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York College prepares Finance major for rewarding career

October 23, 2017
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Russell Sterner, ’09, a portfolio analyst at global investment management firm T. Rowe Price.

As a high school student considering where to go to college, Russell Sterner sat in an auditorium at York College of Pennsylvania in 2005 and listened to various professors from the college’s Graham School of Business department. 

As they spoke, a couple factors stood out to Russell. 

First, the professors came from a variety of backgrounds, including adjunct professors with experience working in private businesses. 

Also, their focus was on their students’ careers. 

“They said, ‘The way we measure success is if you’re successful in the business world,’” Russell remembers. “They didn’t say, ‘You should come here because we're building a rock-climbing wall.’” 

After graduating from York College in 2009 with a Finance degree, Russell ultimately landed a job he considers a career destination: a portfolio analyst at T. Rowe Price, a global investment management firm. 

The proper preparation

Russell says his time at York College equipped him for a career in business. 

In particular, the curriculum for his investments classes within the Finance program was designed around the CFA program, which he says is the highest caliber designation for a financial analyst and is similar to a CPA for an accountant. 

“Speaking to people who graduated from other highly recognized educational institutions, they wish they had the same program,” Russell says. 

He developed a tight relationship with his professors, for which he gives credit to York College’s low student-to-faculty ratio. 

Because they learned how serious he was about forming a successful career, Russell’s professors granted him an opportunity at an independent study. During this time, he spent hours studying for the first of three CFA exam levels, which he says gave him a leg up when he worked toward his CFA designation after graduation.

Giving back

At York College, Russell joined the SIFE team, which stands for Students for Free Enterprise and is now known as Enactus. There, he learned to take his lessons from the classroom and use them to help the York community and beyond. 

With this team, he participated in a project to help local Boy Scouts earn their personal finance badge. 

“We hosted several scores of Boy Scout troops,” Russell says. “Business students led the curriculum and taught kids about the importance of long-term savings, budgeting and overall financial education.” 

Another SIFE project brought him to El Salvador with a group of students. Rather than a traditional missionary trip providing food and other goods and services, Russell and his classmates brought economic education. 

For instance, the group met with an artisan from a poor village who made hammocks. They partnered with her and helped her to sell hammocks at her local markets. Russell appreciated the chance to empower others through this type of community service. 

Highs and lows

After interning at T. Rowe Price, Russell received and accepted an offer for a full-time position before he graduated from York College. However, prior to earning his degree, the global financial crisis hit, and the company rescinded the offer. 

With no job lined up and nearing graduation, Russell found himself at the doors of his business professors’ offices, explaining his misfortune. 

Professor Christopher Meisenhelter, with whom Russell developed a close relationship, introduced him to one of his contacts at Voith Hydro in York, the company’s VP of human resources. 

Soon after, the company hired Russell to work as a project controller, an opportunity he credits to the personalized relationships he developed with his York College professors and their connections to the business community in the York area. 

That job bridged the gap from graduation in spring 2009 until that November, when T. Rowe Price called to reoffer Russell a job. He accepted, and has worked there ever since. 

York College community

Looking back, Russell says, it wasn’t all business for him during his time at York College.

He says he met his best friends at the college thanks to the intimate, close-knit community. 

“The size of the college is great,” he says. “There’s always someone you know but always someone new to meet, which creates a really friendly environment.”

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