Leadership and its lessons come in many forms. For McIntire fourth-year Josh Fong, leading and gaining a unique perspective have been the result of serving in a pair of influential positions on Grounds: Commerce Council President and Captain of UVA’s Men’s Swimming & Diving team.
Grateful for the opportunity to compete as a student-athlete at Virginia, he believes that the moments he has spent competing in the pool have been unparalleled—experiences that have been instrumental in shaping how he has gone about his studies at the Comm School.
“The sport of swimming demands discipline, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic—skills that are also demanded of McIntire students,” Fong says, explaining that as an athlete he has learned to continually push to be the best version of himself possible. “There is always room for improvement and lessons to be learned from failures. I feel the impacts of my experience as a swimmer in all aspects of my life, and especially as a student at McIntire.”
A Balancing Act
As expected, the demands of acting as Comm Council President and Swimming & Diving Captain require a great deal of focus and foresight. Managing his McIntire workload has proved challenging, and Fong has been up to the task.
“My parents have always told me that life is a balancing act, and the only way to get better at it is through practice,” he says.
In his final undergraduate year at the University, Fong is taking in as much of University life as possible, which he hopes to take with him after walking the Lawn. He notes that during his previous three years as a swimmer at UVA, his teammates taught him how to best manage his academics and athletics; he absorbed their advice about keeping a highly organized schedule—and sticking to it by developing strict time management skills.
“As a fourth-year, I see these commitments as an opportunity to challenge myself,” he says, adding that he aspires to continue drawing upon the instructive experiences from his final semesters as he begins his professional life.
During his final semester, Fong continues to see the benefits of being a part of determined, focused group efforts.
“When I joined the UVA Swimming & Diving team as a first-year, I was one of the slowest swimmers on the team,” he admits. “Looking at my progress over the last three years on the team, I attribute all of my improvements to my incredible teammates, who have always pushed me to be the best version of myself. I’ve learned the importance of surrounding myself with hard-working, dedicated, and passionate individuals. My teammates are my family, and I hope to keep them close to me for the rest of my life.”
And much as his Swimming & Diving teammates were staunch supporters of his progress in the pool, Fong credits his McIntire peers for enhancing his education in multiple ways.
“The Commerce program at McIntire fosters an incredibly strong community, which has had an invaluable impact on my learning and social experiences at UVA. I owe any and all accomplishments to the support of these individuals,” he says.
Perspective and Potential
Fong has felt “incredibly honored” to serve as Commerce Council President. And despite the accomplishments he has achieved through this leadership position, he maintains that enjoying “the privilege of representing and serving such an extraordinarily dedicated and hardworking body of students” has proven “extremely rewarding in its own right.”
One of the most personally impactful moments for him took place working with the Council’s Volunteering and Community Engagement committee during the fall semester.
“It brought the School together to contribute to the common good in our October Sock Drive. Participation in the drive far exceeded our expectations, and as a school, we were able to donate over 2,000 pairs of socks to local shelters in Charlottesville for those in need of winter clothing,” he recalls.
Back within the classrooms of the Commerce School, he credits Professor Robert Parham and his Intermediate Corporate Finance class with providing “the most stimulating and interesting course” he has studied at the University.
“I have always had an interest in finance and economics, but after taking this course with Professor Parham, I was confident that this was a field I wanted to pursue my career in,” he says, pointing out how adept Parham was in providing both historical and present-day effects of the concepts discussed in the course. But it goes deeper than that.
“Professor Parham encourages students to voice their own perspectives on all issues we discuss. Not only did his course give me an incredible foundation for studying finance, but it also challenged me to question my biases and beliefs, and take a deep analytical approach to all problems I encounter,” says Fong.
That foundation will serve him well as he finishes his final semester at UVA and prepares to embark on his professional life as an Analyst in the Real Estate, Gaming, and Lodging Investment Banking group at Goldman Sachs in New York.
“As I look forward to the beginning of my career, I am excited for the challenge of discovering what I am truly passionate about, and pushing myself to reach my highest potential,” he says. Though he has no fixed, long-term professional goal guiding the entirety of his plans, Fong is positive about the future—and all of those moments leading up to its arrival. “I have no idea where my career will take me, but I am very confident that the joy will be in the journey.”