Bryant University alumni panelists discuss careers in finance with students during Walk Down Wall Street
Walk Down Wall Street trip, organized by Bryant University’s Amica Center for Career Education in conjunction with the Finance Association, aids students in finding invaluable mentors and in getting a peak behind the scenes at the finance industry.
Walk Down Wall Street opens doors, offers the keys to a career in finance
Apr 02, 2024, by Stephen Kostrzewa

As they take in the view of Central Park from the 41st floor of the AllianceBernstein building, the Bryant students point out landmarks, snap photos, and even try to determine the real estate value of the New York City properties surrounding them. The participants in the annual Walk Down Wall Street trip, organized by Bryant’s Amica Center for Career Education in conjunction with the Finance Association, are eager to get a taste of life as finance professionals, and to start making the connections they need to look out from their own high-rise view, someday.

Among them is first year student Ashton Bouquet ’27. The first in his family to go to college, Bouquet is determined to chart his own course to success. But finding your footing is hard, he admits, when every step is new to you — especially in a field like finance, which often feels like a closed-off club with its own rituals and jargon.

“It’s like you’re playing a game where you don’t always know what the rules are,” he states.

So it was with not a little trepidation that he embarked on the long bus ride with 54 fellow Bryant students earlier that morning. But he knows the trip is worth feeling a little uncomfortable — especially when the reward is getting a running start toward his future.

Throughout the day, Bouquet and his travel companions are handed the keys to the financial kingdom by Bryant alumni across the financial industry. They are warmly embraced by professionals representing a variety of possible careers and futures who are eager to share their knowledge and support, and to one day welcome these students as colleagues.

That collegial community is vital for students preparing for their careers, says Finance Senior Lecturer Maura Ann Dowling, who accompanied the students to New York. “These trips are specifically designed to get students to go beyond what we do in the classroom,” she states. “This is about leaving campus, meeting new people, and learning everything you can from their lived experiences.”

Bryant University students outside the AllianceBernstein building in New York City
Walk Down Wall Street brought 54 Bryant students to the AllianceBernstein building in New York City to build their professional networks and learn more about the amazing futures ahead of them.

A midday alumni panel discussion, moderated by Amanda Dunne ’07, an institutional advisor — director at AllianceBernstein, brings that point home. The panelists, representing institutions ranging from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to Strategas to MC Credit Partners, share what their current positions entail, offer advice on turning a course of study into a satisfying career, and reflect on what they wish they had known when they were in the students’ shoes.

Sessions like these help students put a face to an often-opaque industry, says Patricia Miernicki, the Amica Center’s associate director of employer outreach and development and the trip’s organizer. It also gives them an honest, inside look at the ins and outs of particular disciplines. “The entire day is about providing the students with the chance to explore all of the opportunities open to them within the finance field,” she notes.

When Bouquet learns that one of the panelists, Julia Di Natale ’22, now a senior analyst in Goldman Sachs’ Asset Management Division, had also been a first-generation college student, he can’t help but raise his hand and ask for advice. “I feel like the biggest thing I’ve learned is that you really need to find people who you can trust and lean on in the times when you need them,” she acknowledges to murmured agreement from the rest of the panel.

The Bryant alumni community, she suggests, is an ideal place to find such allies. “I have never talked to an alum who did not want to help me,” she says.

“Seeing them succeed gives me confidence in my future and makes me want to keep working hard to make my goals happen.”

When the session adjourns, the students swarm the panelists in large, shifting groups. Hannah O’Brien ’25, who is graduating in January and considering a career in financial consulting, is excited to expand her network beyond her connections back home. She's elated that two of the panelists, Jackie Gilmartin ’22, who works in fixed income relations at Bank of America, and Hannah Garvey ’22, a financial advisor at BNY Mellon, share a similar academic trajectory.

“Seeing them succeed gives me confidence in my future and makes me want to keep working hard to make my goals happen,” she says.

Michael DiBenedetto’25, a student in Bryant’s 3+1 Accelerated Fourth Year MBA who attended Walk Down Wall Street last year, is preparing for a career in wealth management and aims to be a fully licensed financial advisor by the time he’s 21. After the panel discussion, DiBenedetto reaches out to Di Natale and they discuss his plans. “You’re doing everything right, and you’re definitely on track,” she assures him — and then they brainstorm about how he can go even further.

Bryant students Odette Mansour '24 and Brendan Fall's 24 network with Nico Santini '93
Bryant students Odette Mansour '24 and Brendan Falls '24 network with Nico Santini '93, SVP and CIO at Coaction Global.

Later on — and after the students take a walking tour of New York City — the same AllianceBernstein room swells with more than 50 Bryant alumni, including members of the university’s prestigious Wall Street Council, who have come to take part in a networking event with the students.

Miernicki is everywhere at once, helping students connect with alumni working in their areas of interest, offering last-minute networking tips, and even suggesting icebreakers. “So many of the alumni in this room have had their Bryant connections help them get to where they are,” she reflects. “Everyone in this room wants to pay it forward.”

Michael Canafora ’11, institutional director, sub-advised and insurance, at Lord, Abbett & Co. has been with the students throughout the day. He’s shared advice as a panelist, made connections at the networking session, and even accompanied them to dinner.

“Bryant people don’t just support each other; we fight for each other.”

It’s been a good day, he admits, but the best part is the networking event. “It’s energizing, seeing everyone here: the students, the faculty, the alumni, even President Gittell,” states Canafora. “Bryant people don’t just support each other; we fight for each other.”

An easy camaraderie fills the space as Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., proclaims, “This is Bryant at its best: our students interacting with our alumni, talking about careers and professional opportunities, and doing it in arguably the world's financial center.”

The evening’s keynote is delivered by Matthew Schill '01, senior product director within the Asset Services Business Management team at the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, who shares his insights into how artificial intelligence will reshape the finance industry.

“This younger generation is excited to work with all of the new data available to them and they’re excited to work with the most modern tools,” he notes. “They're going to be extremely instrumental.”

As he exits AllianceBernstein and prepares for the long ride back to Bryant, Bouquet feels up to that challenge. “I knew this would be good experience, but I had no idea how incredible it would really be,” he reflects. “I honestly didn’t expect how open everyone could be or how comfortable I’d feel.

“It made me realize that I really could see myself doing this in the future,” says Bouquet, filled with a new confidence. “This could be the path for me.” 

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