"My job is to make finance less intimidating for students, so they can see if they'd like to explore it in greater depth."
A leap from conducting physics research to teaching accounting and finance might seem daunting, but for Professor Adam Schwartz, the inaugural Holmes Professor of Management, the choice to change careers midstream was clear.
"I had two roads that diverged, and I had to choose," says Schwartz, who was an optical engineer working on missile-related defense projects until the 1990s, when he returned to school to study business.
"My work on missile guidance systems wasn't as altruistic as I would have liked," he notes. "Instead, I picked the career I would've chosen if I'd won the lottery, and I've never regretted it. I don't consider teaching work. There's nothing else I would want to do."
Schwartz's varied research, which focuses on financial modeling, option pricing and finance pedagogy, is both theoretical and in some cases practical. For example, he helped a former student perfect the payout tables for the World Series of Poker, taking a computational approach similar to algorithms used by many bond portfolio managers.
Schwartz is also very active with the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute, where he contributes to the derivatives portion of the curriculum. He has written candidate readings on options strategies as well as pricing and valuation of forward contracts, which help prepare the more than 250,000 candidates who sit for the CFA exam each year. Bucknell is a CFA-recognized university, which allows seniors to obtain a scholarship to take the CFA Level I exam.
"Students planning a career in finance need to go the extra mile to prepare for this competitive field," Schwartz says. "Studying for the CFA charter is a great way for Bucknell students to extend their finance education to the next level after graduation, as so many of my students have."
In the classroom, Schwartz strives to make complicated material accessible, a task that comes naturally to him. Teaching, he says, is intrinsic to his personality — a realization he had while attending a lecture on color theory. "I remember watching the instructor and thinking, 'This isn't just what I want to do. That person in the front of the room, explaining how a color TV works — that's who I am.' Hopefully, every student will have that same kind of epiphany."
Toward that end, Schwartz encourages students from across disciplines to explore finance and accounting classes.
"You get exposure to a breadth of opportunities at a liberal arts school like Bucknell," he says. "My job is to make finance less intimidating for students, so they can see if they'd like to explore it in greater depth."