30+ students sit outside on theatre steps while doing the Gator chomp.
As part of the Finance Professional Development program, students visited JM Family Enterprises in South Florida.

Hundreds of students participate in first year of Finance Professional Development program

Warrington students develop specialized skills and make connections with industry leaders as part of the new program available to all finance students.

Reeya Patel (BSBA ’25) came to the University of Florida Warrington College of Business with the aspiration of becoming a financial advisor. Stemming from her family and personal experiences with finance, Patel is working towards achieving her goal thanks, in part, to the Finance Professional Development program.

“Families go through a lot, with life and death, with good moments and bad moments,” Patel said. “I want to be there for my clients through all those times. If it were not for this program, I would not have made connections for my junior summer internship that could lead to a full-time role.”

The Finance Professional Development program is a new opportunity that supplements Warrington’s strong academic coursework for students interested in finance careers to learn about the field and engage with industry leaders, many of whom are alumni of the University of Florida, according to program director Max Dolinsky.

“Our vision for the Finance Professional Development program is to help students discover their passion for specific careers in finance, prepare them for the industry, and get them started on their journey through internships and full-time positions,” he said. “We accomplish these goals by working closely with alumni and other industry experts.”

The Finance Professional Development program is a direct result of the transformational gift from emeritus professor Dr. Gene Brigham that led to the formal naming of the Eugene F. Brigham Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at Warrington in 2020. Brigham’s vision to enhance finance undergraduates’ experience was the catalyst for creating the program.

The first step, Dolinsky explained, is to empower students to explore and deeply understand the different opportunities in the finance industry. Students do this at Warrington through the one-semester Exploring Financial Economics (EFE) program, in which students learn about the different finance industries and choose which they’d like to pursue.

EFE’s Associate Director Stephanie Fajre also teaches students about employer hiring timelines and builds their foundation for behavioral interview preparation. This year, more than 200 students completed the EFE program.

A group of 15 students stand in front of a large window while doing the Gator Chomp.

Alumnus Alex Abreu (far right) facilitated a visit at JPMorgan Chase for a group of students in the Finance Professional Development Program.

Once students have selected the area they would like to pursue as a career path, they are encouraged to join one of 10 Finance Professional Development tracks. These tracks include asset management, consulting, corporate finance and treasury, fintech, fixed income, private equity and investment banking, real estate, research, venture capital and, as Patel chose, wealth management.

In their track groups, students participate in weekly meetings that include workshops and technical training events, presentations from relevant guest speakers and networking events. In addition, the students participate in competitions and conferences, visit corporate offices and engage with alumni working in their track industry.

The students are empowered to lead their track groups, planning and coordinating many of the weekly events and off-campus visits with companies, Dolinsky explained.

“Building an expansive program, engaging multiple industries and serving hundreds of students requires a lot of leadership,” Dolinsky said. “Hence, our model is to let students lead our initiatives as we coordinate with the college to support them. The success of our program wouldn’t be possible without our student leaders.”

Adam Goga (BSBA ’23, MSF ’24) serves as the leader of the corporate finance track and was heavily involved in facilitating a January visit to South Florida. On the trip, more than 50 students visited 12 corporate offices, including those of UBS, NextEra Energy, Raymond James, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Charles Schwab, KPMG, JM Family, ADT, Garda Capital, and Dimension Capital Management. While in South Florida, the students also attended the Miami CFA Society annual dinner and met with alumni at a reception hosted by Akerman LLP. In addition to the South Florida trip, students engaged with industry leaders at events in Chicago, Tampa and Orlando.

“FPD has only been around for a year, but I think it has made me a better professional overall,” Goga said. “Learning how to lead and manage many different stakeholders has been a challenge, but FPD has facilitated that learning for me. All of these things will be transferrable to whatever path I follow in my career.”

One of the most impactful aspects of the Finance Professional Development program, the students agree, is the ability to connect with industry leaders and alumni.

“I think FPD is narrowing the gap between finance students at UF and the industry and colliding both worlds,” said Oriana Rodriguez (BSBA ’25). “I have met so many mentors from the industry that I connect with frequently and ask for advice and feedback from. This program has definitely been the highlight of my UF career!”

As leader of the private equity and investment banking track, Rodriguez was instrumental in planning and hosting on-campus workshops with industry professionals. She and the other track leadership focused on trying to diversify their efforts and bring in a range of professionals to meet with their members.

“We brought in eight industry professionals to come talk to our tracks about varying topics, such as the day-to-day tasks in investment banking as well as current events like the SVB collapse,” she said.

Across the 10 tracks, dozens of alumni and industry leaders have graciously shared their time and insights with Warrington students. JPMorgan Chase Managing Director Alex Abreu (BSBA ’87) is a program advisor, hosted students at the bank during the group’s trip to South Florida, and spoke with students at a fireside chat focused on how to pursue a career in banking and succeed in the industry.

Abreu believes that the Finance Professional Development program plays a critical role in building connections and experiences that students and employers can benefit from.

“Building relationships, networking and having access helps students be better positioned for opportunities,” he said. “Inviting students to visit our JPMorgan Chase office in Miami and spending time with our Private Bank and Commercial Bank is great for everyone involved. We are afforded the opportunity to meet the students and build relationships. The students get to learn firsthand about careers and experience a day in the life.

“There is no substitute for hands-on experience.”

With the recruitment process happening as early as the students’ freshman and sophomore years, Abreu sees the Finance Professional Development program as a way to engage students early on and prepare them for the recruitment process.

“JPMorgan Chase, through its Fellowship Program, looks to bring in students after their sophomore year for a six-week summer experience where students learn about banking and we identify internship candidates,” Abreu explained. “That leads to internships after their junior year that ultimately positions the student for full-time analyst positions upon graduation.”

A group of students sit at a conference table while listening to Brad Smithy speak at the front of the room.

Alumnus Brad Smithy spoke with Finance Professional Development program students during a visit to UBS.

Brad Smithy (BSBA ’89), UBS Managing Director and Florida Market Executive, facilitated the student visits to UBS in both West Palm Beach and Tampa. Similarly to Abreu, Smithy sees an immense value for both the students and employers who engage with the Finance Professional Development program.

“In my professional life, I’ve had the privilege of working with many UF students and graduates,” he said. “These students can go toe-to-toe with any student from any college or university. Selfishly, my involvement has also helped my firm and I to identify talent that we have been able to work alongside at UBS. It is a great program with outstanding students and people, and it has been a privilege to continue to be affiliated with the group.”

As the Finance Professional Development program closes out its first year, the students, industry leaders and Dolinsky are excited to continue building on the program’s momentum. Dolinsky has a few ideas that he’s looking forward to in the next phase of the Finance Professional Development program, including integrating the program’s efforts with other Warrington initiatives, like networking events hosted by Business Career Services and professional development events in the Heavener School of Business, as well as strengthening relationships with firms and alumni to create more engagement opportunities and keep the program at no cost to students through increased financial support.

Most critically, Dolinsky is always thinking about how to make the program stronger so that students are even better prepared for their career.

“Since our program already has reached a large scale with hundreds of students getting involved this year, the next priority is raising expectations for the students and offering more advanced training for their technical skills,” he said.