November 24, 2013

BUSINESS NEWS: Cornellians Debate Importance of Business Fraternities

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Cornellians split on their opinions of the campus’ four professional business fraternities, with some espousing the value of the groups’ networking opportunities and others calling the groups unnecessary.

The presidents of Cornell’s four business fraternities — Alpha Kappa Psi, Delta Sigma Pi, Phi Gamma Nu and Pi Sigma Epsilon — said in a joint statement that the fraternities are designed to “provide resources for enhancing the educational experience of students pursuing careers in business.” Joining a professional business fraternity offers numerous benefits, including “intensive mentorship by senior members, [the chance to polish] professional and interpersonal skills and access to strong alumni networks,” the fraternity presidents said in a joint statement.

Yet some business-oriented students have not bought into the idea of pre-professional fraternities, calling them unnecessary and even superficial.

Michael Chan ’14, who will be working at Goldman Sachs after graduation, said other organizations on campus can help students network and enter the industry of their choice. Business fraternities “are not the only way to enter those industries,” he said.

“Ultimately, it’s about building your own personal network and meeting new people,” Chan added.

Nicholas Hosseini ’14 echoed Chan’s sentiment, saying that while business fraternities can definitely help students gain access to jobs in the consulting or banking industries, membership in such groups “is not ‘make or break’ in any way.”

Hosseini, who is not a member of a business fraternity, will be working as an investment banker at Lazard after graduation.

“I do feel disadvantaged in networking, but there are definitely ways to network successfully without having been in a business fraternity,” he said.

Presidents of business fraternities, however, said that the biggest benefits of joining a business fraternity are not just learning job-specific skills but also meeting new people.

“While the opportunity for personal and professional growth is alluring, what our members truly come to cherish are the enduring friendships and sense of community that we foster,” they said.

The presidents said these strong friendships are “a natural byproduct of our commitment to our new member processes, philanthropic endeavors and brotherhood events.”

Yet some students criticized the very “new member processes” the fraternity presidents mentioned, saying they suffer from a lack of transparency.

“I feel like the decisions behind these processes are sometimes very biased,” Chan said. “People generally have a feeling of who they want to take before the whole process starts. It’s not about picking the smartest person or the most capable person, but it’s about picking the person that you work best with.”

However, the recruitment processes for the organizations are governed by their national chapters and seek a diverse group of students, according to the presidents of the business fraternities.

“We are collectively committed to seeking a diverse group of students, who demonstrate a strong passion for business, eagerness for personal and professional growth, and the ‘pay it forward’ mentality that is crucial to the aggregate success of our membership,” they said.

Chan said that, although business fraternities “do provide a useful network,” membership to a business fraternity is by no means “a requirement” for those who are interested in finance.

“[There are other organizations one can join, and] they all lead to the same place,” he said. “There are other people out there who also want to go into finance who you can network with as well.”

Hosseini echoed Chan’s sentiments, saying he believes that membership in a business fraternity can only take you so far. The contacts a business fraternity may give someone could help land someone an interview, but from there, every individual is on a level playing ground, he said.

“You might get lucky and have a senior member interviewing you who was part of your business fraternity, but at that point they probably have a stronger devotion to the company. They’re not going to take someone who they feel is not well qualified just because they were their fraternity brothers,” he said.

Business fraternities, however, point to their job placement records as proof of how valuable the networks and skills they provide are to members.

“The brothers of Alpha Kappa Psi have a strong track record of securing the most sought-out internships and full-time jobs across a wide array of industries,” Alpha Kappa Psi says on its website. Its members have gone onto jobs at Google, J.P. Morgan, NBC, Bloomberg and other major companies.