Sacred Heart alumni realize the advantages they derive from a SHU education as they move into careers—besides the knowledge they’ve gained, most also have more self-confidence and are prepared to meet employers’ expectations. Another advantage is that many leading employers in Connecticut know this as well.
Student-athletes, such as former SHU ice hockey player Charles “Doug” MacLean, acquire even more traits to apply in their careers: discipline, responsibility and organization, for example.
MacLean is a financial adviser at Barnum Financial Group (BFG), an investment firm and office of MetLife based in Shelton. Paul Blanco, BFG’s managing partner, has hired a number of graduates from the Jack Welch College of Business (WCOB) at SHU, six of whom were student-athletes. He describes SHU as “a very well-respected university with a fine business program, including finance.”
Student-athletes are good candidates for positions at BFG, Blanco says, “because they have many of the same characteristics that are important in the business world: they’re team-oriented, competitive and always striving to improve.”
MacLean’s experience matches Blanco’s perceptions. A hockey player in high school, MacLean knew he wanted to continue the sport in college, but he had other priorities as well. “I was looking for an excellent business school with a strong reputation,” he says. “I also was looking for a good hockey program, and I wanted a school with a smaller campus atmosphere where I could build relationships with fellow students and teachers. Sacred Heart had all three elements I wanted, and it gave me the opportunity to play on the men’s Division 1 hockey team, which also influenced my choice.
“Playing and competing at such a high level, with and against some of the best players in the country, was an incredible experience. Off the ice, being part of the team reinforced what I had learned about developing relationships, because I had friendships with other players all over the U.S. and Canada.”
While studying at the WCOB as a business marketing major, MacLean says, he also learned what it took to succeed as a student-athlete: responsibility, time management and balancing a demanding schedule that included early-morning workouts and afternoon practices, in addition to his classes.
“Afterward, I earned an MBA at Sacred Heart with a finance concentration in one year,” he relates. “That’s when I gained most of the experience and lessons that came into play in my career. Grad school is not about studying and memorizing for tests; it’s about learning from the real world, applying what you learn and preparing presentations to show what you know.”
One of the biggest lessons MacLean took away from graduate school came from the WCOB’s business networking events. “I learned about professionalism and developed skills such as public speaking and holding your own at business events” he says. “They helped prepare us in every way to succeed as we started our careers.”
These were elements Blanco saw when he hired MacLean. “Doug has a master’s in finance from Sacred Heart, and that is a natural fit for our business,” he says. “The financial advisory world is evolving rapidly, and the people who succeed have an understanding of the forces at work in the economy and the capital markets, and are in a good position to provide in-depth help to clients in a complex world.”
MacLean had even more going for him. “Hockey is a sport that takes an awful lot of work and perseverance,” says Blanco, “and those are great traits to have when you are building a financial practice.”
Blanco confesses to being a hockey fan; in fact, BFG was the lead sponsor for SHU’s ice hockey golf tournament last year. “I really enjoy the speed and intense action of the game,” he says. “I did not play myself; my sport in college was baseball. As I mentioned, though, I think sports at the college level are excellent preparation for a business career, and we have a lot of athletes at Barnum, including Doug.”
MacLean has been at BFG for about 18 months. He met representatives from the firm at a SHU career fair and went through the interview and hiring processes while studying for industry tests he had to pass before he could work as a financial adviser.
“I chose Barnum Financial out of a number of other firms because they really care about the new and young financial advisers,” he says. “They put a tremendous amount of effort into developing us, going above and beyond in education, development and ongoing training. It’s something they take personally, because they want to see everyone be as successful as possible.
“I’ve been part of a team my whole life, playing hockey while growing up and in college, and now I’m part of the Barnum Financial Group team. I couldn’t be happier.”