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Mathematics and economics major Laura Benaquista ’03 (Monroe Township, N.J.) received training and experience in marketing, relationship management, field examination, and operations and accounting functions during a two-month internship at Fleet Capital Corp. in Cranford, N.J., this summer.

This semester, the senior is serving an internship at the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Office of the Attorney General in Allentown, Pa. Her responsibilities include determining where written consumer complaints should be directed, reviewing and analyzing business response to consumer complaints, and facilitating dialogue between parties to reach agreements. She also is recognizing legal violations and patterns of fraud or wrongdoing to report to her supervisors.

Benaquista’s first experience at Fleet was a four-day externship arranged by Lafayette’s Career Services during the past January interim session between semesters. This led to the internship, for which Benaquista received academic credit by keeping a daily journal on the tasks she completed and writing a 10-page paper reflecting an overview of the business along with her personal experience at Fleet Capital and the business world in general.

A Financial Theory & Analysis class taught by Rosie Bukics, Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Professor of Economics and Business, made Benaquista “highly prepared” for the internship at Fleet, she says.

“Many of the terms/applications used in this internship were explored within the class. This course takes the principles of accounting and fully applies them to the world of finance. For example, each student in the class is assigned a company to follow for the semester; we were assigned to analyze its financial statements by making certain conclusions about the company’s assets, debt, and equity. Along with this ‘real world’ task, Professor Bukics often expanded from the textbook and applied our lesson to the real world by analyzing recent companies in the news.”

The students subscribed to and read the Wall Street Journal each day while applying it to a semester project (including a Powerpoint presentation), class discussions, and homework assignments.

“Bringing this class environment back to my internship, when I would have downtime in the office, I would frequently pick up the Wall Street Journal to read the current events on companies and the market,” notes Benaquista. “I also had a better understanding of financial statements, which made the ‘dissecting’ process of these statements much easier. Overall, Professor Bukics’ class trained me well for this internship.”

Working in Fleet’s Business Finance Group, Benaquista focused on development and management of a portfolio of clients by using asset-based lending service to support acquisition refinancings, recapitalization, and “turnarounds.” She worked closely with the underwriting staff on two computer programs, Moody’s Financial Analyst and Famas, which enabled her to analyze financial statements.

“I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to familiarize myself with working on a daily basis,” she says. “I got a feel for waking up in the morning with a major responsibility on my mind. Although college places many demands on students, it primarily prepares us with skills in responsibility, motivation, organization, and challenges that will provide a strong foundation upon which to build.”

Much of Benaquista’s work revolved around dissecting and understanding the details presented within financial statements. She gives an example of a day’s task: “I would come in the morning and ‘spread’ one of the financial statements of a company that receives loans from Fleet Capital. I would start with the balance sheet, then the income statement. I had to make sure all of my numbers were accurately inserted in the proper flow, type, and account in order for the program to comprise a cash flow statement using these two statements. After analyzing the cash flow statement, I could find certain ratios with a particular company, for example, that would give a good sense of its ability to meet payment demands.”

Benaquista also enjoyed the days when she shadowed the marketing staff as it interacted with personnel from other firms. For example, they may have exchanged deals that were better suited to the other firm.

“On those days, I had the opportunity to have great lunches and network with more business people from various accounting, banking, and financing firms,” says Benaquista.

Her sponsor for the internship was Gilbert Asamoah, vice president and underwriting supervisor.

“This job could not have been put in the hands of a better person,” she says. “Gilbert went well above and beyond what was asked of him. Often, he would sit with me for as long as a couple hours a day just explaining the different functions of the business or how certain applications function. His goal was to make sure that I got as much knowledge out of this internship as possible. From him, I learned the different scopes of financial statements, how to operate the two computer programs, the financial statement spread basics, relative terms often thrown around in the office, the idea of leverage, understanding certain ratios used in determining characteristics of a particular company, and most of all, his priceless and very useful analogies.”

Many others in the firm were very helpful as well, she adds. Employees were open and willing to talk with her about the company or her plans after college. Benaquista, who studied business law for several hours daily after leaving the office, plans to apply her mathematics and economics major to the legal field, most likely as a corporate or real estate lawyer. Hoping to earn dual J.D. and MBA degrees, she is vigorously studying for the LSATs and applying to law schools.

Benaquista has studied abroad in Florence, Italy, where she “fully immersed” herself in the country’s art and culture. “I also made lasting friendships with both Italians and the students who went on the trip with me,” she says. “I would recommend that every single student take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. It is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When else would you have the opportunity to travel to the country of your choice, explore a new culture, live with a foreign (to Americans) family, pick up a new language, and most of all, be provided with the satisfaction of independently showing much responsibly and awareness of the world outside of the United States?”

Beanquista is a peer counselor for first-year students, helping them acquire study skills, use campus resources, and become aware of the demands of college. She is a member of Investment Club, a mathematics tutor for local residents, a computer proctor for the math department, and a teacher’s assistant for Calculus I and II. She also competes in intramural basketball. In addition, she has hosted prospective Lafayette students and participated in the America Reads, America Counts tutoring program coordinated by Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center.

Categorized in: Academic News