Student Spotlight: Catherine Cheng

Majors: Canfield BHP, Finance, Certificate of Computer Science

Company: Evercore Investment Banking – Manhattan

Position: Summer Investment Banking Analyst – Mergers and Acquisitions

Topics of Interest: Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Venture Capital

Class: Senior, Class of 2020

Catherine Cheng is a rising senior who’s excited for her final year in college. Throughout her first three years at UT, she focused on the University Securities Investment Team (USIT) – a finance organization out of the McCombs School of Business where she is the sitting president. Next year, she plans on starting a new internal USIT division focused on market intelligence where the topics of computer and data science will integrate with the more traditional aspects of finance – an integration that she and her peers at USIT have long asked for. Catherine and her team hope to establish this new division at USIT for the benefit of future generations and enable students of all majors to learn and pursue their interests in quantitative finance and data science.

Additionally, Catherine has been an active member of the Genesis Program – a student alumni effort to help student entrepreneurs raise capital at UT – where she currently serves as Due Diligence Partner. Catherine explains that she’s always been interested in finance and more specifically, venture-capital. “That’s basically what my journey has been like here at McCombs. I’m focusing on finance but more specifically, helping student entrepreneurs. Going into senior year, I’m actually really excited to have slightly fewer classes because it means I’m going to have more time to give back to both the finance and entrepreneurship communities.”

When Catherine made her college decision, she wrote an op-ed piece for the student-run publication “FreshU” titled, ‘Why I Rejected MIT’, and if you haven’t already read it, I encourage you to do so. Catherine discusses her reasons for deciding on Canfield BHP at UT versus the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It’s a wonderfully-refreshing look behind a student’s indecision between two outstanding programs and the process of elimination. I wanted to talk to her about her thoughts behind this piece and more.

I read your article on “FreshU” and thought it was wonderful. Now that your junior year is practically over and you’ve spent three years at UT and Canfield BHP, how do you feel about your decision to come here? What have been your takeaways so far?

This is a question my parents actually ask me a lot because they weren’t the biggest fans of my decision. Of course, I have a deep love for both universities, and I continue to believe both schools are absolutely amazing – that’s why the choice was so difficult for me. At the end of the day, though, my answer has always been that I think coming to UT is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I think the reason why I say that is because I have met a group of incredible people who are passionate about business here and that’s what I came to college to learn more about.

The community aspect has really driven it home for me. Between the team that I found at USIT and Genesis and through the Canfield Business Honors Program, I’ve met so many incredible people who are all doing incredible things that they’re really passionate about. It’s really inspiring and I think that’s the best part about UT. I’ve also had the chance to interact with students studying engineering and computer science through Genesis. Since there are so many students here, it means the opportunities are really endless, and you can go wherever your heart desires. Having the opportunity to be more hands-on with my learning is crucial – whether that’s through extracurriculars or internships.

Austin is also a great place to be because there are so many technical and finance firms around this region. It affords you the opportunity to go work at one of these firms during the semester and start making connections in the community. I’ve met some great mentors along the way simply doing that.

Being honest, though, I haven’t read or thought about the article in a long time. That said, it will still sometimes come up in conversation. I am just happy that others have been inspired to think more about their college decision as a result. I think I made the right decision for me and know my experiences at UT so far reflect that. I found my family in USIT and Genesis, represented McCombs at various national competitions, gave back through research and teaching assistant positions, and have the fortune of pursuing a career I am excited by. The actual reasoning of the article matters less than its more general message – sometimes the best decision isn’t necessarily the easy decision or the one chosen by others.

What did you experience at Discover Canfield BHP that helped push you over the proverbial “edge”?

It was hearing the experiences of current students. I remember a panel event where they featured six current Canfield BHP students from different backgrounds and their experiences at UT. I remember one of the students went to New York Fashion Week as an editor and another went on a cruise for half a year just visiting numerous different countries. It was incredibly refreshing knowing that despite being joined by their interest in business, they were all pursuing different things and driven by different passions and motivations. Canfield BHP has a lot of very diverse people and everyone has their own story, which is something that I have really grown to appreciate.

I also loved being able to meet some of the faculty members. The faculty here is incredibly impressive and I can’t believe we get access to them. Specifically, I remember observing a mock business ethics class ran by Dr. Prentice. Dr. Prentice is incredibly passionate about ethics and business law, areas that I’ve always been interested in, so just hearing him talk about philosophy was really engaging and inspiring.

What aspects of the faculty do you appreciate?

Honestly, there are so many things. For one, they do incredible research. But I think the more important part of it for me is the fact that they care so much about the students. For example, a lot of the Canfield BHP professors will host dinners at their house or come to social events. Professor Konana does that, Dr. Prentice does that, and a lot of other professors do the same thing. I also love that when they’re teaching class, they always try to make it meaningful from an engagement perspective. That’s not to say that they just rely on cold calling people. Instead, they try to inspire discussion about sometimes very controversial or sometimes very tricky subjects to deal with. Everyone’s going to have a different opinion on how a business case should be handled or how an ethics issue should be resolved. Hearing them facilitate these discussions; that’s the reason why I like going to these classes.

On her advice for current students, Catherine encourages students to be open to all opportunities and make sure to evaluate all of them seriously. She explained that any college or major you consider deserves a fair chance to stand on its own. Additionally, she encourages you to “talk to as many people as you can. Whether they’re professors, current students, or alumni, talk to as many people as you can to get their perspective on things and learn from their experiences because often times it’s the people at that particular school that will shape your experience.” Most importantly, she stands by her belief that when it comes to choosing a college or major, it is difficult to make a wrong decision. If you work hard and approach things with enthusiasm and passion, you’ll be a success on whatever path you end up taking.

Catherine will be traveling to New York City over the summer where she’ll be working as a Summer Investment Banking Analyst at Evercore Partners in Manhattan. Interestingly, Catherine is a foodie! She explained that she’s a foodie in the sense that she likes eating food but doesn’t necessarily blog about it. She says, “I’m very excited to go back and just enjoy the city more. Downtime will be limited but I’ll make do.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *