Exploring potential colleges, Amy Wierenga ’01 discovered she had too many interests for most.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, and she balked at the idea of having to discard some of her passions so soon. A dedicated oboe player and a great student, she wanted to pursue two degrees, in music and pre-law, and a number of other interests.
“A lot of colleges said there was no way I could do all that. I definitely couldn’t double major and study abroad and do music, and that was the end of the conversation,” she said. “But Butler University’s reaction was, ‘We’re going to do the best we can to help you pursue all these potential paths.’”
And they did. Thanks largely to the opportunities offered at Butler, Wierenga went from career uncertainty to overseeing $20 billion in investments at BlueMountain Capital Management in New York.
Exploring A Multitude of Interests
Butler gave Wierenga the chance to do it all: Double major, run track, play her instrument, study abroad (Buenos Aires, Argentina), be active in student organizations, work as a Resident Assistant (RA), hold a job off campus, and have “two amazing internships that helped me learn I shouldn’t go into law.”
“Butler let me explore all my interests and figure out what I wanted to do,” she said.
Wierenga graduated Cum Laude in 2001 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with a second major in Music and a Spanish minor. Deciding music could always be part of her life, she forged ahead toward a career in finance. She got her first job at a small IT consulting company in Chicago.
“The business was entrepreneurial, which was great, but I was in a sales role, talking to people who didn’t want to talk to me. Being conflict-averse, it was probably the worst job I could’ve chosen.”
A tip from a former Butler professor led to an illuminating job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
“At the Fed is where I really fell in love with what I do,” she said. “As a bank examiner, I was exposed to quantitative modeling of market and liquidity risks, and I was very drawn to it.”
She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and met her (now) husband there. They moved to New York and she got a job with Merrill Lynch, soon learning big banks weren’t for her. A call from BlueMountain changed her career into what it is today.
Giving Back Through Experiential Opportunities
BlueMountain is a $20 billion alternative asset manager for pension funds, insurance companies, and other institutional investors. Hired in 2008 to be responsible for market and liquidity risk, Wierenga became Chief Risk Officer in 2016, running the company’s Risk and Portfolio Construction team.
She’s also a host on Butler’s Lacy School of Business annual Wall Street Trek, designed to make students aware of the many professional roles in finance.
“Until working at an investment management firm, I didn’t have as rich an understanding of the many types of roles there are for people with different interests in finance,” Wierenga said. “I feel really lucky that I stumbled into work I find intellectually challenging and fulfilling. So, to give Butler students that same opportunity is something I really want to do.”
As with the Wall Street Trek, she believes the best Butler has to offer isn’t necessarily inside the classroom.
“Butler’s academics are solid, and I had memorable classroom experiences. What I really appreciated was the opportunity to find and define the worldviews that were made possible through the University,” she said. “Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t see that the world doesn’t always operate in the same way. The servant leadership philosophy is so embedded at Butler.”
Photo courtesy of Ben Hider