Bridge-a-Thon Takes Classroom Skills into the Real World

By KRIS VENEZIA

STAFF WRITER

An upcoming competition at Fordham University will put students interested in business careers head-to-head for a chance to show off their skills in the finance world. The Bridge-a-Thon will put students in teams of three and have them take on real world economic tasks that test competitors’ abilities outside of the classroom.

The brains behind the competition come from Edward Cullen, Fordham University rugby coach and CEO/founder of Bridge, FCRH ’09, and Daniel McGrory, GSB ’13.

Bridge is a new professional development company that aims to enhance the way human resources departments assess recent college graduates for jobs.

Cullen said the Bridge-a-Thon is part of a pilot program that analyzes how students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real workplace situations. He explains that, while most college students are evaluated for jobs based on their GPA and resume, this event gives young scholars the chance to show that they can handle the professional world.

“Kids are put in a trap of giving a piece of paper and hoping they get chosen based on their resume,” Cullen said. “For example, my resume may say this, but I can show that I can solve problems at your company. What we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to assess skill sets… [Bridge] wants to see how people manage real time problems.”

The competition will be open to Fordham University sophomores, juniors and seniors, and it will consist of various tasks a businessman or businesswoman would handle at his or her job. For example, one part of the Bridge-a-Thon will have teams deal with portfolio management.

The event will have the seniors as the team managers overseeing sophomores and juniors. Cullen said these roles will allow older students to practice acting as leaders. The top three teams in the competition will receive prizes, which will be determined with help from a student focus group.

Nevin Kulangara, GSB ’13, a main contributor to the group, has aspirations to work at a firm in equity research. He said the Bridge-a-Thon sounds like a good idea.

“Anything hands-on is always going to be a better experience than a textbook,” Kulangara said. “It’s great that students will be able to practice thinking on their feet [and] do real life work.”

The focus group meets with Cullen and McGrory once every two weeks. Kulangara said the goal of the meetings is to bring the student perspective to the table, particularly on what prizes students would be interested in.

“[The student focus group] can evaluate incentives based on what students are interested in, what students will be willing to work hard for and give perspective [Cullen] and [McGrory] might not have.”

Cullen founded Bridge after leaving his job as a recruiter for Dynamic Associates in late April of this year. He said he spent the entire summer in Walsh Library working to get this company off the ground.

“I’m in the library in the summer; I want to be at the beach, but I felt this had to be done,” Cullen said.

Cullen said the company aims to give all students the chance to show that they can earn competitive jobs without a degree from a college with high name recognition.

“My goal is — I want the kid in Alabama Birmingham solving the same exact problems as the kid from Harvard, but maybe the kid from Alabama does it better…  I want him to get recognized.”

According to a 2012 Gallup Politics Poll, only about half of Americans think college graduates are prepared for the real world. Ross Garlic, GSB ’15, is one student aspiring to break into the job market after Fordham University with a career as an investment banker.

“I’m not worried about getting a job, I’m worried about getting a job I’m passionate about,” Garlic said. “I’m confident that I have a strong enough background, and I’m confident enough about my abilities to get a job, but the jobs I’m passionate about… are ultra-competitive.”

Cullen said the competition and all the hard work he did during the summer to put together Bridge aims to give college graduates the opportunity to show they are capable of handling the jobs they aspire to have.

“[Bridge] wants it [to be] more than just an interview where people prove they are good at things,” Cullen said. “We want people to get the right jobs that they want to get and are suited for.”

Applications for the Bridge-a-Thon will be released this week, and the competition is set to begin in mid-November.