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Investing in the Future: UConn’s Hillside Private Capital

Fortress welcomes rising juniors from UCONN for career forum

April 10, 2024


University of Connecticut (UConn) student Nicholas Janis entered the Hillside Ventures Department's office to speak with Department Head Greg Reilly and Adjunct Professor Jack Navarro. "We have a gap in our knowledge," said Janis, who's majoring in Engineering. "We should be learning about private capital." The exchange sparked a series of events: Reilly and Navarro connected with UConn alum Debra Hess, a former Managing Director at Fortress, and Hess introduced them to Fortress Managing Director Todd Ladda, who heads the firm’s global capital formation team. Soon after, work was underway to develop a course for a selective group of UConn students.

"It’s always a pleasure to meet with students on the verge of embarking on their own careers and helping them understand, from our perspective as an industry leader, the inner workings of private credit and the Fortress approach,” said Ladda. "Over the course of a single semester, we have seen this exceptional group of students transform form learners to informed investors, with the ability to articulate and debate the merits and drawbacks of specific investment scenarios. This was a tremendously gratifying experience for our team, and we look forward to building on this relationship with UConn going forward.”

The inaugural program invited students to learn about Fortress' asset classes, investment due diligence, and asset management strategies. During in-person and online sessions, guest speakers across Fortress' Institutional Sales, Private Wealth Solutions Sales, and Investor Relations teams provided a glimpse into their roles and responsibilities. As preparatory work, students were provided redacted documents describing past Fortress investments and asked to assess the opportunity and discuss their position in class with Fortress representatives. The program functioned as an internship providing experiential learning while offering students a deeper understanding of a financial analyst's role within a global asset management firm.

“Fortress has made many great investments, but this program is one I’m particularly grateful to be a part of,” said Jerome Hayden, Head of Internal Sales for the Fortress Private Wealth business. "The students’ eagerness to learn and commitment to understand the material made for a truly memorable experience.”

Since its inception in 2020, UConn students have actively shaped Hillside Ventures' operations and future. The program's impetus was to offer students an opportunity to learn about venture capital while managing and investing across early-stage sustainable, insurtech, and edtech businesses on behalf of the university. Students are encouraged to shape the program's evolution in various ways, such as selecting investments, guiding academic programming, and reviewing applicants for the program.

"Undergraduate students rarely get an opportunity to learn about the operations and structure of Wall Street," Reilly shared during an interview. "With the Hillside Venture program we've tried to rethink the student's learning experience and provide them with more autonomy and hands-on experience. We are beyond pleased to have a prestigious firm like Fortress participate in the program."