Fourteen finance students visited the Wells Fargo campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a winter practicum.

Fourteen finance students visited the Wells Fargo campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a winter practicum.
Fourteen finance students visited the Wells Fargo campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a winter practicum.

Virginia Tech finance instructor Brian Hart had a good dose of adrenaline leading up to traveling with 14 of his students to the Wells Fargo campus in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is the first time in the six years that he has taught the Wells Fargo/Pamplin winter course that weather was playing a decisive role in whether they would be able to leave from Blacksburg.

Luckily, the weather cooperated and everyone arrived to check in to their hotel and get settled before their five days of being immersed in the world of Wells Fargo. Hart admits it was touch-and-go for a while with he and the students in contact with updates and back-up plans. Prior to meeting up in Blacksburg, Hart leads a week-long session with students online preparing them for their shared face-to-face experience.

It is no coincidence that Virginia Tech was selected to pioneer this practicum with Wells Fargo nine years ago. A graduate of the Pamplin College of Business, Jeff Hartman ’79, executive vice president and senior managing director of Wells Fargo Wealth Management Mid-Atlantic Region, says he wanted to give back to his alma mater.

The winter session provided the perfect way to transform the two-day non-credit experience and offer it as a credit-bearing course. It also did not hurt that Hartman works at the Wells Fargo campus in Charlotte, currently ranked second for banking resource headquarters, only behind New York City.

“I wanted to help produce the well-rounded student we all are so proud of at Tech. The great ability to combine the wonderful education in Pamplin with the real-life world of the financial services world has been fun and exciting to watch.  Our team members at Wells Fargo, many of whom are Hokie alumni, have been extremely excited to address the students.”

Each day, students heard from team members of Wells Fargo, executives with more than 30 years to those early into their careers—to share their perspectives and their areas of expertise. 

An excerpt from his syllabus captures it well.

“Participants will be treated to a program that covers topics ranging from portfolio analysis to wealth management to career advice. The program will be taught by practicing professionals and will have a decidedly real-world flavor meant to augment your classroom study.”

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For senior transfer student Decatur Pritchard, the experiences he encountered lived up to the “real-world flavor” reputation.

“Being in my last semester of college, I have been in a lot of classrooms and had many different learning experiences over the past years, none of which can compare to what I learned and the experience I gained over this past week,” notes Pritchard.

He shared these observations in a thank-you note to the Wells Fargo team documenting the impact of the practicum.

“The fact that each speaker was giving us more than two hours of their day to put down their work to come and talk to us was amazing,” shares Pritchard. “My finance major focuses on banking and I’ve never truly understood what a bank does until this week and I believe this kind of information will enable each one of us to make more informed decisions on our future. Who would’ve thought that a bank operates in over 80-plus channels of business?”

Two special field trips included spending the entire day in the executive board room on the 42nd floor where all the history and decisions are made, as well as visiting the Wells Fargo trading floor. Students also participated in an alumni networking reception hosted by Pamplin College of Business and tailored for those working in the finance industry.

“The fast-paced environment [of trading floor] is one I will never forget, and really put into perspective how different roles can complement each other. This experience was one-of-a-kind and I am truly grateful,” says James Richter, a senior majoring in finance with an option in investment management and chartered financial analyst.

For Hart, teaching in the winter sessions gives him a distinct opportunity to connect with his students differently from the fall and spring semesters, where he teaches in a classroom of 500 to 600 students. He also enjoys the opportunity to see the Wells Fargo leadership team each year; as it serves as a reunion of returning and new faces.  

Hart offers tremendous praise to Hartman for his vision and investment in the students and their future. For example, the Human Resources team comes in and meets with each of the students to critique their resumes and offer advice from their hiring vantage point. Hart admits that this program is unmatched and one he has not seen or heard about offered at another university.

Alumni such as Hartman truly make a real-life impact; says Hart, admitting he may be a bit biased. “We have an unbelievable alumni network.”

“We look forward to continuing with this wonderful program, in partnership with Pamplin, in the years ahead,” says Hartman.

Written by Jenise Jacques