Paying it forward: Washington University, Wells Fargo Advisors partner for a better world

March 3 events highlight unique corporate-university partnership

Innovate, Accelerate, Transform: Words guiding an important partnership between Washington University in St. Louis and Wells Fargo Advisors (WFA).

When WFA made a major commitment in 2012 to support four Washington University initiatives, the goal was to develop programs that would benefit the St. Louis region and make a positive and lasting impact on society. Together, Washington University and WFA are realizing that goal, and a special event will be held to showcase the progress from this collaborative effort.

“Innovate, Accelerate, Transform: Investing in People, Businesses and Communities,” begins at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in Knight Hall on the Danforth Campus. The event is free and open to the entire university community.

“The desire to transform lives runs deep, and nowhere is this more evident than on college campuses, where students are eager to find ways to make meaningful contributions in their communities, and our faculty has the knowledge base to guide them through the learning process,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said.

“We are grateful for the significant support Wells Fargo Advisors is providing, and for the trust it is placing in Washington University to help bring about substantive change in our community, our nation and our world,” Wrighton said.

Mary Mack, president of Wells Fargo Advisors LLC, embraces WFA’s community service component and is excited about the initiatives the company began supporting at Washington University in 2012.

“Wells Fargo Advisors is committed to serving the communities in which our team members and clients live, work and raise their families,” Mack said. “We invest in people and programs that lead to an enhanced quality of life for everyone. The four initiatives we support at Washington University match our goals of creating opportunities, promoting economic prosperity and advancing financial education.”

The event will begin with an exposition followed by a thought-provoking dialogue, then conclude with a celebratory balloon drop and Champagne toast. Guests will be greeted at the entrance to Bauer Hall by the famous Wells Fargo stagecoach.

The schedule kicks off at 3:30 p.m. March 3, when approximately 75 Washington University students, faculty and alumni who have been, or currently are, involved in these initiatives will be stationed throughout the multistory Frick Forum displaying and discussing their work on one of the initiatives supported by WFA.

At 4 p.m., the program will move to Emerson Auditorium for the dialogue portion of the afternoon, which will feature individuals telling their stories of innovation, acceleration and transformation. Each of the four initiatives supported by WFA will be represented.

The four initiatives

Entrepreneurial Internships: Creating business innovation opportunities with local startups

In the summer of 2014, Kunal Koppula, then a rising junior in Olin Business School majoring in finance and computer science, interned at Lumate, a mobile advertising startup founded at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Lumate is a recipient of a prestigious Arch Grant as well as a graduate member of the Capital Innovators accelerator program. Koppula said that through his internship, he was able to “dive into an incredible fast-moving and dynamic team,” gaining confidence as a developer and exploring St. Louis with his fellow interns every week.

In addition to visiting various startups and meeting entrepreneurs, Washington University interns rang the opening bell on the Wells Fargo trading floor and heard from Scott Welz, senior vice president and director of innovation at Wells Fargo. Both Koppula and Michael Orlando, entrepreneur and founder of Lumate, will participate in the dialogue portion of the event.

The internships are administered through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Emre Toker, managing director, is planning for another class of interns this summer.

Since the program began, more than 150 undergraduate students from disciplines ranging from art, business, engineering and Arts & Sciences have participated.

“Our mission in the Skandalaris Center is to invite students and faculty from all disciplines to explore innovation and entrepreneurship,” Toker said. “Our students this summer will have the chance to tackle challenges together, each adding their own perspectives and skills. I appreciate the support that Wells Fargo is providing to make this opportunity available to benefit local startups as well as our outstanding students.

“St. Louis’ reputation as a top destination for innovation and entrepreneurship continues to grow, and partnerships like the one between Washington University and WFA are making a difference,” Toker said.

Financial Capability and Asset Building: Teaching financial capability to lift families out of poverty

Washington University Brown School faculty in the Center for Social Development (CSD), building on 20 years of pioneering research in asset building, launched the Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) initiative in 2012.

FCAB seeks to improve the financial functioning of low- and moderate-income and financially vulnerable households by ensuring that social workers and human service professionals are trained to help families cope with immediate financial problems, take basic steps toward financial security, and refer clients to other professionals for more in-depth financial counselling and guidance. To achieve this, CSD developed and is testing the FCAB curriculum with schools of social work across the country.

Over 400 undergraduates and graduate social work students at 12 partner colleges and universities are learning this specialized content. FCAB partner schools include historically black colleges and universities; tribal colleges and universities; Native American-serving, nontribal institutions; Hispanic-serving institutions; and majority schools. Along with the curriculum and two edited books, the initiative is currently developing a textbook for students.

“There is a cascading effect to this gift,” said Mike Rochelle, FCAB program director. “Not only is it strengthening the skills of social workers in the area of financial capability, but, in turn, those social workers will continue to make transformative changes in peoples’ lives for years to come.”

Kim Downing, PhD, of Elizabeth City State University, and Diana Cardenas, a student from California State University, will be at the event describing how this program is transforming the training of future social workers so they are prepared in the fight against poverty.

Center for Finance and Accounting Research: Accelerating the use of research discoveries into the marketplace

At the Wells Fargo Advisors Center for Finance and Accounting Research (WFA-CFAR) in Olin Business School, pioneering research is changing quickly from theory to practical applications.

No one understands the need for this process better than Jimmie Lenz, WFA’s senior vice president and chief risk and credit officer, and a Washington University PhD-candidate in business.

“Many have argued that the basis of civil society is finance, and it follows that advances in society are due in large part to financial innovation put into practice,” Lenz said. “WFA-CFAR and Wells Fargo Advisors are facilitating the practical application of world-class financial research by Washington University faculty and students, benefiting our community and the larger world.”

As part of the dialogue portion of the event, Lenz will discuss in more detail how this center is making an impact.

Lenz’s words echo that of Anjan Thakor, PhD, the John E. Simon Professor of Finance, director of the PhD program in Olin and WFA-CFAR director.

“Wells Fargo Advisor Center for Finance and Accounting Research is dedicated to the dissemination of cutting-edge research by encouraging our faculty, students and companies to work more closely together,” Thakor said.

“One of our goals is to make sure that the world-class research conducted by our faculty is accessible to a broad audience consisting of our students, alumni and corporate partners, and that it is used to benefit society at large. We are deeply appreciative of the generous support of Wells Fargo Advisors in helping the center achieve this goal,” Thakor said.

United Way Board Fellowships: Changing the world, one nonprofit organization at a time

What better way to support our region and promote positive change than to assist those organizations committed to the betterment of our community and help prepare the civic leaders of tomorrow? Through the United Way Board Fellows program, Washington University places students on the boards of United Way agencies, providing a unique opportunity for students to gain real-life experience while also offering a valuable service. Thirty-six students are currently participating in this yearlong program.

This program paired MBA-candidate Lilly Leyh with Almost Home, a United Way agency that serves teenage mothers who wish to create better lives for themselves and their children.

“Serving as a board fellow at Almost Home has opened my eyes to the impact community members make on the day-to-day lives of the young women and children this nonprofit serves,” Leyh said. “The passion and commitment of the board translates directly into the success and growth of the organization as a whole, and I am honored to be a part of that change.”

Rhonda Gray, executive director of Almost Home, sees firsthand the positive influences board members such as Leyh make, as they bring to the organization fresh perspectives and innovative management approaches.

“The Washington University Olin United Way Board Fellows program has provided Almost Home with the expertise, experience and insight from our board fellows to help strengthen the agency’s capacity for long-term success,” Gray said.

A client of Almost Home will participate in the dialogue with Gray and Leyh.

Vanessa Cooksey, senior vice president of community affairs for Wells Fargo Advisors, has led the team planning the WFA-Washington University event.

“With this investment in Washington University initiatives, Wells Fargo Advisors is paying it forward in a big way,” Cooksey said. “We are proud to be a part of this work, and we want to share that pride with our staff. We want them to hear these wonderful stories and recognize that they are a part of advancements in society that are producing transformative effects.”

About Wells Fargo Advisors

Wells Fargo Advisors is one of the nation’s premier financial services firms, serving and advising clients nationwide through more than 15,000 financial advisers. As the heir to some of America’s most respected regional firms, which came together through mergers over many years, Wells Fargo Advisors has retained a strong and abiding commitment to exceptional service based on trust and knowledge and a determination to put client needs above all else.

Wells Fargo Advisors is a non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Co., one of the nation’s largest, strongest and most respected financial institutions. In business since 1852 and named on Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” list for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, Wells Fargo is known and respected for its responsible stewardship of its clients’ assets.