LSB Chicago trip, 2011

It’s the third time, and that makes it a tradition: reading period in Spring term means that it’s time for the Lawrence Scholars in Business Chicago trip. Open to all Lawrence students, the trip is sponsored by the LSB program, and made possible by the generosity of Lawrence alumni who open up their board rooms for our students. For two days, 33 Lawrence students got an immersion experience in Chicago’s bustling world of business and finance.

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Natalie Garber ’97, Daniel Kolev ’98, and Michael O’Connell ’81 reassured us that a liberal arts education is the perfect foundation for much of what they do at the CME. O’Connell, a Managing Director with broad previous experience in the financial industry, was a biology major at Lawrence, and advised students to take the hard courses and do well in them in order to show both ambition and ability to potential employers. (Not to mention that doing well hard courses has the added benefit of learning a lot.) We had a chance to look at the trading pits, too, to hear the yelling, and to learn the basics of the zany hand-signal language that traders use.

On the 46th floor of Three First National Plaza, Harry M. Jansen Kraemer ’77 welcomed us to Madison Dearborn Partners with lunch

and a (connected and convex) table big enough for 35 people. With an amazing view of Lake Michigan and downtown as a backdrop, we had a fascinating, captivating, interesting dialogue with Harry Kraemer. He reminded us that he has very few answers, but many opinions, and then shared many of those opinions with us. On careers: divide a sheet into three columns, write things you enjoy doing in the first, things you would rather avoid in the second, and in the third column, write down occupations that maximize what’s in the first column while minimizing what’s in the second. If this seems simple, that’s because it’s meant to be: Kraemer prefers to make things simple, whenever that’s possible. That is a rare gift, and one we appreciated very much as we listened to him explain, in simple terms, what private equity firms do, how they do it, and what the interesting issues surrounding those activities are. Though Kraemer’s charisma cannot be conveyed in a book, many of his opinions can, and you can read about them here. Kraemer generously presented to every one of us a signed copy of his book.

From private equity on the 46th floor, we went to the trusted vaults in the basement of one of the bastions of wealth management, The Northern Trust Bank. To say the least, we got the VIP treatment from Dave Blowers ’82, who was our host throughout the visit. We also benefited from the generosity of alumni David Knapp ’89, John Thickens ’06, and Evan Fye ’06. We got a rare tour of parts of the bank, and a great presentation of the opportunities at Northern Trust. And then there was the happy hour, with a few more Lawrence alumni invited along, several of whom we knew from on-campus LSB events. Terry Franke ’68, Chair of the LU Board of Trustees, was in attendance, among other distinguished alumni. The conversation continued over a dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery, where students from the LSAE and LSB trips together with alumni made a dinner party of about a hundred.

Our second day included visits to Deloitte (Jonathan Bauer ’83), Copia Capital (Dean DuMonthier ’88), Hewitt Ennis Knupp, and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago. Bauer explained to us both what the management consulting world is about, and what life at Deloitte is like. His advice was, however, very useful for anyone who aspires to success, whether in consulting or not. As always, he presented in a clear, to the point, yet very entertaining way on the importance of good communication skills, including—or perhaps especially—good interviewing skills. This is an area that many Lawrence students could use some help with, and, sadly, most of them don’t even know that. Jonathan Bauer has a way of breaking that news to students kindly but directly, and he and other alumni have often generously sacrificed some precious weekend days to come to campus to improve students’ interviewing skills in mock interviews. I wish every student signed up for those in their sophomore year (and then again, and again…).

I certainly found the trip very valuable, and students tell me that they learned a lot and appreciated very much the opportunities that the trip presented to them. Thanks to our alumni, who have been so generous with their time (as well as their treasure, funding the LSB program), Lawrence students get a chance to learn firsthand from leaders in the business and financial world. As a result, they can make better, more informed career choices, and they make connections through the Lawrence network that will help them reach their goals. Ultimately, the experiences of this trip help them create those first, second, and third columns that Harry Kraemer talked about.