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The Wharton-AltFinance Institute's two day workshop featured a conversation with Wharton Dean Erika James (Photo courtesy of Wharton-AltFinance Institute).

The Wharton-AltFinance Institute hosted a two day workshop for historically Black colleges and universities students to learn about the alternative finance investment industry. 

The Wharton School collaborates with the AltFinance initiative to introduce HBCU students to alternative investing, which involves financial processes outside the traditional system of banks. The campus workshop, which ran from Sept. 29 to 30, marks the second year that the programming was held in person.

Wharton first partnered with AltFinance in 2021, offering a virtual institute with coursework on alternative investment. AltFinance President and CEO Marcus Shaw said the initiative aims to expand access to finance education.  

“AltFinance is designed to help increase diversity in the alternative investment ecosystem by partnering with HBCUs and really arming students with industry-driven curriculum and sustainable financial support,” Shaw said. 

According to Shaw, this year’s workshop drew over a hundred students to campus for a series of workshops, finance courses, and networking events.

Toni Phillips, an AltFinance fellow and senior at Clark Atlanta University, said that the experience helped her with both professional and personal development. 

“It's a very collaborative culture, and I do feel like I found a community and a family within them,” she said. 

On the second day of the workshop, Phillips attended a real estate session, which aligned with her career goals. She added that learning about the investment industry was useful beyond a professional interest in finance.

“This knowledge is literally what runs the world,” Phillips said. “Even if you don't want to pursue an investment role, or even a role in the finance industry, understanding it helps you so much just navigating life.” 

The AltFinance initiative introduces HBCU students to alternative investing, which involves financial processes outside the traditional system of banks (Photo courtesy of Wharton-AltFinance Institute).

Caleb Brinson, a junior at Morehouse College, noted that the program’s goal was to change the underrepresentation of Black people in alternative investment roles. He said that AltFinance’s partner firms —Apollo Global Management, Ares Management Corporation, and Oaktree Capital Management — are “some of the biggest players in the industry.”

“[The firms] are helping give us that knowledge while also helping us become professionally developed, to a point where there’s nothing off-limits,” Brinson said. 

Wharton professor of finance David Musto, who taught a course for the workshop, said that classes on alternative investing were not readily available when he was a college student.

“The goal here is to plug into that world of finance,” he said. 

Given the success of this year's programming, Shaw said that he was looking forward to the workshop next fall. 

“Dean James and the team here at Wharton continue to be incredible partners,” Shaw said. “Having the support of mentors and leaders from the organization really helps students understand what the bar for success looks like, and creating more awareness and exposure for our students is invaluable.” 

The AltFinance initiative is set to last for ten years. As a member of the second cohort, Phillips said that she was excited to see the program’s longterm impacts at the end of that period. 

“Its legacy will continue for much longer than that,” she said.