By: Etan (Alex) Neiman  | 

Beren Syms vs. Wilf Syms

Since our University’s inception, there has likely never been a shortage of debate between the merits of Wilf vs. those of Beren. The peaceful (sort of) uptown vs. the happening midtown. Wilf’s cafeteria food vs. Beren’s cafeteria food. The spaciousness of Wilf vs. the location of Beren. Guys vs. girls. Just this past September, The Observer’s Editor-in-Chief, Masha Shollar, took to her newspaper to question why the Wilf campus tends to host the school’s most important events over Beren, Shollar’s primary beef being the I am YU fundraiser.

One debate which has quizzically never been had is between the Beren Syms program and the Wilf Syms program. No more. I recently discussed questions pertaining to each campus’s program with Deena Fuchs and Akiva Koppel, the President of the Sy Syms School of Business Student Council at the Beren and Wilf campus respectively. Each represented their campus’s Syms program on a number of important issues.

It should be noted that the information contained in this article has been obtained strictly from each campus’s student council leader based on their extensive experiences as a student leader and interacting with students. While I occasionally added to some of the information based on my experience as The Commentator’s Business Editor, this piece does not necessarily reflect how the Syms administration may view each campus’s Syms program. With no further delay, let the debate commence.        

What are the rankings of majors in terms of popularity amongst students?

Beren Syms: Marketing has the highest student enrollment, followed closely by accounting and management. Finance and B.I.M.A. (Business Intelligence and Marketing Analytics) are the lesser majors in terms of student enrollment.

Wilf Syms: Not factoring in the undeclared designation, which Koppel believes is probably the most predominant designation when considering freshman and sophomores, Koppel would rank the majors in popularity from top to bottom as Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Management, and B.I.M.A.

Is there a large discrepancy between the popularity in majors?

Beren Syms: Marketing, accounting and management are the three most popular majors at the Beren campus and have similar enrollment. Since B.I.M.A. was just created in the past couple of years, Fuchs believes it has the potential to gain popularity; though, it does not currently enjoy high enrollment. Finance is scarcely populated, which Fuchs finds significant when considering it is the second most popular Syms major at Wilf.

Wilf Syms: Accounting is certainly the clear most popular major at Wilf, without rival from the other majors. As an Accounting major, Koppel can attest that his upper level classes are a full 40 people for each class with two multiple classes needed to fulfill the demand. Similar to Fuchs, Koppel believes B.I.M.A. needs more time to gain in popularity. This will likely happen as it proves to be a success in producing jobs. The management and marketing majors are likely similar in enrollment, with finance maintaining a constant second place in popularity.

What are some of the most popular jobs which Syms students pursue post-graduation?

Beren Syms: Aside from Accounting, in which most students seek to be associates at firms, there is no specific job that can be pinpointed that most Beren Syms students pursue after college. With regards to Marketing and Management majors, students pursue a variety of jobs across a variety of industries. Because of this extensive mix of jobs, Fuchs is confident that the most popular for post-graduate Beren students are associates at accounting firms, being Accounting is the only major that has a specific job recruitment process and, therefore, sends many students on the same path.

Wilf Syms: Based on the conversations Koppel has had with students, the general breakdown in attendance at career fairs, and the success of the Career Center in providing students job opportunities, Koppel similarly finds that jobs with accounting firms are at the top of the list at Wilf. This includes positions in all departments - such as taxation, auditing and financial services - and consists of many firms, from the smallest firms to the Big Four. Following accounting jobs in popularity are finance jobs, which can include positions at investment banking firms, hedge funds, and asset management firms.

Approximately how many Syms students are likely to pursue post-undergraduate education?

Beren Syms: Fuchs estimates that above 50% of Beren students plan to pursue post-undergraduate education. However, she believes that though many intend to pursue further education such as an M.B.A., fewer than 50% of students actually go through with this plan. If their future employer requires or strongly recommends pursuing an M.B.A., the student will likely follow through with further education. Absent of this push from the future employer, many may never end up continuing their education.

Wilf Syms: While Koppel is sure there are some graduates who, at some point, pursue a further degree, it seems that many don’t. Within a year following graduation, Koppel estimates the number of students pursuing full-time or part-time grad study to be at the most 25%.

What are some challenges of being a Syms student?

Beren Syms: Fuchs believes that the challenges facing Beren Syms students largely stem from the fact that there are simply less female Syms students than there are male. She has found that Beren students often feel slighted by the University and the Syms administration. One example Fuchs points to is that there are significantly less classes offered at Beren and the class variety is remarkably reduced than those at Wilf. The amount of electives offered is so minimal that Fuchs has seen many Beren students being forced to stay an extra semester or even an extra year just to finish requirements due to scheduling conflicts of required courses.

Another area where Fuchs sees the Beren Syms students as feeling slighted is with academic advising, who are viewed as being at the Beren campus far less frequently than the Wilf campus. Come time to register, it is almost impossible to secure an advising appointment. Additionally, Fuchs points out that almost all of the Syms or business events, whether they are student or school-run, are rarely held at Beren, forcing students to make the journey to the Wilf campus if they desire to be involved in a club, event, or meeting. While Fuchs concedes there is logic to the lopsided event placement due to the student distribution leaning heavily male, she believes it’s possible that the lack of attention towards the Beren campus, whether from advising or events, ultimately leads to the lower number of enrolled women in Syms.

Fuchs has many common sense, fiscally conscious suggestions to tackle these problems. To address the lack of course offerings, Syms should increase the online options at Beren. One suggestion Fuchs has raised, only to be quickly shut down, is the possibility of having night elective courses at Wilf for students of both campuses. While yes, one challenge at Beren is the need to constantly travel uptown for Syms events, if there are classes being offered, the willingness to travel would be higher. Moreover, students would be appreciative that they have the opportunity to take the course that probably would not have otherwise been offered to them at Beren.

To counteract the natural Wilf concentration of student-run events due to the enrollment discrepancy, Fuchs proposes that perhaps administration run events, such as club fairs, should predominantly be held at Beren. Finally, Fuchs is simply dismayed by the lack of a Beren academic advising presence. She finds it to be a truly frustrating discrepancy between the campuses which simply needs to be addressed.

Wilf Syms: One of the biggest challenges of being a Syms student on the male campus which Koppel sees is the lack of guidance and assistance outside of the accounting and finance professions. It is understood, for example, what an aspiring investment banker needs to do. On a basic level, he must gather relevant experiences for his resume, network properly, immerse himself in the Wall Street Oasis publication, and familiarize himself with all potential questions which may be asked at an interview. The steps to nab a job are similarly clear in other finance fields as well as the accounting field (though different steps). However, if a student desires, for example, to break into human resources, sports marketing, hospitality management, or become a salesman, the path is not clear. The Career Center certainly does great work in connecting with the YU alumni who are familiar with these niche types of fields; however, the number of the available alumni connections is low. Whether it is fair and accurate or not, this had led to a perception amongst students that Syms caters towards those seeking entry-level positions in accounting and finance.

Author’s Note: While the perception does seem to exist amongst the Wilf students that the opportunities in Syms and at the Career Center are skewed towards those seeking jobs in the accounting or finance fields, the Career Center staff are making every effort to offer more diverse opportunities and break that perception. Read more about their efforts in The Commentator article The Career Center: Far More Than Just The Accounting Center.  

What are some advantages of being a Syms student?

Beren Syms: There are certainly advantages Fuchs sees to being a Syms student at Beren. For one, they are centrally located in midtown Manhattan. This places internships at students’ fingertips and opportunities easy to jump on. Additionally, On-Campus Recruitment interviews for both finance and accounting majors are exclusively held at the Beren campus.

Wilf Syms: A great advantage Koppel sees of being a Syms student, particularly at the Wilf campus, is the opportunity to delve into serious religious studies, enjoy first-rate business classes, and be part of the extensive Syms network. Being able to combine learning with great classes provides a notable edge over other college students of similar backgrounds who may have to forfeit serious learning or religious lectures. In terms of the network of alumni, Koppel identifies it as one of the great advantages of the program. Alumni are always happy to give insights and assistance.

Are Syms students overall happy with the program?

Beren Syms: By what Fuchs sees, Syms students at the Beren campus are on the whole happy with the program, even given the above frustrations. Students find the Syms curriculum engaging and faculty as a whole to be caring, open, and genuinely helpful in one’s pursuit towards a successful career. It is as well appreciated that Syms is well-known in the business world for both its education and success rate of students finding jobs.

Wilf Syms: Certainly, there are always going to be qualms people have no matter where they are in life. If one listens closely in the cafeteria or around Wilf, he will be sure to hear complaints about a Syms professor being too hard, an event not having enough food, a lack of co-ed classes, or a top firm accepting only two students to their summer internship program instead of the traditional four. Despite these disappointments Koppel sees students occasionally feeling, he firmly believes that when considering the students that make up the program and the services that the school provides, Wilf is unrivaled. Koppel is confident that the students at Wilf are undoubtedly happy with and proud of the Syms program and all it has to offer.

To illustrate, Koppel recounts a conversation he had with a 2016 graduate. The recent graduate mentioned that all accepted interns in his division at Goldman Sachs were called into the office for two days to meet future co-workers. The alumnus’s ability to engage in interesting conversation and command respect of others around him were far stronger than the students emanating from programs such as Harvard, Penn, Yale and Stanford. The former Syms student credits his experiences at the program for this success. On a personal level, Koppel attended the Deloitte Tax Leadership Conference this past May (a three-day immersive accounting workshop at the firm). His academic skills were tested through a tax case study, in addition to his social and cultural skills being continuously monitored. Through his time at Syms, Koppel was equipped with the skills to excel at these exercises.