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From Wall Street to Grand Avenue: Alumnus Gives Back to Accounting Faculty

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Every morning, Cal Poly alumnus Rich Jacobsen (Business Administration, ’85) assembles his to-do list by using the same organizational method he learned from Cal Poly Professor Don Yale nearly 30 years ago. As managing director of Greenhill & Co., a leading independent advisory firm in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District, Jacobsen says he can trace his success back to his time with the accounting faculty in the Orfalea College of Business who ignited his interest in the field.

“Most of my instructors were professors with years of teaching experience who were enthusiastic about their subjects and had an ability to connect with students on a personal level,” Jacobsen said. “They had an outstanding understanding of their subject but also knew how to teach the material in an effective manner.”

Despite the incredible impact faculty left on Jacobsen throughout his career, he noticed major financial firms were consistently overlooking Cal Poly graduates in favor of those from more elite institutions.

“Many firms are not familiar with the high quality of graduates coming out of the Orfalea College of Business, and thus it is difficult for students to earn the opportunity to interview for financial analyst positions at top Wall Street firms,” Jacobsen said. So, he decided to do something about it.

As part of a major gift to the university, Jacobsen and his wife, Margaret, established the Jacobsen Faculty Fellowship, jump-starting the college’s initiative to attract and retain leading instructors committed to preparing career-ready graduates through Learn by Doing.

This year, the Jacobsen Faculty Fellowship award was given to three Orfalea College of Business faculty, among whom stood Chris Carr, a professor of business law and public policy in the Accounting Area. Carr was selected for his profound ability to inspire students through international travel and forge meaningful connections with industry partners. On three occasions he consulted as a Fulbright Senior Specialist on entrepreneurship, curriculum development and academic program development, first with a Tunisian university in North Africa and most recently an elite engineering university in Pakistan and a finance and economics university in Mongolia. In addition to Carr, the Orfalea College of Business honored economics Professor Edurado Zambrano and finance Professor Larry Gorman with Jacobsen Fellowships.

“Faculty members are the building blocks for all the college hopes to achieve, particularly those teachers who can develop curriculum that will be responsive to the evolving external business environment,” said Associate Dean for Faculty and Research Rami Shani. “By being engaged in diverse collaborative research projects with industry, our faculty develop the ability to enhance, refine and initiate innovative academic curriculum that is vital to practice.”

With the right faculty leading the way, Jacobsen believes the prowess of Cal Poly graduates will garner the attention it deserves among other big-name schools. “While some graduates of elite schools take an analyst position for granted, Cal Poly students are willing to ‘run through walls’ to make the most of their opportunity,” Jacobsen said of his experience with new hires at Greenhill.

If you’re interested in giving back to the Orfalea College of Business, contact Executive Director for Accounting Excellence Sheri Boscaro at sboscaro@calpoly.edu.

Posted Dec 15, 2015

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