Class of 2021: Commerce Student Advocates for Gender Equality in Investing

April 23, 2021 By Caroline Challe, Caroline Challe,

Jeannie Hirsch first came to visit the University of Virginia after a particularly cold winter in her hometown of Rochester, New York. As she stood on the Lawn and saw students enjoying the mid-spring sunshine, she knew she wanted to come to UVA. 

When Hirsch arrived that fall, student-run organizations helped her to focus her interests.

“I joined a couple of business clubs my first year, and those really lit a fire in me,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is absolutely what I’m passionate about,’ especially investing in particular, and that pushed me definitively toward the McIntire School of Commerce.”

One of those clubs was The Alternative Investment Fund, which focuses on investing in unconventional industries and markets. “We differentiate ourselves from other investing clubs by really valuing alternative viewpoints and strategies,” Hirsch said. “We look at special situations – merger arbitrage, commodities, and global events to fuel unique investments.”

Hirsch has served in several roles, including the meeting head of the Investment Committee and two years as the chief operating officer. In a male-dominated field, she believes her experience in the club gave her important management skills.  

“In my role, I was guiding the conversation around our fund portfolio to a group of mostly men, which was a leadership experience in itself,” Hirsch said. “Our focus for the past year or two has not only been trying to get female representation up, but also trying to make sure everyone from all backgrounds feels integrated and part of the club.”

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In the past few years, the Alternative Investment Fund has seen an exponential growth in female participation. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress. The club now is 33% female, but there’s still room to run, as we say investing,” Hirsch said. 

Hirsch also was involved in the founding of the Virginia Finance Institute, which gives every student, regardless of previous skill level, the opportunity to become financially literate.

“Clubs shouldn’t be exclusive, and access to information at a university should never be exclusive. That’s why Virginia Finance Institute provides a solid financial foundation for any student who wants to join,” Hirsch said. “In addition to helping with the initial curriculum, I put together a newsletter every single week that included business events, fun life lessons, and job and internship opportunities.” 

McIntire professor Felicia Marston has taught Hirsch for two semesters, and has seen her lead a push for gender equality. “Jeannie is very passionate about supporting women in the workforce, and advocates for women to have the same opportunities as men,” Marston said. 

Marston said Hirsch was an exceptional student in her “Advanced Corporate Finance: Valuation and Restructuring” course.

“We had a guest speaker in class, and in an email afterward, he said he was ready to hire Jeannie right on the spot. He specifically noted her ability to discern key alternatives and willingness to have an opinion,” Marston said. “This didn’t surprise me because Jeannie is extremely hard-working and articulate. She is the type of student that always gives 100%.”

Hirsch has also mentored younger students through her time as a teaching assistant in four different courses.

“It’s been one of my favorite and most rewarding experiences at UVA,” she said. “I love the spark when we’re like working through problems, and a student goes ‘Oh,’ and they finally understand.”

Next year, Hirsch will move back to her home state of New York to work as a private equity analyst at Warburg Pincus. 

“I love that Warburg, like McIntire, is a super-collaborative environment,” Hirsch said. “McIntire emphasizes the human aspect and teaches students to work well with others. Being able to have a conversation and relate to others, in my opinion, are the skills that are the most valuable in the workforce.”