Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.
When Eli Schifman was a student at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, he met with some Arizona State University students who were W. P. Carey Business Ambassadors.
“I learned about the kinds of opportunities and resources available at W. P. Carey and decided it was the best fit for me,” he said.
Except, his parents wanted him to go to college out of state and get experience living somewhere else.
“I ended up defying my parents and coming here, but it didn’t take long for them to realize that everything was working out,” he said.
Schifman, who is graduating with degrees in finance and economics, was named the W. P. Carey Outstanding Undergraduate for the spring semester.
Guidance from the W. P. Carey Business Ambassadors was so meaningful to him that he joined the group as a freshman and served as president this year.
“It’s kind of come full circle,” he said.
Schifman always knew he wanted to major in business. His mother found a list he wrote when he was 6 or 7 years old of “the 100 most important things to know.”
“No. 1 was how to count to a 100, and second was where the closest bathroom was and third was the value of money,” he said.
As a senior in high school, he investigated different careers in finance, talking to wealth managers, stock traders on Wall Street and people who worked in investment banking.
“I joined the Investment Banking Industry Scholars program at W. P. Carey as a freshman, and as a junior I was a student leader, preparing and teaching the curriculum for other students,” said Schifman, who also was a McCord Scholar for two years, mentoring other students.
Schifman said he’s glad he chose ASU because business schools at other universities often pit students against each other in tough competition.
“At W. P. Carey, everyone is supportive of each other, and that’s a great environment to be in as a student.”
In the letter nominating Schifman for the honor, Edward Prescott, Regents' Professor and the W. P. Carey Chair in Economics and a Nobel Prize winner, praised Schifman’s understanding of finance and called him “the most impressive student I have run into in my many years of teaching.”
Schifman answered some questions from ASU Now.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: When I was talking to people about business careers, the people who stood out were the investment bankers. They were mergers and acquisitions people, and they were helping business owners sell their companies, making sure it was sold for the right price and also that the company would thrive. It felt like an impactful way to use finance knowledge, to support small businesses and help people who don’t have any idea of what their business is worth.
Q: What’s something you learned during your studies that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: This semester, I’m taking the history and evolution of food. I came to that class only knowing that I like food, and I learned a lot of interesting information about how our human ancestors ate and how their brains developed based on their diet. It’s a different perspective, and I think those classes you have that are not in your major are like that.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I wanted job experience as early as possible so did an internship at an investment bank starting as a freshman, and then I spent a summer in San Francisco working at an investment bank. This past summer I interned in Los Angeles for Credit Suisse, where I’ll start working this summer after spending a month training in New York. I’ve always known that I wanted to work on the West Coast.
Q: What advice would you give to those still in school?
A: First, no matter where you go, you will be successful. The university is not the driving factor in your outcome, you are. Second, be involved in your organizations. It isn’t just showing up, it’s being an active contributor. So many of my peers are involved in eight to 10 business organizations, but I’m involved in two. But I believe I’ve been able to make an impact on those two organizations because of the amount of time I’ve devoted to them and how much I prioritize them. It’s not like high school where you need to fill your resume with a billion things. It’s more about the impact you create in your community.
Q: What’s your favorite spot on campus?
A: My favorite spot on campus is a specific room — BA 199. It’s where the W. P. Carey Business Ambassadors give the informational sessions to students and also where we have our club meetings. It’s my favorite spot because of how I’ve developed through that room. I met a lot of my mentors in that room. Some of my most memorable experiences have been in that room. There are a lot of events in the business school in that room. A lot has happened and my leadership skills and professional skills have grown in that room. I’m very thankful for it.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in the world, what would it be?
A: I’m passionate about educational equality. Everyone should be able to achieve higher education but I know there are a lot of financial burdens for some students. Another passion of mine is cancer research. Hopefully one day I’ll be donating more than $40 million to higher education and to furthering cancer research.
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