April 30, 2013
Two recent Knox College alumni returned to campus to give current students some advice on navigating the business world and to share their experiences as commercial associates at Fifth Third Bank.
Vincent Rug and Stephanie Sorensen, both 2012 Knox graduates, spoke April 29 to students in Business and Management 333: Managerial Finance (photo above). The class is taught by Knox Professor and Executive-in-Residence John Spittell.
Sorensen and Rug are participating in the bank's highly competitive, two-year leadership program, which is designed to develop the credit, financial analysis, and relationship management abilities of entry-level commercial banking professionals.
Rug said that about 2,000 people applied for the program when he and Sorensen did, and just 26 were accepted. Knox senior Hannah Basil recently was accepted into the program's incoming class.
Key aspects of the program include rotations with various bank departments, meetings with guest speakers, mentors who help with career coaching, community service opportunities, and team-building and networking events.
"We have a lot of exposure to executive management," said Rug, who majored in economics and minored in business and management at Knox. "They see us as an investment."
"It's a very exciting place to be," said Sorensen, who majored in economics and minored in art.
They explained the nature of their work, fielded questions from students, and offered tips on preparing for job interviews and making a good impression in a new workplace.
For example, Sorensen said that while she was still at Knox, she conducted practice job interviews with Spittell and with Terrie Saline at the Bastian Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development. Learning the culture of each workplace -- such as what is considered appropriate business attire -- is crucial, she and Rug agreed.
Students said they benefited by hearing from Sorensen and Rug.
"It was just inspiring to see that coming to Knox really prepares you," said Victoria Baird, a senior.
"The main value that I saw was (hearing about) the work environment and asking questions of people that are in the position we're going to be in," said Chris McNichols, a junior. "Getting that insight is invaluable."
Rug and Sorensen said they wanted to return to Knox as a show of appreciation for Spittell (photo below, left) and to help current Knox students.
"Because of John (Spittell), we were able to connect with this program" at Fifth Third Bank, Sorensen said.
Rug said he hoped they opened students' eyes to the possibility of pursuing a career in the finance industry.
"I'd never thought I'd have a career in finance," he said, reflecting on much of his time as a Knox student. "I thought it was a very daunting area to enter. But the world, I feel, operates generally on finance. Every company, every organization, needs some sort of loan, so if you have that knowledge, it's great."
He and Sorensen agreed that the liberal arts education they received at Knox has helped them in their jobs because they look at problems from multiple angles and often come up with innovative solutions.
Sorensen said that Knox's system of trimesters has helped her succeed in the bank's leadership program.
"You're used to a 10-week period, soaking up as much knowledge as you can," she said. "Now (in the leadership program), we have these four-month rotations. ‘You're a sponge,' I cannot tell you how many times I've heard that phrase. You're soaking up everything and absorbing as much knowledge as you can."