School of Business Students Learn from Industry Experts as Part of Executive Speaker Series

Headshots of speakers

The Mercy College School of Business recently hosted two speaker events as part of its Executive Speaker Series: one featuring Rachel Cheeks-Givan, M.B.A., global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at fintech company iCapital, and one featuring Michael Hayes ’92, H.D. ’21, Partner at PKF O’Connor Davies LLP and member of the Mercy College Board of Trustees.  

As Lloyd Gibson, D.Sc., dean of the School of Business, explained, “The Executive Speaker Series events provide Mercy students with two significant opportunities: to learn directly from senior executives about their personal career experiences and current issues in business and to develop their networking skills.” 

Cheeks-Givan, a member of the Mercy College School of Business Advisory Board, spoke on April 18 about her path to leadership and a successful career to an audience of approximately 55 students, faculty and staff.  

“We thought Rachel would be a good role model for students particularly because she didn’t take a typical path to get to where she is now,” said Tom Gates, adjunct professor and assistant to the dean, School of Business, who organizes the Executive Speaker Series. “It’s helpful for Mercy students to understand that you can come from humble means and still excel.” 

Cheeks-Givan explained that as a Black woman, there were points in her career when she felt she had to prove herself. She emphasized the need to be knowledgeable to get a seat at the table. When you have the right skill set, you cannot be ignored, even if you are a woman or a person of color. She also explained the importance of having a strong network of people who can serve as your support system and champions. For her, these supporters include family members, sorority sisters and her church community. 

Meanwhile, Hayes, the sixth and final speaker of this year’s Executive Speaker Series, discussed the state of the banking industry and financial technology to an audience of more than 50 students, faculty and staff who attended hin person and 14 virtually on May 2. He originally planned to speak about investment funds and private equity, but given the recent collapse of three banks, he shifted his remarks. 

“When you go to your next interview or networking session, someone might say, ‘What happened with First Republic Bank anyway?’” said Gibson, in his introductory remarks. “You need to be conversant in what's currently happening in business. Today's talk is a chance to get caught up.” 

Hayes provided a historical overview of the banking industry and explained the recent bank collapses — discussing the roles of social media, legislation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve. He also spoke about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, an advanced database mechanism that allows transparent information sharing within a business network. 

“I’ve always loved that business involves continuous learning,” Hayes said. “You must read. You must keep up with what’s going on. I encourage you to continually invest the time to understand what's happening in the business community.”  

The Executive Speaker Series will resume in the fall.