No shortcuts to success

In the 21st century we’re conditioned to expect speed. We use apps because they are faster than searching. We like followers to respond to our social media thoughts within seconds. The web site loads instantaneously; and if it doesn’t we conclude the site must be down.

Yet there is still one thing that will never come to us quickly—success. There are no shortcuts to success either —just ask anyone who ever purchased a weight loss program that advertised fast results without a long-term commitment to diet and exercise.

I was recently reminded of the discrepancy between the speed in which we usually receive things and the time it takes to succeed when I attended a reception honoring the Dyson College Fed Challenge Team. You may remember that our Pace team won the annual national College Fed Challenge in December for the second year in a row. The Pace team beat out teams from Princeton University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bentley University, and Northwestern University.

Last year at a similar reception I asked one of the team members how he accounted for the team’s success. He said, “We work harder than anyone else. We are better prepared.”

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Our team won because they understood the dedication and time it takes to obtain real mastery of the issues in a new and complex field—which is the same dedication and time it takes to become a leading professional. To put in that kind of effort and realize a positive result is hugely satisfying.

The faculty members who worked with the team, principally Professors Mark Weinstock and Gregory Colman, also understand what it takes to succeed in this competition and in life. They did so much more than teach these students about monetary policy. They created a culture that led a group of students to believe that they could compete at the highest levels and win—and that the accomplishment would offset the sacrifices required to make it happen.

This is truly higher education at its best—creating a desire for learning at as deep a level as possible so that learning becomes a motivation in itself—the classic academic search for truth.

Congratulations to the team and its coaches on an outstanding feat.

Pace victory in national policy

For most of us, monetary policy is terra incognita, the land that ancient cartographers knew existed, but didn’t know much about. Macroeconomics is not given much attention in high school curricula, so most freshmen arrive at college without understanding macroeconomics generally, and even less about monetary policy. Pace freshmen are no exception. The mystery of monetary policy extends far beyond the freshman year. Early in my career, I served as deputy assistant secretary for capital markets policy at the US Department of the Treasury, and I attended the monthly Treasury-Federal Reserve lunch with senior officials from both agencies. Let’s just say I was on a very steep learning curve.

Believing that this woeful gap needs to be filled, the Federal Reserve Board sponsors an annual competition for undergraduate economics teams to test their understanding of and facility with the major monetary policy issues facing the nation. The competition has two rounds: An initial round, run by five of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks; and a final, national championship round at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. Pace has had a team competing for approximately 10 years. In their first year, the Pace team placed 20th out of 35 teams in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s initial round.

In 2012 and 2013, the Pace team came in first in the New York Fed’s initial round, besting students from fine economics departments at institutions like Cornell, Princeton, NYU, Hamilton, and others. In the national competitions, Pace placed third in the whole nation both years—which I regarded as a hugely impressive accomplishment.

This year, the Pace team again won the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s first round, and then was awarded first place in Washington, DC, besting teams from Princeton, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Bentley University. Three Pace team members suffered significant health issues before and during the competition—yet several judges at the Federal Reserve Board said that the Pace presentation was one of the best presentations they had ever seen.

The Pace team’s championship is an extraordinary accomplishment. The team members are smart, but so was their competition. More than smarts is required for success at this level. Their victory is a testament to the team’s hard work and total commitment to mastering this complex area and the many conflicting policy considerations that attend each decision of the Federal Reserve Board and its Open Market Committee. It also bespeaks a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment by the team’s formidable coaches, professors Mark Weinstock; Gregory Colman, PhD; and Anna Shostya, PhD; as well as Department Chair Professor Joseph Morreale, PhD. The members of the team have our great admiration: Dyson College Economics majors Kelsey Berro (co-captain), Jordan Jhamb (co-captain), Julia Mikhailova, Katherine Craig, Lauren Price, and Daniella Gambino.

The team’s victory is so much more than simply coming in first in a very challenging competition. It is a graphic demonstration of the fact that Pace students, with the kind of superb leadership that our talented faculty coaches provided, can compete on equal terms with the best students in America—and win. We are very proud of all of them.

Grace and celebrity

A few weeks ago, I accompanied two of our students to a small reception for The Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF): America.

The event was hosted by business leader and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht at her splendid house in Washington D.C. to thank some of the larger supporters of a concert for Mr. Spacey’s global foundation. Adrienne is a wonderfully generous patron of the performing arts (e.g., the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami). Adrienne and I also served together on the Board of the American Ballet Theatre many years ago.

The KSF sponsors the creation of new works, designs, and tailored educational opportunities through KSF Learning. The Foundation also offers scholarships. We were very proud that the first five scholarships in the U.S. were awarded to Pace Performing Arts students. The two sophomore scholars, Larissa Jeanniton and Nicholas Delgado, were invited to the reception.

It was a lovely evening with an interesting group of people. Both Adrienne and Kevin Spacey spoke movingly about the Foundation’s important work. Among the highlights for me and for many of the people there was Larissa and Nicholas’ maturity, charisma, and dedication to their art.  I was very proud of them and their representation of Pace and its students.

For Larissa and Nicholas there is no doubt that the highlight of the evening was when Kevin Spacey took them aside to talk to them and give them advice about their careers as performing artists. He talked with them for some time, and had we not had a plane to catch, the conversation would have continued. As you can see from the photo below, his interest in them and their careers was genuine and very inspiring.

Kevin Spacey Pic

Training the Talents of Artists with Autism

Last semester I attended an art exhibit in the Schimmel Lobby and a program in the theater devoted to young artists on the autism spectrum. The evening was co-sponsored by our OASIS program and the Brooklyn nonprofit Strokes of Genius, which trains and promotes artists with autism.

It was an inspiring evening. The principal speaker was Temple Grandin, PhD. She also spoke at our Convocation in 2010. Dr. Grandin has autism and her work, books and other achievements are wonderful examples of the power of the human spirit. Listening to her talk about the way in which people with autism perceive the world, we quickly see that helping artists with autism is not so much about overcoming disabilities as it is about turning differences into strengths. The power to do that is something that we all share.

The strengths of these young artists were apparent in the works exhibited in the Schimmel Lobby. Seven students in the Pace OASIS program were among the exhibitors. The artists’ strengths were also apparent in the remarks by a small group of artists who spoke about themselves and their work. One young woman explained that she had been diagnosed with autism when she was seven-years-old, that she recognized that she was different and that she was proud of her differences. Another young artist did not feel comfortable speaking to the group about his paintings, but his brother explained that the artist’s work was in the Venice Biennale, a magnet for work by the best young artists.

Training the Talents of Artists with Autism made me feel very pleased and proud of what Pace is doing in this area. The OASIS program of multifaceted support for students at Pace on the spectrum, founded by Dianne Zager, PhD and now led by Mary Riggs Cohen, PhD, is one of the best in the country. We educate and train K-12 teachers of students with autism and other disabilities; and we are a center of discussion by distinguished experts like Dr. Temple Grandin.

Pace students win big at Global Asset Management Education Forum

If you’re looking for an education with a focus on real-world experiences, it doesn’t get any more real world than Pace’s Finance 357 class and our Student-Managed Portfolio.

Students from Finance 357 were responsible for the portfolio’s 39 percent gain in 2013. The gain was not only a great return on investment, but paid off with a first place in the “Undergraduate Growth” category at the recent Global Asset Management Education Forum. Quinnipiac University and NASDQ-OXM sponsored the event, which attracted 140 schools from more than 40 different states.

This is an incredible accomplishment and once again demonstrates that Pace students can win in competition with the best students from the nation’s top universities. Our Student-Managed Portfolio’s performance over the last five years has held its own against some Wall Street firms too. Totally managed by students, the equity portfolio was up 26 percent in 2009, up 27 percent in 2010, down 3 percent in 2011, up almost 8 percent in 2012, and up 39 percent in 2013.

Each semester students from Finance 357 inherit the portfolio from the previous semester’s class. Unlike classes that learn by managing “pretend” portfolios, Finance 357 students invest real money. Alfred Goldstein, a generous supporter of Pace University, advanced the seed money for the portfolio. Students decide on the characteristics of the stocks they would like in the portfolio and then vote on which stocks to buy or sell. They don’t need their professor or anyone else associated with the University to approve their decision. In fact, Professor Ron Filante doesn’t even voice an opinion during class discussions to ensure the portfolio remains 100 percent student managed.

Pace University excels at giving students an education that combines excellent classroom instruction with real world experiences. Congratulations to the class of Finance 357 for excelling in the very real, competitive, risky, and roller coaster investment world.