Jessica Weiss ’18 was the youngest candidate in the room, the lone woman and the only West Coast resident. But she didn’t let the differences deter her. She wanted the job, and she was determined to get it.
“I was so nervous, but very prepared,” Weiss says about her interview with HSBC Global Banking & Markets in New York City. “Coming from a liberal arts school really helped. They told me they were looking for students like me.”
Weiss was one of about 20 college students interviewed that day for a sales and trading analyst summer internship — and she received the job offer within hours.
It’s one of several major accomplishments Weiss has achieved since enrolling at Willamette. The international studies and economics major is a star debater, a writer for The Collegian and a soon-to-be published author. She’s also on track to graduate a year early.
“Willamette allows me to focus on what I want to do,” she says. “Coming here was a smart decision.”
Finding Her Voice
Weiss writes humorous opinion pieces on free speech, China’s stock market crash and other topics for Willamette’s student newspaper, The Collegian. She served as co-president for the student-run course, Model United Nations, which simulates the U.N.’s role in world politics. And her involvement in Debate Union has helped Weiss hone her speaking skills and sate her desire for travel.
In Miami, Alaska, Hawaii and even Oxford, England, Weiss says she’s learned how to interact with people of differing values and backgrounds.
“It’s like a sport to me; I like flexing those muscles,” she says about debate. “It’s given me the confidence to engage in class, and it’s forced me to develop important critical thinking skills.”
These skills helped Weiss write an academic paper on a new infrastructure investment bank in China and its role in Asia. She submitted the paper to Hemispheres, the Tufts University Undergraduate Journal of International Affairs, which is publishing her article in an upcoming issue. Dartmouth College's undergraduate international affairs publication, World Outlook, also wanted to publish her paper.
Politics professor Greg Felker says it’s significant for a national, peer-reviewed academic journal like Hemispheres to publish an undergraduate’s work. But because he knows Weiss and her quest for knowledge, he’s unsurprised by her feat.
“Jessica is eager to learn and test her limits,” he says. “She has confidence in herself and a sense for what’s possible.”
When Tufts sent her the acceptance email, Weiss remembers staring at it in disbelief before sharing the news with her professors, friends and family.
“My mom’s first reaction was to ask if I was taking on too much — and if I was eating enough,” Weiss says. “But my dad freaked out. He immediately asked for print copies when the publication comes out.”
Fascinated by the world economy, Weiss began to research summer job opportunities several months ago. When a family member told her about internships at HSBC — a multinational banking and financial services company — Weiss knew she had to apply.
After she completed a phone interview and a written examination, the London-based company flew Weiss to New York City to participate in a host of group and individual interviews. Repeatedly, top executives shared their surprise — and pleasure — that Weiss attended a liberal arts university.
“They were looking for students who thought differently and who could think critically,” she says. “Coming from a liberal arts school definitely set me apart from the rest.”
A company representative called Weiss and offered her the job as she boarded a plane headed for home. After accepting, Weiss blurted the news to her seatmates and posted the announcement on her Facebook page. Hours later, when she landed in Seattle, the post had attracted over 500 likes.
Weiss says she hasn’t figured out exactly what she wants to do with her life, but she’s optimistic the summer internship will provide answers. In the meantime, she credits her professors’ support for helping her achieve her goals.
“They are so accessible and willing to help,” she says. “You can’t put a value on that.”