For Seton Hall University, a new articulation agreement with Stevens Institute of Technology is a case of going with what you know.
A significant number of faculty in Seton Hall’s math and computer science department studied at Stevens. And those professors say Stevens’ faculty, along with the university’s connections to Wall Street, are why they wanted opportunities for Seton Hall students to take graduate courses on Castle Point.
“Our program and the Stevens programs are about three things — solving problems; learning to think on your feet; and when something new comes along, your learning curve isn’t so steep,” said Dr. John Saccoman Ph.D. ’95, chair of the department of mathematics and computer science at Seton Hall. “That’s what employers want to see, and I think these programs do that.”
“We know Stevens very well, we have great relationships with Stevens and we know our students will benefit from having access to these programs.”
Under the agreement, Seton Hall students majoring in financial mathematics can apply to the Financial Analytics or Financial Engineering master’s programs at the School of Business at Stevens, representing a tremendous value add for aspiring finance professionals to tap into Stevens’ professional networks on Wall Street and beyond. It’s part of an overall agreement between the schools that includes academic programs in physics, chemistry and engineering, as well.
An advantage in seeking jobs
Stevens’ close connections to Wall Street will help the Seton Hall students secure employment opportunities upon graduation, said Dr. Kristi Luttrell Ph.D. ’13, an assistant professor at Seton Hall.
“Stevens offers such a unique experience, and such great connections with the finance industry,” Prof. Luttrell said. “The capstone projects give students the chance to work with people in the industry on something that is actively happening in the corporate world. And the faculty they get to work with are exceptional.”
“Stevens offers such a unique experience, and such great connections with the finance industry. And the faculty are exceptional.”
Exceptional faculty, in fact, first drew Dr. Luttrell to Castle Point in the first place. When she visited the campus as a prospective student, she got a tour from Nathan Kahl Ph.D. ’05 — also now teaching at Seton Hall — and Prof. Charlie Suffel, recently deceased, a respected instructor and former dean of graduate studies at Stevens. Dr. Suffel helped organize the Seton Hall-Stevens Graph Theory Group, which led to research collaboration between the schools; Profs. Luttrell and Saccoman both called him a major influence.
“They showed me around campus, talked to me a little about the programs they had,” she said. “Between the campus community and just the things that they told me that day, I knew Stevens was the place for me.”
Through this agreement, Seton Hall students take three approved graduate classes in their junior or senior year, then transfer to Stevens after completing their undergraduate work. They then take seven graduate courses at Stevens, earning a master’s to go along with their bachelor’s in Financial Mathematics.
Starting the job search in prime time
The agreement offers a cost savings for the students, said Prof. Ionut Florescu, director of the Financial Analytics program at Stevens, but the time consideration might be even more important.
“With this program, the students finish the master’s degree in one year, so they’re ready to work in May and fit into the traditional finance recruiting cycle,” said Dr. Florescu, who taught Prof. Luttrell while she was a Stevens student. “Otherwise, they need an extra semester and graduate in December, when it’s harder to find a job right away.”
And the skills they develop are invaluable. The Financial Analytics and Financial Engineering programs offer a technology-intensive approach to finance that, owing to their business school orientation, focus on applied learning that prepares professionals to confront the challenges facing quants, data scientists and others transitioning into the finance industry, which is hungry for professionals with these skills. For the Stevens Class of 2020 — which graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent history — 100 percent of Financial Analytics graduates, and 82 percent of Financial Engineering graduates, secured employment three months after commencement.
At the School of Business, stellar recruiting is a function of the university’s location, directly across the Hudson River from New York City, and the connections to Wall Street that location enables. For students, that means recruiting opportunities as well as access to industry projects and guest speakers. Recently, students studying Financial Engineering got to work with a Bank of America executive on projects like machine learning applications in asset pricing and investment management time series.
“That’s what I’m most excited for, the opportunities that our students will get out of Stevens to partner with companies on the capstone consulting project,” Dr. Luttrell said.
In fact, some Seton Hall students studying financial mathematics already are collaborating with Stevens faculty and students on research. Prof. Thomas Lonon Ph.D. ’13, who completed his doctoral degree alongside Dr. Luttrell, has students working on several projects — one in short-term option pricing, and another involving an industry sector redrawing based on data, not human-designed categories like manufacturing or service.
“In terms of the quality of the math department at Seton Hall, there was no hesitation from Professor Florescu or myself of the ability of the students,” Dr. Lonon said. “The students’ enthusiasm for the collaborative research projects proves that. Even if these students don’t meet again in a master’s program at Stevens, we’re building that connection and helping them have a network for when they do wind up on Wall Street.”
Two of those Seton Hall students — Elizabeth Puskas ’22, a financial mathematics major, and Brooke Mullin ’21, a double math and economics major — said their research work with Stevens will be helpful to them going forward.
Early returns from research
Puskas said Stevens students have brought financial engineering and programming skills to the table, giving her a chance to learn while she prepares to apply mathematics techniques as the project moves ahead. She’s enjoying the chance to develop additional scientific knowledge as she decides what sort of career is best for her.
“People from different background come from different perspectives, and bring different experiences,” Puskas said. “That’s so valuable when you’re trying to do something novel, because through their different perspectives, you can figure out the best approach and move forward from there.”
Mullin, who recently accepted an offer as an associate claims examiner with Arch Insurance Group, said those who do enroll in a Stevens master’s will benefit from the schools’ shared focus on providing the best education for students.
“We have this incredible advantage of Dr. Luttrell and other math department faculty having these relationships to Stevens professors that they’re willing to leverage to help us,” she said. “Our faculty recognize Stevens has things to offer in the master’s program that we don’t, so collaborating with them is another way they can set us up to succeed.”