We Are Stern: Who are “We”?

With change at the center of both student and administrative perspectives, Stern remains an incubator for new ideas and new ways of student life. Yet, it is also clear that members of Stern’s community hold fairly diverse views of what the school offers and what it means to be a part of Stern.

By Katie Leung

The Stern name is very much defined by students’ characteristics. Throughout the NYU community, Stern has seen a mixed reaction from other schools’ students. According to one CAS senior studying history, her experience with Stern students has primarily been negative, citing a sense of isolation when around Sternies. To another Steinhardt junior, Stern is a place filled with intelligent, yet highly competitive students who he very much admires. But what’s the commonality? Many students outside of the Stern community view its students as ambitious, citing the competitiveness of the business industries and the high salaries that these industries are known to offer. 

In the past few years, Stern students have noticed changes to both its curriculum and the messaging. From the strengthened implementation of the social impact courses to the push for more inclusivity in the “We Are Stern” slogan, Stern’s management administration is encouraging change and flexibility in what the school represents. Erin Potter, Senior Assistant Dean at Stern, along with two current Stern students, offered their takes on what the college signifies to them as well as how perspectives compare from an administrative and student experience.

When asked to use a few words to describe Stern college, an anonymous freshman student used the words, “competitive, large, and focused”, while the anonymous junior student sitting next to her expressed agreement. Both students took time in explaining that Stern has many resources to offer, but students must compete with others for opportunities that may already be limited. “Seeing others come into college prepared for various aspects of the recruiting process, such as going to coffee chats and attending networking events early in the first year also brought about new pressure,” according to one of the interviewees. Many popular financial and consulting firms, such as Morgan Stanley and PwC, have begun on-campus recruitment activities as early on as first semester freshman year. From casual networking events to career bootcamps, students often face an immediate disconnect with the proactiveness and professionalism that is expected in these corporate interactions. The mounting pressures of earlier “recruitment”, a term that students may not even be familiar with when joining Stern, suggests that the school should consider strengthening career guidance for underclassmen early on in order to erase the “professional knowledge” gap amongst incoming students.

When asked if they would like to see any changes to be made at Stern, the students responded that they are glad to see an active effort in diversifying career paths outside of the finance industry. Initiatives such as mentorship programs, case walkthroughs, and Stern Talks have been helpful in allowing them to “experiment with different work types”. However, overall, both believe that further work can be done to open up more comprehensive opportunities for students who would like overviews into broader ranges of careers in business. “Finance is still very much the driver in Stern, and the pigeon-hole mentality remains present over the years,” remarked the junior student. While Finance still remains one of the most common concentrations amongst Sternies, there has been an evident rise of interest in other concentrations in recent years, such as Computing and Data Science as well as Social Impact. Despite these emerging “hotspots”, students may be compelled to go into popular industries, such as investment banking, simply because of Stern’s existing resources, whether it be preparatory material or upperclassmen expertise, which are still primarily concentrated in traditional fields like banking. For incoming Sternies and underclassmen alike, some students have expressed their intent on going into investment banking because of the “structured and well-connected” pathway leading towards the coveted positions and not so much from their personal interest or understanding of the nature of the work. With the progressiveness of Stern leadership to promote diversification in career focuses, there also remains questions on how the school can further broaden career exploration by developing relevant resources for students. 

The conversation with Dean Potter further offered a more robust reinforcement to positive trends that students have noticed in recent year initiatives. When asked about her description of Stern, she used the words, “boundless, thoughtful, and untraditional”. In her eyes, Stern’s “boundless possibilities” and “progressive and entrepreneurial faculties” makes the college a source of growth and innovation. Dean Potter, who has been with Stern for 14 years, also commented on the progressions that the school has made over the years. With the offering of new degrees, such as the BS/MS, BPE, and BS/BFA programs, Stern continues to adapt to a changing global environment and shifting professional needs. Finally, when asked about any changes that she would like to be made at Stern, Dean Potter emphasized “more collaboration” between students, clubs, and the Stern management level in order to make communication as meaningful as possible. Whether you have taken OrgComm or Business and Society, there is no doubt that students would agree that communication is critical in an organization, no matter if it is a university system or a multinational corporation. 

With change at the center of both student and administrative perspectives, Stern remains an incubator for new ideas and new ways of student life. Yet, it is also clear that members of Stern’s community hold fairly diverse views of what the school offers and what it means to be a part of Stern. How successful has certain cultural and ideological pushes been in influencing the student body? What are the implications to these new-found trends within Stern’s walls? Perhaps only time and further observation will continue to offer answers to those questions.

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