“When I graduated, I remember feeling like there was something in every single one of my management courses that was going to be applicable in my job, and throughout my career that’s been the case.”
When she was still in elementary school, Rachel Gibson '15's parents would joke that "Your brother's into trucks, your sister likes dolls and you like commerce."
On trips to the grocery store, the young Gibson was captivated by the placement and pricing of products on shelves and the secret sauce behind it. By high school, her fascination led her to devouring investment guides like A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Princeton economist Burton G. Malkiel.
"I'd always been intrigued by the buying and selling of goods and what makes one business more successful than the next," she says. "I knew if I could find a job that married this curiosity with my interest in the markets and investing, I'd never feel like I'm working a day in my life."
Today, Gibson balances a full-time MBA program at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business with steering Darden Capital Management, a student-led program that manages approximately $27 million of UVA's Endowment. In April 2020, Gibson became the first woman to hold the CEO position in the program's 30-year history.
It's a major responsibility for someone in her 20s, especially in a year defined by frequent market swings and nearly unprecedented uncertainty, but it still doesn't feel like work for Gibson.
"I have always chosen to be involved in the things that I really care about," she says. "At Bucknell, I was emotionally invested in the Student Calling Program and helping women get involved in Bucknell's Student Managed Investment Fund course. After college, I cared about volunteering with homeless children and took on additional roles at work involving analyst recruiting and staffing. If you're genuinely passionate about something, then it won't feel like work.
"It's the same reason I got into investing. I chose this career path because I tried to figure out what I can do at work everyday that I would do anyway."
Gibson built the skills to get there as a Bucknell accounting & financial management major, where she served as CFO for a Management 101 company that sold apparel to benefit a local service project and managed nearly $2 million of Bucknell's endowment through her senior-year Student Managed Investment Fund class.
"At Bucknell, I loved learning about stakeholder theory and how managing for more than just shareholders is usually best for the long-term prosperity of a company," she says. "I learned how to invest in companies with great management teams and not just look for short-term returns. It sparked something that I was going to be interested in for the rest of my life."
Following her Darden graduation, Gibson will next move to a role as an investor with J.P. Morgan Private Bank, where she will help manage investments for clients with more than $25 million in assets.
Along the way, she spent four years stewarding public and private pension funds with Cambridge Associates in Boston, a firm then run by a female CEO and partners, which she first connected with through a Bucknell career fair.
The mentors she found there, at Darden and at Bucknell, have shown her how critical champions are for women to succeed in the still male-dominated finance industry, she says.
"The problem is when women don't feel confident enough to do the job, even though they are perfectly capable, or get muted because they don't have champions," she says. "I think companies right now are doing a great job of at least trying to get the women in the door. Once they're in the door, women should continue to try to step up into leadership positions. Having visible role models within financial services will help younger women see that there is a path to decision-making roles."