The Huntsman Experience
During high school, Zach had been involved in student government, and he knew that being a part of how a school works was really important to him. So, when he got to Penn, he became a member of SCUE, the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education. He describes it as a "think tank on academic policy," that has a long history of actually creating change within the university. Zach served as chair of SCUE during his senior year, and he enjoyed the opportunity to "be in the room when a lot of important decisions were being made." In his senior year, Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, invited Zach to serve on the Provost Search Committee, which he says was a huge honor and "made me realize how fortunate I am to be at a place like Penn, which believes that students should have a voice in their education."
Zach also continued with another of his high school activities: Model UN. As a teenager, he had loved this activity, which allowed him to meet kids from all over the world to debate and solve problems together. In fact, three of his friends from high school Model UN had attended Penn before him, which was how he first learned about the Huntsman Program. As a college student, Zach served on the senior staff of a Model UN conference run out of the actual United Nations building in New York City!
Academically, Zach has many interests. A project he did for History 107, the Huntsman freshman seminar, turned into a research project with a Penn professor. He received funding from the Huntsman Program to help him conduct his research, which compared social programs in Germany to the Keynesian welfare state in Britain. The project allowed him to explore the intellectual underpinnings of capitalist philosophies.
In addition to fulfilling his Huntsman requirements, Zach will earn a minor in European History and a major in French. He's used his senior thesis as a chance to combine these two fields to address a broader economic question that affects the whole world: the political economy of European banking regulation. Zach's research explores the harmonization of European regulatory systems. In the face of economic crisis, many call for global harmonization, so Zach wished to examine what lessons could be drawn from the European experience.
As for any quirky interests that Zach hasn't had time to pursue through his coursework, he can explore those topics through his involvement with the Philomathean Society (Philo). This unique student group features afternoon tea with professors every Friday, poetry readings, film screenings and theatrical works. Meetings take place on the 4th floor of College Hall, a beautiful setting, and members stay well into the night, debating and joking. "It's a place for kids who want to interact with ideas," says Zach. "It's not about ‘what's gonna be on the test?' or ‘how long does my paper have to be?' It's just a place to talk about whatever interests you. And, at the end of the day, it's a group of friends."
Internship in England
During the summer after his freshman year, the Huntsman Program helped Zach land a journalism internship with Euromoney magazine in London. He hadn't yet finished his Wharton core requirements and felt at first like he was in over his head. "The managing editor gave me a stack of back issues to read, and I could hardly make sense of the industry jargon," Zach has said.
At the beginning, Zach was assigned a lot of research tasks. Then, one day, the Fixed Income editor dropped a press release on his desk and asked Zach to try his hand at a 500 word article on a change in the classification of hybrid securities. At the time, Zach barely understood what hybrid securities were, but he dove in, giving himself a crash internet course on corporate finance. He interviewed senior officials at UBS and Moody's, and in the end, Zach's first article was published with no edits.
The editors were so pleased with Zach's work that they threw more and more assignments his way. He wrote about an investment bank for nonprofits founded by a former partner of Goldman Sachs, a Colombian local-currency debt (for which he conducted a phone interview with the Treasurer of Colombia), and market news roundups for Latin America and Eastern Europe. During the last month of his internship, he wrote a feature story about how microfinance institutions were accessing capital markets. Zach's article was distributed at the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Singapore!
Zach also had the opportunity to soak up some of London's nightlife that summer. In an article about his internship experience, he wrote, "I partied at the Euromoney Awards of Excellence dinner, a black-tie affair with CEOs and other investment banking bigwigs, replete with ice sculptures, cigarette girls, and a BBC television personality."
Zach came back from his Euromoney internship with a real passion for markets and finance. He set his sights on "doing the finance thing from an international perspective." Through another summer internship in Chicago, Zach had a chance to see the first signs of the credit crisis unfold right before his eyes. The internship also put him in a great position for the following summer's recruiting, when he was offered London-based positions in several investment banks. As an American, born in Chicago, Zach says that his international opportunities "really speak to what Huntsman can do for you."
During his junior summer, instead of pursuing investment banking, Zach opted to work for McKinsey & Company instead. Drawing on his experience with SCUE, he found that he had a talent and passion for going into an organization, getting to know it and helping make it function better. He also enjoyed the variety that his work at McKinsey provided him. One of his favorite tasks that summer was working with the staff of a federal government agency on a risk management system dealing with public health. "We met with senior administration officials and they were asking me what I thought," says Zach. "It was a phenomenal experience."
After graduation, Zach will begin a full-time job with McKinsey in New York City. He opted to work in New York because of the way the recent crisis has changed the world of financial services. "I wanted to be on the forefront of change, I guess."