The flourishing reputation of the George Mason University School of Business is a tribute to the remarkable accomplishments of its distinguished alumni. The cliché heard around many colleges is that students are being prepared for the “real word.” But what sets Mason apart is that the “real world” is where many of its students are already making their marks. Even though some are not intimidated by the highly competitive region surrounding the main campuses, they are still learning and developing to reach full potential. The faculty at Mason have an abundance of knowledge to impart to their pupils, but a Patriot wants every edge he, she, or they can gain.
The School of Business Alumni Chapter is comprised of individuals who excelled in the classroom, translated that success to the workplace, and now generously choose to give back. Alpha Kappa Psi is a professional co-ed business fraternity focused on developing future business leaders. In November, these two organizations linked up for the first time to advance toward their complementary missions.
During the virtual discussion with approximately 20 members of Mason’s Alpha Kappa Psi Chapter, financial experts Jason Howell, BS Accounting ’97, and Chris Ellis, MBA ’14, outlined pitfalls, tales of triumph, and other pearls of wisdom learned by experience. Moderated by Ava Nia, BS Marketing ’19, the financial planning event was eye-opening to both the alumni and students involved. “It was a really down-to-earth presentation,” says Nia. “There was lots of interaction throughout, and Chris and Jason provided financial advice that would be valuable to anyone.” Howell, an adjunct professor of finance at the School of Business, wasn’t involved with Greek life or the alumni chapter during his undergraduate years, but now sees a huge opportunity in partnering with Alpha Kappa Psi and other student organizations. Ellis is actually an alumnus of the fraternity, dating back to when he was an undergraduate student at James Madison University. “The earlier that people can get a firm handle on financial understanding, the better,” says Ellis.
The students would be hard pressed to find better financial planning mentors with more current insight than Jason Howell and Chris Ellis. As president of the Jason Howell Company, Howell works with families focused on building wealth for future generations. “The most important thing that I wanted to get across to these students was to get a job where they can save, and identify what ‘needs’ mean the most to them,” says Howell. Like Howell, Ellis is also a certified financial planner. Most of his time is spent working with individuals entering retirement and organizations managing retirement plans. “I hope these students left our presentation feeling driven to take control of planning their finances,” says Ellis.
Mohammad Noor-Ul-Mustafa, a senior majoring in information technology, is the fraternity’s vice president of professional development. “We’ve held workshops on resumes and cover letters,” he says. “But in addition to getting your foot in the door, I thought it was important for us to learn how to achieve financial prosperity from our alumni who understand it best.” Noor-Ul-Mustafa worked with the School of Business Alumni Association in setting up the financial planning virtual event, and the event itself couldn’t have gone any better. “We learned so much that it opened up even more questions, once we grasped the basics,” says Noor-Ul Mustafa. His hope is to utilize other alumni areas of expertise such as government contracting and entrepreneurship, and then open up the events for more students outside of the fraternity to join.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the financial planning virtual event was a clear indicator to how invigorating it was for both parties, further encouraging them to plan more professional development activities together. As more students join in and learn the keys to success in business, they become more likely to return after graduation to offer counsel of their own, enabling an even more robust culture of mentorship at the School of Business.