Joining Nittany Lion Fund impacted Penn State Smeal summer 2020 student marshal

August 13, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A couple of business-related projects in high school piqued Alex Grosek’s curiosity about the world of finance. Joining the Nittany Lion Fund as a freshman provided him with all of the evidence he needed to eventually choose finance as a major, he said.

“While I was definitely on the fence about my major to start out, I joined the Nittany Lion Fund as a freshman and that sealed my fate as a finance major by exposing me to the industry at a high-level early on in college,” he said.

“It was such an intense, real-world experience, that it was hard to justify breaking course to pursue any path other than finance as an undergrad. By the time I wrapped up my first full year in the Nittany Lion Fund as a sophomore, I was just getting ready to enter my major. By that point, finance was an easy decision, due to all the prerequisite knowledge I had accumulated as a freshman and sophomore in the Nittany Lion Fund.”

Grosek, who will graduate on Aug. 15 with a 3.81 GPA in finance and a minor in architecture studies, has been selected as Smeal’s summer 2020 student marshal.

He said he was more than a little surprised at being selected.

“Floored! Honored!” Grosek said of his initial reaction. “I have worked non-stop for four straight years at Penn State and am really proud of the decisions I have made along the way, the people I have met, and the projects and organizations I have been a part of.”

A Schreyer Scholar, Grosek's list of honors and accomplishments includes:

  • Dean’s List in all eight semesters
  • Friends of Penn State Trustee Scholarship
  • Hintz International Scholarship
  • Whole World Scholarship
  • Stumpo Trustee Scholarship
  • Bogar Honors Scholarship
  • Wherry Honors Scholarship in Business
  • F&S Wenzel Honors Scholarship
  • Summer Success Scholarship

“I think that I always viewed my academic commitments as the most interesting part of college. I was paying all this money to be here, and I would have been really disappointed if the core learning did not feel worth the money,” he said.

“Luckily, my classes were (almost) all super interesting, in their own special way, and the faculty was always available despite the large class sizes. So, I always felt motivated to go to class. I think if you are interested in something, you find a way to pursue it, no matter what," he said. "Sometimes I sat out on parties or other social stuff because I had to get up in the morning, but I also had plenty of down-time to be a human being and enjoy life.”

Grosek said many of his favorite memories of Smeal connect to times when he faced large volumes of work.

“Honestly, as dorky as it might sound, some of the days and nights spent pulling all-nighters in the Trading Room to get a pitch out on time, or a financial model built, or whatever else, really remain great memories for me. In the moment I was no doubt stressed and I distinctly remember a few naps taken under my desk in the Trading Room to hide from the light,” he recalled.

“But I developed such a strong work ethic and always had at least one other person in the room to suffer through the work with, that it never really felt too impossible. I honed my ability to grind through monotonous work without losing my cool in the Nittany Lion Fund, which carried me through everything that came after. My internships. My study abroads. My minor. My thesis. I would not have had the self-will, determination or confidence in myself to set big goals and achieve them, if not for the culture of get-it-done-at-all-costs that Dr. (Randy) Woolridge and Mr. (Christoph) Hinkelmann actively kindle in the Nittany Lion Fund.”

The knowledge he gathered in class and in the fund paid off when he and another student opened a pop-up retail store, Chute Consignment, in downtown State College. He also won the Triple Bottom Line Challenge, an international business idea competition conducted by the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which is housed in Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel.

Through all of the long days and late nights working in the trading room, studying, attending classes, and participating in extracurricular activities, Grosek said one thing remained constant.

“Definitely the ethical standards that guide the school’s academic culture. We all — we, being Smeal students — can shake our heads at BA 342. But looking back on it, that business ethics class was foundational and incredibly memorable,” he said.

“Professor Johnson did a wonderful job forcing us to face up to the real, ethical issues that you can expect to face over the course of your career. I think most people focus on success, and growth and money first, and then try to be ethical later. Rarely do people stop and spend a deliberate 16 weeks while still young (i.e. college-aged) to just sit together and meditate on ethics in business and life. It is an important class and I hope Professor Johnson keeps teaching it for as long as possible.”

Grosek will use those ethical standards as he transitions from academia to the working world. After graduation, he will start a full-time role as a partnerships associate at nference, a software startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company is linking siloed biomedical databases into a core ecosystem of statistical applications guided by machine learning. Those efforts help organizations, like universities, health systems, pharmaceutical and biotech firms, and other research groups to more efficiently conduct research by using artificial intelligence to augment the human learning process.

Before he heads north to start writing the next chapter of his life, Grosek offered some advice to Smeal students.

“If I had to give one piece of advice for 'achieving,' however you choose to define that, it is always to be practicing and preparing for a next, bigger thing,” he said. “My actions and involvements throughout college were always deliberate and not entirely random, though sometimes I definitely trusted my gut. I maintained a growth mindset and it really carried me forward. I would recommend others do the same.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 13, 2020