Duke Student Resisted Dark Evils of Investment Banks, Succumbed to Consulting

Laura Newland arrived at Duke University as an innocent of Auburn, Alabama, home to the scholarly institution of the same

Laura Newland arrived at Duke University as an innocent of Auburn, Alabama, home to the scholarly institution of the same name, and the type of place in which an ambitious youngster could grow up with the general impression of a bank as the one-story building across the street from the local gas station.

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Duke, it turned out, was the type of place to smash holes in that illusion. Gaping, spiritual vacuum-sized holes.

At Dealbook, Newland tells the tale of a “salacious recruiting process,” in which Ivy-pedigreed bank employees bombarded Dukies with lavish dinners, trips to Manhattan, and promises of a lucrative career.

“I watched ruthless and cunning peers excel, and the more good-hearted crumble. I saw that being popular, good-looking and able to drink hard seemed to matter more than being smart. And as I began my internship search in the midst of the financial crisis, while the industry and our economy crumbled around us, not a single banker I met acknowledged blame on Wall Street’s part.”

No blame!

For Newland, it’s a corrupt process and the banks aren’t the only ones at fault. It’s the whole system of higher education, which saddles teenagers with hundreds of thousands in debt, then lets banking recruiters tempt students with six-figure salaries—it’s no wonder they wind up diverted from socially productive yet penurious careers in fields like teaching, government service and…management consulting.

That’s right: Disheartened by the “toxic culture,” our heroine turned down a coveted job offer and accepted a position at a large consulting firm with an office in Philadelphia.

It may not be a feel-good ending to her recruiting journey, but it’s a realistic one, Newland told The Observer in an e-mail: “In the midst of the recession, and on a campus that offered narrow career opportunities, I accepted the job to pay off my loans until I can pursue a writing career.”

In her spare time, she’s working on a book—Chasing Zeros: Elite Students and the Race to Become one of Wall Street’s Chosen—to describe her experience, in hopes that U.S. campuses will someday train their best and brightest for work that benefits society more than careers in investment banking.

(Are you a book agent? Send for sample chapters here.)

pclark@observer.com

Duke Student Resisted Dark Evils of Investment Banks, Succumbed to Consulting