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Michael and Joan Conley









Parents' Work Opens Doors For Fordham Students

by Jennifer Spencer

Child rearing doesn't end when a student leaves for college. From guiding children through career decisions to navigating academic choices, the work of a parent is never done.

For Fordham parents Michael and Joan Conley, being actively involved in their son Bud's university career has opened doors not only for the University but also in their own professional world.

Michael Conley is an electronics engineer. Joan Conley is the senior vice president and corporate secretary of the NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

The Conleys, themselves products of Jesuit education, said they knew early on that Fordham was a university consistent with their values as a family and the perfect place for their son, Bud, to begin his academic career.

"When [Bud] heard Father McShane speak at Fordham, he said, 'This is the school I want. This embodies not only the academic rigors I'm looking for, but also has Jesuit themes throughout,'" Joan Conley said.

Little did the Conleys suspect that Bud's admission to Fordham would turn out to be serendipitously timed with an opportunity at Joan's office.

Joan had known John N. Tognino (PCS'75), chairman of Fordham's Board of Trustees, from his time at NASDAQ. What started as a friendly conversation between Tognino and the Conleys about Bud's admission to Fordham led to a larger conversation about the depth of Fordham's graduate programs. Both the University and Fordham were pursuing strategies related to China, and the plans for a connection began to form.

Tognino introduced Conley to Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., provost, and David A. Gautschi, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration (GBA). Conley said the meeting opened her eyes to powerful synergies between the two organizations.

"My focus as a parent was the undergraduate education; Bud had been accepted in high school," Conley said.

"But we spoke at the same time that NASDAQ was pursuing a Chinese strategy to address companies and educate current and future generations about listing on NASDAQ. Fordham submitted a grant, and it was the right time at the right place."

NASDAQ's Educational Foundation made a gift of $1 million to Fordham in 2010 to fund a Masters in Science in Global Finance (MSGF). A second $1 million grant, announced this year, will be used to extend the MSGF to include new strategic global regions and to expand the delivery of a Master of Science in Investor Relations (MIR) degree to students in Beijing.

Conley said that the NASDAQ foundation engaged in extensive research to ensure that the Fordham connection was a good fit.

"A foundation does not give a grant of that size very often and not without complete diligence," Conley said. "At NASDAQ, we don't fund bricks and mortar. We fund academic programs."

The academic programs Fordham has established and expanded thanks to the NASDAQ OMX grants are at the cutting edge of innovation in the global economy. Conley said the new degrees are garnering interest from the professionals with whom she works at NASDAQ.

"I have colleagues here who want to do the MIR program," she said.

Joan and Michael Conley also serve as the chairs of the Parents Leadership Council, working with the administration to promote the advancement of the University.

Perhaps most importantly, Joan Conley said, she and Michael are simply invested in their son's Fordham experience. Joan has been commuting to the city for 25 years, and said Bud has been exposed to Manhattan since he was a young boy.

Joan said her advice to parents is to lead by example in their enthusiasm about all Fordham and New York have to offer.

"Walk the streets with [your child] and see how fabulous New York City is," she said. "Go into their world, and see the richness and the offerings of the city. Don't be afraid of it; embrace it."

It is perhaps that approach that has equipped Bud to take the city by storm. He secured an internship with NASDAQ in Times Square last year and is currently a RAM Van driver, shuttling people between the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses.

Conley said she's proud of her son's work on campus, even if, as a mother, she's amazed at the fact he drives the streets of New York City.

"You talk about knowing the city!" Conley said. "I bless myself and say a prayer every day. He's learned the city more than I will ever know."

Click here for more information about the Parents Leadership Council.


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