Nine students visited Chris Nelson PO ’90, Pomona College alumnus and current Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Universal Studios Hollywood, to learn about leadership in a competitive entertainment business. The April 26 excursion was a part of the Pomona Leadership Development Program (PLDP), a pilot program to help students learn about leadership after college.
“Opening the curtains on a major organization like Universal Studios and talking candidly with the CFO is not a typical college experience. As a leader who has risen up the ranks, Chris has amassed a huge cache of experiences and insights. Hearing his history and learning from [it] helped shape our group’s understanding of what life after college means,” Adam Belzberg PO ’14 said.
Nelson gave a private three-hour seminar and Q&A session on his experience of working in the competitive field of finance and the entertainment business. He elaborated on specific financial and political implications of a major corporation and explained critical life lessons, successes, and failures he encountered in the time between being a Pomona graduate and his current leadership position.
Although Nelson’s field is focused on finance and business in the entertainment industry, he also offered advice in many other areas critical to success and leadership.
“Even those not interested in the entertainment field [gained] a valuable picture of how careers take shape. Like many success stories, Chris’s did not follow a linear path into his current role. For some of us, we see our jobs after graduation as a commitment for life. It is always refreshing to be reminded that this is not the case,” Belzberg said.
“Our goal is to get Pomona students out of Claremont and the classroom and have some experience in the real world,” said Dan Kim PO ’97, the Alumni Sponsor for PLDP who organized the trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.
Kim said he modeled PLDP based on Vistage, an executive coaching and peer advisory group for CEOs, business owners, and senior executives based in San Diego, and a similar program provided to MBA students when he was completing his degree at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“The model for the organization was adapted for students at a liberal arts college. We want it to be broad so that students can learn about many different fields,” Kim said. “We are trying to diversify and introduce more leaders from nonprofits and government offices, as well as other leaders in their own fields.”
The future plans for this program still have to be decided by the Career Development Office over the summer, but students have reacted positively to the current pilot program.
“[PLDP] does a great job of connecting students to alumni on a more personal level, especially giving students new perspectives on what their futures can be like. It’s great to be able to sit across the table from really successful people who were in your shoes at one time and be able to hear their personal stories about the different paths they took to be where they are today,” Belinda Li PO ’16 said.
Nelson was the third speaker for PLDP. Previous speakers featured Kim; the current Senior Vice President of Macquarie Group, Ltd.; an Australian investment banking and financial services group; and Scott Green PO ‘88, founder and CEO of Irvine-based StrataCare, Inc., a provider of national bill review software solutions and services for the workers’ compensation industry, large insurance, and Fortune 500 companies.
Students who attended these seminars said they were satisfied with the knowledge they gained.
“I was able to talk to people from different industries and different positions that I would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Most importantly, I learned so many things that are impossible to gain from a textbook,” Li said. “At the talks, the alumni covered everything from leadership and decision-making skills to general life advice, to the importance of a great spouse and balancing work with family life. Being able to receive this education on life and the challenges in the real world from people who have experienced these difficulties firsthand was really invaluable.”