Samantha Leenas, senior, just signed a contract with JP Morgan, where she will be working as a market risk analyst after graduation. Facing a 70 hour work week with plans to get her CFA (Charter Financial Analyst) certification while also taking up learning Arabic, Sam is prepared to be very busy—but it’s nothing that she can’t handle.
Sam Leenas came to Marist in the fall of her freshman year bearing two passions: politics and business. Sam, who reads the Wall Street Journal everyday, pins her interest in politics to the 8th grade, when she wrote a book report on John McCain and felt a passion sparked.
After taking an Intro to Business class at Marist and exploring her options, she decided to become a business administration major, ultimately declaring a concentration in finance. “I realized that everything I liked about politics had to do with the economy. That’s when I realized I have a passion for finance,” she says.
And with that discovery, nothing could stand in her way. A co-vice president of the business honor society Beta Gamma Sigma, a School of Management Ambassador, part of the student run investment fund MCIC— if it was business, Sam was there.
She took a special interest in the investment side of business by joining the leadership team of Marist Enactus, a club that practices social entrepreneurship: giving back to the community while also making a profit.
One of the organizations that this club has been working with is the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, a group of angel investors which she describes to be somewhat like the T.V. show, Shark Tank. “They have companies come and pitch to them, so what we do is if they’re thinking about investing in a company, myself and a team of three other students would help them do some of the research to help them make a decision if they actually want to invest,” she says.
Even with all her business advancements, Sam has found ways to weave in her interest of politics to her college career, choosing to spend a semester at American University in Washington D.C. There, she combined both fields as a finance intern for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Though she is excited to start with JP Morgan after graduation, politics continue to be present in her goals. “I think eventually, maybe later in my career I’d love to serve as an advisor for a politician,” she says.
Sam is clearly prepared for life outside of Marist, but not all of her business endeavors are as serious. Some are simply to fulfill her love of giving back to the community. Take SPLASH, for example, a program that Sam is president of, which holds free classes on anything from origami to modern dance, for local middle and high school students.
This past fall, Sam helped orchestrate Marist Investment Center Reach Out, or MICRO SPLASH, which served as a test run for the larger SPLASH program which will be held later this year. MICRO was all about finance, so naturally Sam jumped at the opportunity and taught Yahoo Finance 101 with a friend.
In addition to holding three jobs on campus, Sam is also an honors student. While in a seminar one day with Professor Caridi, she found an unusual interest. The class was reading a book called “Why Nations Fail,” which discussed how lack of property rights in developing nations can cause their economies to fail. This stuck with her, and when she spent her semester in Washington D.C., the book inspired a 40-page research paper.
“I worked with a professor down in DC, he introduced me to the political landscape in Myanmar, (or Burma). A lot of the farmers in Myanmar, they actually have no property rights at all, so the government owns all their land,” she says. “It’s really negatively affecting their economic development.”
Though she didn’t know it at the time, this research would take her across the country. She first presented at the New York State Political Science Association Conference. Then, this past fall, she traveled to Seattle, Washington with the Marist Honors Program to present her research at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference. There, her work won second place in the Social and Behavioral Sciences category.
But out of all these accomplishments so far, her greatest one yet? The work she did last semester with Campus Ministry, to organize the holiday giving tree. Sam was co-chair of the giving tree committee, which donated over 1000 gifts to 128 local families in need.
“I wasn’t just doing something for myself but I was able to help other people in the community,” she says. This tradition of giving back at Marist is one that Sam plans to carry with her long after graduation, no matter what job she has. “That’s really where you get meaning in life,” she adds.
As she wraps up her final few months at Marist, Sam is full-speed ahead with plans for her future. She hopes to first commute to her job from her home in New Jersey to pay off her student loans before relocating to New York City or Hoboken. She also has plans to one day get her Masters in Business Administration.
“I guess I just have to see where life takes me. I definitely want to be in a position where I can always move forward, and not just do the same thing everyday,” she says. “Change is hard but I also like it. I just want to keep challenging myself and learning new things.”