Paying Back and Paying It Forward

Paying Back and Paying It Forward

Like thousands of Baruch alumni, Nadja Fidelia (’02) never had the luxury of going to college full time. Instead, she held a succession of increasingly demanding jobs during her undergraduate years, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science after eight years of part-time study. When she graduated, Fidelia was a vice president at Lehman Brothers.

Remembering her own struggles and hoping to alleviate some of the financial burden for future Baruch students, Fidelia committed over $100,000 to the Baruch Means Business campaign to fund a scholarship “to help make college accessible to deserving students and enhance their educational experience,” she explains.

Scholarships represent only one category of financial aid Baruch College offers, but they are a key factor in access to education. While Baruch students are asked to pay modest amounts in comparison to comparable high-quality private institutions (undergraduates at New York University, for example, paid $41,284 in full-time tuition and mandatory fees in 2011–12, while in-state Baruch undergrads paid $5,130 annually), Baruch’s tuition remains a hurdle for many of our students, 58 percent of whom come from homes with an annual income less than $44,000. In order to attend, most Baruch students must work at least one full- or part-time job while balancing studies and family commitments. Scholarships lighten the heavy financial burden these students carry.

Of course, Baruch scholarships not only meet financial need but reward the best students and encourage the brightest prospective students to attend. Again and again, scholarship recipients say that the financial security provided by their award means that they can reach for more than the perfect 4.0 GPA. In other words, these talented, motivated students are inspired to engage in extracurricular activities and career exploration—community-related volunteer work and high-impact, unpaid internships, for example.

Paying It Forward: Nadja Fidelia (’02)

When you first meet Nadja Fidelia, you can’t help but notice her warm smile and polished appearance. Underneath this refined exterior is a woman from humble beginnings with an extraordinary story.

“Where I come from, resources for education are very limited,” says Fidelia, who was born in Haiti and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12 with her family. Throughout high school, she worked part time to help with the household income. At 18 she began working as a telemarketer for a company near Baruch.

“When I came to Baruch College, I found myself taking these amazing courses at an affordable price,” Fidelia remembers. “It was like winning the lottery.” She adds, “I really wanted to take advantage of all the resources that were being presented to me.” But a schedule that included working to support herself and her family prevented her from investigating all that intrigued her.

As a part-time undergraduate, Fidelia found a full-time job with Hilton International Headquarters. She eventually decided to pursue her dream of a career on Wall Street and went to work for Lehman Brothers, where she had an illustrious 20-year career that included leadership of innovative programs to enhance diversity and inclusion. (She retired from Lehman Brothers in 2008.)

When Fidelia graduated from Baruch, already a VP at Lehman Brothers, she vowed to one day give back to her alma mater. In 2006 she became a Trustee of The Baruch College Fund and shortly thereafter launched her scholarship. Fidelia encourages all Baruch alumni to support students. “If you can give back, then you should,” she says.

“Being a college student today is very difficult,” says Fidelia. “Not only are students faced with rigorous course work, but many work to support themselves financially. . . . It’s a lot for a young person to handle.”

Learning that same balancing act continues to stand Fidelia in good stead. Today she balances a career as a founding member of Eland Capital, a division of the Williams Capital Group, L.P., a leading minority-owned Wall Street investment bank, and her work as a minister offering food and prayer to homeless citizens throughout the city.

The Fidelia Scholarship Students

On Mar. 5, 2012, Nadja Fidelia (’02) retraced her steps, from Baruch College to Wall Street, in an SUV ride with three recipients of her Nadja Fidelia Scholarship: Michael Jeneralczuk (’15), Frederick Núñez (’12), and Ting Ting Tso (’11, MS ’12). It was the first time any had met. It’s not a stretch to say that the three younger Baruchians were hoping to follow the same trajectory as their patron.

Michael Jeneralczuk, the freshman member of the group, used his first year at Baruch as an opportunity to begin to map out academic and professional goals. Actuarial science and financial analysis are the fields that appeal to him most, and he hopes one day to establish a career in finance. “I want to thank Ms. Fidelia for her continued efforts to better the lives of Baruch students and to propel their careers forward,” he says.

Graduating this spring with a BBA in finance and investments, Frederick Núñez is where Jeneralczuk dreams of being, securing that first career-track job. Núñez’s parents, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, instilled in him the importance of earning a college degree. (Like Núñez, about one third of Baruch students are first-generation Americans or the children of immigrants.) In part because of his Fidelia Scholarship, his plans weren’t derailed when his father was laid off and struggled to find work. “I extend my gratitude to Ms. Fidelia, who understands how difficult it can be for students who even struggle to pay for the basics—transportation, books, and food.” Núñez hopes one day to pay her generosity forward to a future student.

Further along in her career is Ting Ting Tso (’11, MS ’12), who received the Fidelia Scholarship from 2007 to 2010. Tso, who graduated with a BBA in accountancy last year, is on track to complete an MS in taxation this summer. Participation in Baruch’s selective Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program was one of the extracurricular opportunities her Fidelia Scholarship enabled her to pursue. “Without the scholarship, I can’t imagine having had time for anything except work and study,” she says. VITA helped her obtain an internship that ultimately led to a full-time position as a tax associate at Grant Thornton. Tso is among the 40 percent of Baruch grads who are the first in their families to go to college.

—Diane Harrigan with additional reporting by Manny Romero

Photo above (from left to right): Ting Ting Tso (’11, MS ’12), Michael Jeneralczuk (’15), Nadja Fidelia (’02), and Frederick Núñez (’12) on Wall Street. Photo by Elena Olivo.

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