Melissa Griswold, PhD
Expanding Skills in Financial Services
St. Louis is a rapidly growing hub for the nation’s financial sector, with the Wall Street Journal citing regional figures showing industry employment up nearly 85 percent in the past seven years. As director of Maryville’s new financial services program in the John E. Simon School of Business, Melissa Griswold, PhD, associate professor of finance, ensures her students benefit academically from that wealth of local expertise and are tapped into the network for internship and career opportunities.
“We’ve seen considerable student interest in the financial services major. Career opportunities have never been better, and both students and parents are excited about the specific training our students receive,” Griswold says.
The program was created in response to industry needs and is constantly being adapted based on feedback from a Financial Services Advisory Board.
“When something new comes out, we’re on it,” Griswold says.
As a result of such feedback, Maryville’s financial services major differs from a traditional finance degree because of its interdisciplinary design; students are required to also study marketing and communications. “Our board members look for leadership, communication, and marketing skills from our graduates, so our students learn the financial tools and also learn how to present financial products to customers,” she says.
Griswold emphasizes critical thinking skills in order to empower students well beyond graduation. “When they get a job, they’ll become subject matter experts, in banking for instance, but beyond that, students have to accept the fact that it will be lifelong learning to keep up with new products and innovations in the finance industry,” she says.
Christian Loges, whose career goals include working for a large financial firm in investment banking, trading, or asset management, has taken several courses with Griswold. Her passion for the subject and her ability to make concepts “stick” helps students grasp the real-world applications of what they’re learning, he says.
But Griswold doesn’t rely solely on her own expertise as a former small business owner and financial consultant to make class materials relevant.
“She consistently has speakers from the industry come to class who give us a deeper look into the world of finance,” Loges says. “I’ve had countless opportunities to meet professionals in the community and expand my network.”
Bryan Lopez, a financial services major, says Griswold’s classroom is a place “where we can have fun, but get down to business, where we can challenge Dr. Griswold with our thoughts, and she will challenge us. We all feel comfortable. I have created such a bond that I can stop by in her office and discuss my future or just have a chat about life.”
One goal of the program is to help place students in internships. Through the Financial Services Advisory Board, alumni, and other industry connections, new avenues for students in internships and employment frequently open up. In fact, Griswold says, “We have more internships available than we have students at this point, which is really a great place to be.”
(First published in the Fall 2015 edition of Maryville Magazine)