A Gift in Gratitude for a Powerful Hands-on Education

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Scott Wallschlaeger (BA in Finance, '04) is one of those rare people who has known all his life the field in which he wanted to work and been able to achieve success in it. Scott, who co-founded Minnesota's first branch of Midwest Professional Planners, Ltd. in Duluth, grew up watching his father work in the financial industry, always knowing that he would study finance himself.

Yet, even with that general sense of direction, it wasn't until he arrived at the University of Minnesota Duluth that he decided on his specific career aspirations within the industry. Scott, who grew up near Wausau, Wisc., chose UMD for his studies primarily because of his love for Duluth's scenic outdoor beauty. While participating in the Finance and Investment Club, he was introduced to UMD's then-new Financial Markets Program (FMP) by its director, Joseph Artim, and immediately knew the program was the direction he wanted to take.

Finding a Career Focus

The Financial Markets Program is an advanced, specialized honors track within the Labovitz School of Business and Economics that accepts a maximum of 20 students per year. Scott applied during the second year of the program's existence and was one of only 18 admitted that year.

Scott credits the Financial Markets Program heavily for helping him to decide on a specific career focus, and also for giving him vital tools and skills to succeed in the future. FMP is a cutting-edge program modeled after post-graduate programs from the around the country, and students go beyond classroom and textbook learning. They do hands-on work with real money on behalf of UMD (under supervision and with built-in risk control), negotiating real-life professional situations they will encounter in their post-educational life.

FMP students research and plan how to invest the funds allotted to them and must formulate presentations to propose their strategies to working-industry professionals. Scott says this trained him to be an effective speaker, to present complex information, and to be prepared to persuade an audience to adopt his investment strategy.

Understanding the Industry

Among other activities, Scott and his classmates also had the opportunity to visit financial exchanges in Chicago and Minneapolis and to participate in a practicum with Wells Fargo. The practicum in particular, he points out, gives students a feel for what the industry is really like and if they truly want to pursue it

Ultimately, Scott chose a career in investment (as opposed to financial analysis), knowing that he wanted to work with people as a personal financial planner and investment advisor. Scott now helps individuals and businesses implement investment strategies.

Giving Back

Because FMP taught him significantly more advanced skills than he believes he could have learned otherwise, Scott chose to set up a $50,000 insurance gift benefiting the Financial Markets Program. At the time, he did not have immediate funds to donate, but he wanted the estate gift in place so that, no matter what happened with his life and career, he would still be able to give back to the program and help it continue to grow in the future.

With his success at Midwest Professional Planners, Ltd., Scott and his wife, Kayla Hertel—a fellow FMP student whom he met in the program—have since been able to give direct donations every year and have made a commitment to continue doing so together, increasing their donations as time goes on.

Their contributions are placed at the program's discretion, to support anything from new technology to travel opportunities, so that future FMP students can receive an increasingly valuable, hands-on education. The university is extremely grateful for their generosity.