Finance expert speaks to students
Selena Ponio | Thursday, February 25, 2016
Curiosity, research and service are the main pillars of success, according to popular finance professional specialist Carl Ackermann.
Ackermann, who holds the Nolan Professorship for Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction, shared his experiences and advice Wednesday night in a speech titled “How to Have an Impactful Undergraduate Experience” for the second annual installment of the Sorin Scholars lecture series. The main purpose of Ackermann’s speech was to advise students on how to lead a fulfilling life in their academic field and how to be socially impactful.
According to his biography on the Mendoza College of Business’s website, Ackermann “crusades against excessive fees in the investment industry, redirecting them to fight poverty and despair.” In 2012, Ackermann was named one of the top 10 business professors nationwide by Businessweek, the website said.
The event was sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). Jeffrey Thibert, interim director and assistant director of national fellowships for CUSE, introduced Ackermann and talked about CUSE’s mission.
“The mission of CUSE is to enable Notre Dame graduates to build on what they do in the classroom with activities outside the classroom,” Thibert said. “We want you ideally to see your undergraduate years as the beginning of a life’s work. You don’t have to wait until graduation to see positive change around you.”
Ackermann began his lecture by talking about the importance of research through the lens of his own experience with research in a graduate program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
“Being able to investigate a program from so many angles is unbelievably intellectually satisfying,” Ackermann said. “If you are interested in it, an exciting career at the forefront of discovery awaits you.”
Ackermann said one of the most important tools to have, even in his field of finance, are developed, articulate writing skills.
“Excellent writing is the key distinguisher in almost every field,” Ackermann said. “Turns out, almost everyone in the field can do the math, so it’s the people that can communicate the best that excel.”
Ackermann went on to talk about how he thought one of the most admirable qualities Notre Dame students possessed was their commitment to service. He himself takes part in service by helping employees of local service organizations plan for their financial future, he said.
“If you volunteer in the field of your professional expertise, you can magnify your potential in that field,” Ackermann said. “If you work in a field that traditionally does less service, like mine, you can actually have a lot of impact. … There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit where you can immediately improve the fortunes.”
Ackermann encouraged students to utilize the resources available to them around campus such as the Career Center, the Writing Center and the Center for Social Concerns. He also said while in college, students should not neglect nutrition and personal finance.
“Contrary to popular belief, beer, Kraft mac-and-cheese, Ramen noodles and Pop-Tarts are not the major food groups,” Ackermann said. “Learning how to eat right is important because it’s correlated to other behaviors. If you master personal finance in your early 20s, you can accumulate so much more than if you started in your 30s. By gaining command of your personal finances you’ll be able to accelerate and magnify your personal contribution.”
Ackermann also stressed the importance of fun and well-being. Sometimes these areas can be overshadowed by the importance placed on academics, he said. In order to combat this, he said he maintains a daily goal to try and make one person’s day.
He then told the audience to look under their seats. Under one person’s seat, Ackermann had taped a $20 bill for a student to keep.
“Remember it’s easier to be fun and nice — it’s probably easier than being mean,” he said.
Students should take more risks, Ackermann said, such as joining start-up companies with the knowledge that there is a high likelihood of failure or studying abroad in a country where they are do not know the language. Ackermann said the experience he felt he learned the most from was the time he worked as a soccer referee in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Boston, where many of the players’ first language was not English.
“There’s almost no risk to these experiences if you take them on now,” Ackermann said. “The times I’ve grown the most in life are when I’ve deliberately placed myself in uncomfortable situations. By being too closed, I’ve missed out on so many missed opportunities. Believe it or not, you’ll have more free time in college than you will at any other time in your life.”