By Ed Brennen
UMass Lowell alum Robert Manning ’84, ’11 (H) may be retiring as chairman of MFS Investment Management in March, but the global financial services firm will continue to be well-represented by his alma mater, thanks to a robust co-op program
Five business students from the school that bears his name — the Manning School of Business
— recently completed fall semester co-ops with MFS: Lena Astarjian, Zachary Mizioch, Nicole Resendes, Christopher Shing and Philecia Smith-Rise.
In all, 89 UML students have worked as co-ops at the firm, which is headquartered in Boston and is a preferred corporate partner
of the university.
“We have had great success with UMass Lowell co-ops coming on board, and we have had more coming back for full-time, entry-level positions, which is fantastic,” says Sonya McDonald, team lead for global diversity recruitment and campus programs at MFS.
While the financial services industry can have a reputation for being “uptight and very competitive,” McDonald says MFS prides itself on a culture of humility that’s exemplified by Manning, who is also chair of the UMass Board of Trustees.
“The people at MFS are very down-to-earth and humble, and that’s what we see in UMass Lowell students,” she says. “They’re smart, curious and engaged. And they’re dependable. A lot of the groups like to hire UMass Lowell students because of that.”
‘Opened My Eyes’
Like so many co-op and internship programs, MFS co-ops have been working remotely during the pandemic. But that didn’t dampen the experience for the latest crop of UML students.
“Being remote has actually helped because I’ve learned how to be more professional with email communication instead of face-to-face,” says Smith-Rise, a senior from Boston who learned about MFS at the Career Fair
in her sophomore year.
Although her concentrations are in marketing and management information systems, Smith-Rise says she applied to MFS because of her father’s interest in the investment world.
“We have had great success with UMass Lowell co-ops coming on board, and we have had more coming back for full-time, entry-level positions, which is fantastic.”
-MFS Team Lead Sonya McDonald
“I figured I could learn more and have a connection with my dad, to bond,” says Smith-Rise, whose responsibility as a request for proposal (RFP) analyst co-op was to create sample RFPs for current and potential MFS clients.
“I’ve loved the experience,” she says. “It’s opened my eyes to exploring other career paths.”
Mizioch, a senior from Peabody, Massachusetts, has concentrations in finance and marketing and a minor in graphic design. He says the co-op at MFS was “100% worthwhile” in helping him figure out what to do with his degree.
As a compliance education co-op, he helped put together and administer regulatory training, as well as continuing education requirements, for employees. He also used his design skills for projects such as email templates.
“The design work was, as my manager would say, ‘things to make our heart happy,’ and then we had things to keep the lights on, too, like the trainings,” he says.
Unlike most co-ops who worked from home, Mizioch was on campus — also working as a resident advisor at Riverview East on South Campus.
“That was very unique,” he says. “I could go to the dining hall on my lunch break.”
Shing, a senior from Cambridge, Massachusetts, with concentrations in finance and marketing, worked as a data integrity co-op, collecting and organizing data “to make sure everything is right.”
Although he had used Bloomberg terminals in the Pulichino Tong Business Center’s trading room as a sophomore, he says the co-op allowed him to build on those skills.
“I also developed my communication skills,” says Shing, who appreciated the diverse culture at MFS. “The people are great. If you have any questions, they’re always there for you.”
When Resendes, a senior from Arlington, Massachusetts, started looking for marketing opportunities as part of the co-op program’s professional development seminar
last spring, MFS topped her list.
“I heard great things about the company, and I was super excited to get it,” says Resendes, whose concentrations are in marketing and management.
As a social media marketing co-op, Resendes analyzed the firm’s posts on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, focusing on user engagement, site metrics and campaign subscribers.
“Going in, I had a really good understanding of social media on the personal side, but not really on the business side,” she says. “Everything they do is highly regulated and has to go through compliance, so it’s cool being behind the scenes and seeing all that happen.”
Resendes, whose co-op was extended by a month through January, hopes the experience will lead to a full-time job with MFS after she graduates in December.
“My manager and my team are amazing. I love working with them,” she says.
As a marketing communications co-op, Astarjian found herself in a project manager role, working with various teams to see projects through from inception to completion.
“I learned a lot about being assertive. You can’t be afraid to ask questions, even when it feels uncomfortable. At the end of the day, you have a job and you want to get it done,” says Astarjian, a senior from Walpole, Massachusetts, with a concentration in marketing.
Like all her fellow MFS co-ops, Astarjian will be returning to campus this spring for the first time in almost two years. She anticipates having a whole new perspective in the classroom.
“Before this co-op, I didn’t have an appreciation for what I was doing,” she says. “Now I’ll be more driven and more focused on what I’m doing in my studies.”