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Chris Di Fronzo, E96, EG04

Chris Di Fronzo, E96, EG04

Tufts may not have a finance major or a business school, but opportunities abound for students to pursue careers in those fields. Just ask Chris Di Fronzo, E96, EG04.

Prior to working in the financial sector, Di Fronzo earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Tufts, then spent seven years working for software giant MathWorks. While there, he earned a master's in engineering management from the Gordon Institute at Tufts. After a brief stint as sales manager for a Boston hospitality company, he began to consider a career change. Beyond sales and numbers, Di Fronzo realized he had a passion for working with people.

"I liked the figures, but I also enjoyed giving advice and helping people reach their goals," he says. That combination seemed tailor-made for financial advising. Di Fronzo took a job with Ameriprise Financial and earned credentials as a Certified Financial Planner, later working for Barnum Financial Group. A devoted Jumbo, he also kept up a steady schedule of volunteering for Tufts, taking part in engineering networking nights, interviews with prospective students, and speaking on alumni panels about life in finance.

Then Tufts began seeking a director for its new Tufts Finance Initiative (TFI), someone experienced in finance, skilled at networking, and passionate about working with students.

Says Di Fronzo, "It looked like the job description was written for me."

Foot in the door

Tufts students interested in finance often aren't sure where to begin in forging career paths for themselves. But, Di Fronzo says, it's not because of a shortage of Tufts connections on Wall Street. In 2008, the university established the Tufts Financial Network (TFN), an affinity group of alumni and parents in financial services. One goal of the group is to assist students seeking similar career paths. Nor is it because of a lack of opportunities on campus. In addition to Tufts' Career Center, which offers general career counseling for those interested in entering a variety of fields, students can also get involved in the Tufts Financial Group (TFG), a student-run organization that offers workshops and other educational opportunities, as well as a portfolio of stocks for its student members to manage.

So where will the new TFI come in? It will bridge the gap, says Di Fronzo, by providing additional courses and training for students, and directing them to the right alumni through career counseling tailored toward finance in particular.

The program has three components: employer outreach to help students make professional connections; career coaching to help them hone their interview skills and polish their résumés; and programs sponsored by TFI such as a Finance Career Forum (a ramped-up version of the day-long Wall Street Crash Course), to help make them more competitive in their job searches. In addition, TFI will also fund two or more "Professors of the Practice" in the department of economics to teach classes from a real-world perspective.

The TFI advantage

Without a business school to tap into, part of Di Fronzo's task will be to help identify and support those students throughout the university interested in getting into finance. TFG, the student finance organization, draws heavily from economics and international relations majors. But students interested in finance come from a variety of disciplines.

That is precisely why TFI is designed to work in concert with the university's commitment to a liberal arts education, which Di Fronzo says is "something that makes Tufts graduates attractive in any industry." The hope is to give Tufts students a leg up when competing for jobs against those with training in formal business programs at other schools.

"We want our students to have those same skills in finance coupled with the broad liberal arts background that traditional business students won't typically have," he says, a formula he is banking on to continue building on Tufts' success in the financial world.

Alumni role

Alumni working in the financial sector obviously form a crucial piece of the network Di Fronzo aims to build. One of the major goals of TFI is to find alumni interested in providing advice, expertise, or even immediate job opportunities to current students. In addition, says Di Fronzo, TFI is funded entirely by alumni and depends on generous donors to provide students with resources to pursue their dreams in finance.

Involvement of any sort can have a tremendous impact.

"Sometimes alumni can simply offer their time, their advice to students," Di Fronzo says, "and that's giving back in a huge way."

Individuals interested in providing summer internships, full-time employment opportunities, or career advice, please contact Chris Di Fronzo at christopher.di_fronzo@tufts.edu or 617-627-3903. If you would like to make a gift to support the TFI, please contact Jeff Winey, director of principal and leadership gifts for University Advancement, at jeff.winey@tufts.edu or 617-627-5468.

By Micah Bluming

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