Finance Students Drive the Discussion with Bank of America CEO
The process of hosting a Fortune 500 C-Suite member, along with hundreds of your fellow students, isn’t a regular college to-do task. The amount of preparation it takes to put on a speaker event could easily eclipse that of a standard course, if you don’t have the right resources.
So, in January 2024, how did second-year students Oleksandra Mukha ’26 and Emily Truszkowski ’26 find themselves seated across from Brian Moynihan, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Bank of America? The answer is simple: Despite the months-long planning, it’s not uncommon to see Babson students stepping into the moderator chair to talk to industry titans and thought leaders. For an undergraduate student, the Babson experience prepares you beyond the coursework for professional, networking opportunities like these.
Moynihan joined the Babson campus as part of the Stephen D. Cutler Center for Investments and Finance and Babson Scholars of Finance Distinguished Lecture Series. The moderator experience can include anything from formulating questions to marketing and logistics. Mukha and Truszkowski, also officers in the Babson Chapter of Scholars of Finance, drew on-campus resources and experiences from hands-on learning courses such as Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) and the Babson College Fund to prepare for the gig.
Go Beyond the Surface
To decide what questions to ask Moynihan that would entice an audience of Babson students and engage the guest speaker, Truszkowski and Mukha went to the archives. “I listened to numerous podcasts where Moynihan discussed topics like the financial crisis,” Truszkowski says. “I watched several of his interviews, particularly the Bloomberg Talks focusing on the soft-landing scenario and his predictions about rate cuts.”
This research, along with their knowledge from financial organizations on campus and classes, allowed the students to confidently ask about recent Bank of America policy changes, how the business and Moynihan pivoted during crises, and his work-life balance.
Draw on Your Education
A Babson undergraduate education is more than coursework; it’s an immersive experience rooted in experiential learning. It means, when you’re doing something new, you’re not actually starting with a blank page. Your coursework and extracurriculars have prepared you for that next step.
“Participation in clubs like SPEAR IB (Students Prepared, Educated, and Ready for Investment Banking) and Scholars of Finance played a pivotal role, offering opportunities to learn from other students, enhance my planning abilities, stay cool under pressure, and gain invaluable feedback from students and mentors,” says Mukha, currently an analyst with the Babson College Fund.
Mukha also is the vice president of professional development for Scholars of Finance, a role that includes organizing and facilitating the Speaker Series events and workshops. “Moderating discussions, though a significant step out of my comfort zone, became a positive challenge with the support (from the other members of the Scholars of Finance),” she adds. “I’ve learned what makes a true team and the importance of brainstorming ideas together.”
“Participation in clubs like SPEAR IB and Scholars of Finance played a pivotal role, offering opportunities to learn from other students, enhance my planning abilities, stay cool under pressure, and gain invaluable feedback from students and mentors,”
Oleksandra Mukha ’26
Truszkowski also cites SPEAR IB, Scholars of Finance (where is she president), and the Babson Finance Association as helping her improve her public speaking skills. “Their mentorship was crucial in teaching me how to maintain composure under pressure, a skill that proved invaluable during the event.”
Find the Right Partners
Babson’s centers and institutes provide more than just thought leadership to students. Their resources and staff partner with students to help them put on events like this lecture series, through training on protocols, experience-backed support, and offering guidance on event best practices. For this event, the moderators found a mentor figure at the Cutler Center.
“Farrah Narkiewicz (Cutler’s marketing and events manager) was pivotal not only in the logistical and strategic aspects of event planning but also in providing continuous support and encouragement,” Truszkowski says. “She offered insights into best practices for event marketing and audience engagement, ensuring the event would capture the interest of the target audience effectively. She instilled a sense of confidence and enthusiasm. It made the entire process not just a learning experience but also enjoyable.”
Don’t Forget the Next Step
Planning the event is no small feat, but don’t forget why you’re there in the first place: to gain professional insight and knowledge from someone who has been there. Babson students have access to industry titans for a reason. Both Mukha and Truszkowski want to work in finance, a field almost one-third of recent Babson graduates go into.
“One principle (Moynihan discussed) that resonated deeply with me was the concept of the ‘genius of the AND.’ This symbolizes a fundamental aspect of highly visionary companies, emphasizing the pursuit of excellence in both short-term and long-term goals,” Mukha says. “This profound insight has significantly influenced my perspective on visionary leadership and organizational success, shaping my approach to navigating challenges and driving positive change in my future endeavors.”
Making sure to come away with a nugget of wisdom makes the hard work worth it.