When Kai (Cooper) Cui, MS Finance 2012; MS ITM 2014, was a graduate student in the Finance program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, he joined the Financial Leadership Association, a student group devoted to providing its members with learning, career-development and networking opportunities. He soon realized that his relationship with the group could become a mutually beneficial one and began to take on leadership responsibilities.
“I learned a lot of skills and a lot about the financial industry through the group activities,” he said. “In addition to my duties as director of the Securities Analysis Competition, which I did for more than a year — I felt like there was something else that I could contribute.”
When Lynn Hankins, then the finance program coordinator, learned that Cui was involved with photography as a hobbyist and had some professional equipment, she asked if he would volunteer as the photographer for the FLA-sponsored finance graduate banquet. Photographing an entire event was a new experience for Cui, but he decided to give it a try.
“It’s a great way to do networking,” he said. “You get to follow up with the speakers and the other participants whose pictures you took.”
Cui said he learned much from the experience and improved in the process as he continued to volunteer as an event photographer, even after he graduated. Employed by Bridgeview Real Estate in its finance department, he continues to be a strong proponent of giving back to one’s alma mater, whether financially or through volunteerism.
“Contribute whatever you can,” he said. “Volunteering as a photographer is a great way, but you could also participate in alumni events. Or share your experience, thoughts and advice with students involved with competitions. You will be helping them learn better in real-world practice and improving their educational experience at JSOM.”
Now that he looks at the Jindal School through the lens of an alumnus, he still sees a mutually beneficial relationship while he continues to volunteer. He estimates that he has photographed approximately 50 events for the Jindal School and plans to continue as long as his schedule allows.
— Jimmie R. Markham