Montana State University

Big ideas in the Big Apple: MSU senior changes plans after trip with finance club

February 25, 2009 -- Anne Pettinger, MSU News Service


MSU business student Austin Owens says his life has changed course because of an MSU-sponsored trip to New York City. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Austin Owens chose to enroll in Montana State University because the school's surroundings are similar to his hometown of Fort Collins, Colo. But now, because of his experiences at MSU, Owens said he is excited to move to a new place and ready to take on a new set of challenges.

In particular, one MSU-sponsored trip to New York City has made Owens re-evaluate his post-graduation plans.

"The hustle-bustle of the city is intoxicating," Owens said after the recent trip. "It was amazing. I was shocked by how much I was enjoying myself."

Owens, who had never been to New York before, had the opportunity to visit it with other MSU students and several professors over the holiday break. He said it has literally changed the course of his life.

"I had been planning to go straight to graduate school, but I've amended that and think it will be really great to get some work experience first," he said. "I'd love to work on Wall Street."

While in the Big Apple, the group met with representatives from Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg. They also visited the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, the New York Mercantile Exchange, NASDAQ and the Museum of American Finance. Members of the group also had time to take in several tourist hot spots, including Times Square, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station and the Statue of Liberty.

Owens visited New York with 21 other MSU students, many of whom are seniors in the College of Business. Accompanying the students were three College of Business professors and several parents.

Several students active in MSU's finance club, including Owens, had worked so hard over the years that College of Business professor Gary Caton wanted to reward them with something special, Caton said. He decided to organize the trip to the city and was able to offer it to students at a cost of about $750.

The trip was important for several reasons, Caton said.

First, it brought to life many of the institutions students learn about at MSU.

"It broadened the learning experience to actually visit the important players in the field," Caton said.

The trip also broadened potential opportunities for students, Caton added. And, it helped put MSU on the map. Visiting with high-level people in influential New York companies can help place students in internships and jobs, Caton said.

Touring the floor of the New York Stock Exchange was particularly memorable for Owens, as was meeting with employees of Morgan Stanley. "They sat down with us for four hours and brought in 10 different speakers," Owens said. "It was awesome because they have important things to do but they took time out of their day to talk to us."

Other things that go with being in a big city -- riding the subway, having delicious food from all corners of the world at one's fingertips, and being in the midst of a culturally diverse place -- were just as enticing.

Owens also is a fan of the fast-paced lifestyle.

"People are so driven and motivated, but they're also willing to stop and chat," Owens said. "I liked that everybody walked fast like me. People were looking into the future. I like the 'go-get-'em' attitude."

Though the economic outlook in the U.S. has been bleak with the recent recession, Owens is optimistic about his job prospects in the long term.

"I might not get a job next week, but the economy will turn the corner," he said. "If nothing else, businesses are cyclical and economies are cyclical."

Still, thinking about venturing onto the financial scene straight out of college can produce some anxiety.

"It's been kind of scary at times," Owens said. "Actually, it's a little terrifying, but if you put in the hard work, it should be okay. I'm willing to make sacrifices."

Exhibiting a professional attitude, establishing networks and being consistent are traits Owens thinks are important for people seeking jobs.

"There are all these ways to differentiate yourself, but you've got to make a commitment to professionalism and excellence," Owens said.

With graduation in the spring, Owens' plan is to look for a job as a beginning analyst. He'd like to be located in New York but is willing to go anywhere.

"I think doing thorough analysis is the best way to learn, and getting a little work experience should be really helpful if I want to get into a really, really good (graduate) program."

Owens, who is majoring in finance and economics at MSU, decided to go into business because of a desire to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is a director at Hewlett Packard.

He thinks his education has prepared him well for the challenges of the working world.

"I feel like the (members of the) finance faculty here are stellar, and it's a comprehensive education," he said. "It's a great foundation to build off of."

In fact, Owens has such respect for professors like Caton that he even wants to become a professor himself one day.

"I've had such a great experience here," Owens said. "I wasn't all that into school when I came here, and now it's all I do."

Audrey Lee, (406) 994-7026 or Audrey.lee@montana.edu