Seeking the music, but finding community — and a career path
I think being an Ole means being excited and passionate about a lot of different things. There’s certainly no pressure to be an expert in just one thing. If you want to be an artist and a scientist, St. Olaf is the place to pursue both things.Mara Tostengard ’21
St. Olaf College student Mara Tostengard ’21 speaks from experience. When looking at colleges, her primary factor for deciding where to go was music. She wasn’t contemplating a career in the banking industry — but her time at St. Olaf has led her to explore the possibilities of this path.
An economics major, Tostengard works as a peer advisor for the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, is involved in the Student Government Association’s Student Organization Committee, and serves as the treasurer for the Women in Business Organization, among other things. Her journey at St. Olaf has led to the opportunity to intern as a financial analyst in the Commercial Banking Group at Wells Fargo and as an investment banking summer analyst at BMO Capital Markets.
When looking at colleges, Tostengard was very intentional about finding a place where she could participate in a high-level music ensemble but not have to major in music. Now, she’s singing in the internationally renowned St. Olaf Choir and is surrounded by music majors and non-music majors alike.
“It’s great,” she says. “I knew that I wanted a tight-knit community, both on campus with students and faculty, and off-campus with alumni. It’s been clear that the connections and relationships formed on campus last far beyond the Hill.”
I knew that I wanted a tight-knit community, both on campus with students and faculty, and off-campus with alumni. It’s been clear that the connections and relationships formed on campus last far beyond the Hill.Mara Tostengard ’21
Tostengard found the internship opportunity with Wells Fargo through the Piper Center, a resource on campus that helps students find their career path, provides resume and job interview assistance, supports fellowship and scholarship applications, facilitates connections with employers, and so much more. In addition to the opportunity at Wells Fargo, Tostengard will intern as an investment banking summer analyst at BMO Capital Markets in Minneapolis — thanks to a connection she made with Chase Wichelmann ’17 and Chris Hansen ’17 when they visited the Piper Center.
During her internship with Wells Fargo, Tostengard conducted research for companies with annual revenues ranging from $50 million to $1 billion a year. Whenever a bank loans money or provides a company with a product or service, they take on a great deal of risk. Tostengard’s role as a financial analyst intern was primarily to identify possible risks for the bank by analyzing company financial data and conducting industry research to understand the economic conditions faced by these companies.
Another exciting part of middle-market banking was working with companies that had built their business from the ground up or had the company running for many family generations.
“There’s a personal component to the middle market that I really enjoyed, and it was fun to see how proud people were of their companies,” she says.
Not only was the internship a rewarding experience, but Tostengard was able to see how her liberal arts education has prepared her for this opportunity — and for a future career in the finance industry.
“During my summer, many of the leaders at Wells Fargo argued that anyone can learn the technical skills required for the job in three months, but the interpersonal skills cannot be taught,” she says. “A liberal arts education teaches people to learn how to learn. When I was stuck on a project and didn’t know what to do, I was able to refocus and come at the problem from a new perspective. If in the end I still didn’t know what to do, I knew how to ask for help, and that is definitely something I’ve learned here at St. Olaf.”
A liberal arts education teaches people to learn how to learn.Mara Tostengard ’21