Cowboys on Wall Street

Students meet alumni engaged in New York City financial markets

Spears School of Business international-studies
Stillwater Bar & Grill

Students joined alumni at the Stillwater Bar & Grill in New York City.

What started as a "study abroad" class in New York City has grown to be one of the most successful business trips available for Oklahoma State University students.

The trip to one of the biggest financial markets in the world is more than just academic. The weeklong adventure gives students interested in finance a chance to meet some heavy hitters in the industry and see Wall Street up close and personal.

The icing on the cake? Most of these heavy hitters happen to be OSU alumni.

"We take the students to New York City to learn about investment banks and private equity, but we want them to do more than just learn; we want them to have experiences," says Tom Johansen, clinical associate professor of finance for OSU's Spears School of Business. "They get the opportunity to build contacts and meet people who have valuable insight. You can't put a price tag on this trip."

The course, "An Introduction to Wall Street, Investment Banking and NYC Financial Markets," nicknamed "Cowboys on Wall Street," is offered through the Spears School's Center for Advanced Global Leadership and Engagement.

The first trip was in 2007 with finance professor Betty Simkins. Ironically, the course began as the financial crisis started, continuing throughout the recession. The student group visited many of the institutions hit by the crisis, some of which no longer exist such as Lehman Brothers, and the speakers could share firsthand what was happening.

"I began the course from the viewpoint of trying to make it the type of experience that I would like to have if I were one of the college students wanting to learn about Wall Street finance," Simkins says. "I am thrilled that it has grown into a successful travel course for the OSU students, where they not only learn but also have fun."

During the 2016 summer trip, students started their Monday morning near Times Square at Morgan Stanley and were greeted by OSU alumna and Morgan Stanley Managing Director Arya Sekhar. Later that day, OSU alumnus Jason Donehue, vice president of global commodities, showed them around JP Morgan.

Tuesday, the group visited the Bloomberg headquarters near Central Park, then met up with OSU graduate Chris Beall to tour Highstar Capital. Wednesday, Goldman Sachs topped the list of stops. They also went to UBS and met OSU graduate Robert Hodgen with AMERRA Capital Thursday, then rounded out the business stops with a walking tour of the "History of Wall Street" on Friday. Each stop consisted of touring the businesses' trading floors, attending presentations and meeting prominent industry giants.

"This trip was truly one of the best experiences of my life," says Michela Ongaro, finance major and member of the Cowgirl soccer team. "We learned from some of the brightest minds in the finance industry. These are some of the most powerful companies in the world, so learning from them was nerve-wracking, but also exciting. What stuck with me the most is that everyone has an opportunity to work for companies like the ones on Wall Street. You don't need a degree from an Ivy League school. The opportunities and education we receive from OSU are amazing. You just have to put in the work and be willing to learn."

The trip may have been all Big Apple, but it wasn't all business. The student group visited Times Square and ate dinner at Lombardi's Pizza, the first pizzeria in the United States. They could attend a New York Yankees or New York Mets baseball game and saw the Statue of Liberty, the Museum of Modern Arts and the World Trade Center. The group also went to dinner at the Stillwater Bar & Grill, an OSU hot spot restaurant decorated in all things Pokes.

"It wasn't originally an OSU place. OSU alumni living in the area would come to the Stillwater Bar & Grill for game days, and it brought in so much money that the owner turned the bar into an OSU-themed restaurant," Johansen says. "We take the students there every year to have socials with the OSU alumni in the area to build their networks and to experience a slice of home in New York. It's a great way for them to get their foot in the door."

Cowboys on Wall Street may not be an international trip, but the experience is just as enriching.

"The students are building contacts, learning from the visit and each other, and just get a great experience," says David Carter, Spears School professor of finance. "New York City always had this negative stereotype of being a dangerous place, but it's not the way it's depicted in the movies. The city is alive and bustling with excitement. You get to meet these people with valuable insight, try new foods, and just experience something outside of the box."

To learn more about the "Cowboys on Wall Street" trip or any of the Spears School's travel programs, visit