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UMass alumnus Aren LeeKong spoke to students Wednesday

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Aren LeeKong, a University of Massachusetts graduate of 1998 and senior financial executive, visited campus Wednesday evening to discuss his personal story and share strategies for success in the finance industry and beyond.

The talk was attended by more than 50 students and took place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, LeeKong confessed that he first came to the University of Massachusetts to get an affordable education while having access to excellent programs and numerous opportunities. Although he intended to pursue a career within the music industry, LeeKong quickly found his skills extended into the financial sector.

After interning on Wall Street his junior year, LeeKong realized he had found his calling and has remained in the financial field ever since.

Since entering the financial sector almost 20 years ago, LeeKong has gained much insight. One piece of advice he offered to the attending students and faculty was to actively pursue opportunities outside of one’s comfort zone.

“One pattern I have seen in the world today is that boundaries are being broken,” LeeKong explained. He emphasized that taking risks and remaining open-minded when new opportunities present themselves can set you apart from others competing for the same job.

In addition, LeeKong pointed to how significant it can be to interact with others and network frequently.

“It’s important not just to connect with someone, but rather to actively engage them,” he said. “Part of your success will be in finding commonality.”

He went on to emphasize how important it is that university students take advantage of the many opportunities around them, actively seeking to leave their comfort zone and embrace other cultures and subjects.

“Now is the time to learn as much as you can. Take advantage of (this campus) and become a scholar. Ultimately, it is what you do in your spare time that will define you as a person, and that will make you stand out in job interviews.”

Many of the students and faculty attending the conference had already had the privilege to speak with LeeKong earlier that day, but wished to learn more about his personal success. Stephanie Kowalski, a sophomore finance major, commented that she decided to attend the discussion “in order to learn more about what he did to become so successful.”

“I wanted to see if there was anything I could do now to help benefit me in my long-term career,” Kowalski said.

Junior Samantha Shippee said she originally decided to attend the discussion for her journalism class, but found a lot of what LeeKong had to say to be “insightful and very interesting.” In addition, she commented that his talk inspired her to “go out and meet more people, to discover new cultures and take more risks.”

Thomas Allair, a Classics major, remarked that he found LeeKong’s comment about being forward-thinking quite inspiring.

“I think being forward-thinking will enhance my professional skill set, and allow me to be proactive rather than reactive in any given situation,” Allair said.

LeeKong ultimately sought to teach those attending the importance of taking advantage of opportunities available to them. He also emphasized the significance of actively exploring topics outside one’s comfort zone in order to become well-rounded.

“People will do business with those they think are capable, those they like and those they trust,” LeeKong said. “This is why it is so important to be prepared, be informed and to take every opportunity available to you.”

Victoria Toner can be reached at

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to LeeKong regarding his early success. It has since been updated for accuracy. 

One Response to “UMass alumnus Aren LeeKong spoke to students Wednesday”
  1. rachel says:

    He reminds me of one of the characters from The Wire; either Omar or Bubbles.

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