It was back in her senior year of high school when Houston, TX, native Alice Opiyo decided that she wanted to use finance to fight for social justice.
She explains that as she found business to be interesting and practical, Opiyo enrolled in courses such as Global Business; Banking and Finance; and Securities and Investments to fulfill an endorsement requirement necessary to graduate. But those classes led her to become involved with her high school’s chapter of the DECA business club, which gave her the chance to compete in stock market- and budgeting-based challenges.
“Through those experiences, I came to learn how financial literacy, or lack thereof, can make a significant impact on communities,” she says.
Driven by the idea of applying those early lessons in finance to advancing social justice, Opiyo arrived at UVA and sought out the Commerce School and all it had to offer.
“I knew that McIntire would be a place where I could become extremely knowledgeable in financial systems, which I could leverage to better serve marginalized communities,” says the Finance concentrator, crediting the design of the Integrated Core with exposing students to all of the areas of business they can choose to focus on later. “Because of this structure, every student walks out of McIntire with a better understanding of how the different roles in a business work together to create value. I also loved that McIntire is full of small discussion-based classes which would have allowed me to take ownership of my education. As my career aspirations have evolved over the years, McIntire has made sure that I am equipped for whatever direction I could pursue,” Opiyo says.
Indeed, her academic and extracurricular choices at the University have certainly given her a wide swath of experience with which to fuel her future. In addition to completing a Sociology minor, the Posse Scholar served as a Peer Financial Counseling Team Leader, President of Black Commerce Student Network, and Vice President of UVA’s Yahweh Night Ministries student organization.
But she found that the Global Commerce Track had the greatest impact on her McIntire experience.
“It allowed me to take courses that have challenged me by encouraging me to think more critically about sustainability, ethics, and global management. The first course, and my favorite, Foundations of Global Commerce taught by Peter Maillet, is discussion-based, which allowed me to form opinions on certain topics ranging from political systems to the role of technology,” she says. “As a result of this class, I became more aware of global issues currently affecting the global economy, and I developed habits to stay informed even after the class ended.”
Opiyo, who had two summers interning with RBC Capital Markets, in Rotational Sales and Trading in 2020 and in its Equity Research department in 2021, will be moving to New York to become a Real Estate ESG Analyst at Blackstone. As she gets ready to apply her expertise to explore the risks and opportunities in the built environment, we spoke to her about how she’s prepared for the role—and what she’ll take with her from the Commerce School.
What lesson from McIntire has helped you navigate your professional future?
One of the biggest things I’ve learned as a result of the Comm School is how to combine my passions with my career. Although many people leave McIntire and enter into roles like investment banking, consulting, and private equity, there are many other business roles that students enter into. I’ve known since first year that I wanted my future job to combine my passions of finance with social justice, but I couldn’t think tangibly of any roles besides financial advising that could do that. McIntire opened my eyes to a whole suite of options that are even better suited to my skills and interests than financial advising. I’m hopeful that in all of my future roles, I will be able to wake up every day excited to have purpose in my work.
What do you think will stay with you as you get ready to leave Grounds and begin your career?
My favorite memory is a result of the Black Commerce Student Network. One day during the fall semester, we had a food and t-shirt drop where we had Chick-Fil-A catered and we allowed Black McIntire undergrad and graduate students to gather together. The event was only about an hour, but it was full of a lot of laughter and good conversations. I’m very grateful for the community that BCSN and McIntire have provided me with this past year and will continue to provide for me, as many of my peers and I will be living in New York post-graduation.
I am looking forward to going on adventures and cherishing the last few weeks I have with my friends before I officially move. I’ve been fortunate enough to make some incredible friends during my time at UVA, which makes it bittersweet as we all spread all over the world in the coming months.