a doctor. That changed when she realized her skills and talents in the classroom could be transferrable to other career paths.
Her inspiration? An iconic former Penn State student-athlete.
Former Penn State football quarterback John Shaffer helped guide the Nittany Lions to the 1986 national championship before working on Wall Street for nearly two decades. Most recently, he served as co-head of New York credit sales for Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
"I know his daughter from high school," Conway said. "He was a student-athlete who went to Wall Street through Penn State sports. I think that's where the idea first came from. I went in here and thought I wanted to be a doctor, but seeing another Penn State athlete and how that helped him and how he got to Wall Street, I thought that sounded like something I wanted to do, too."
In addition to being in such a competitive training program, Conway is also one of only two student-athletes enrolled - an impressive accomplishment, especially considering the time commitment needed to balance responsibilities between their sport and academic lives.
"There's one other student-athlete in the class, a girl on the tennis team," Conway said. "So we bond over the class and it's unique to us because we're the only two with our exact experience, both being female student-athletes. Especially being female athletes, we're a huge minority in that sense."Conway has a few more years at Penn State to prepare for her future career, but hopes to use the 500-plus network of Penn State alumni offered to her through the course, in addition to her skill in the field, to secure a job on Wall Street after Penn State.