Chelsea Darlington
Chelsea Darlington

Chelsea Darlington ’14 assists in watching over a small fortune worth over $400,000.

As CEO of the Whitman Investment Company (WIC), a student investment management group, funded in part by a William M. Allen-Boeing Endowment used to support campus visits by outstanding corporate leaders, Darlington ensures that members hear thorough presentations about investment options and ensures that the group’s directives for investment are carried through.

While 400 grand is a lot of money for a junior economics major to monitor, this past summer Darlington gained valuable experience in the fast-paced world of finance, working as a corporate retirement planning intern at RBC Wealth Management in Seattle.

“It was one of my best summers,” Darlington said about interning at the financial firm in Seattle, which provides investment consulting services to medium sized corporate retirement plans, and has 120 clients with close to three billion in assets.

“Everyone was willing to teach me so much that I ended up working with clients doing advising and investment counseling. My boss said I was doing the same work as any other new employee would do. They had me dive right into the fire.”

Scott Merriman ’91 was Darlington’s boss at RBC. The former Whitman basketball standout thought Darlington was too valuable to sit around all day filing papers or making copies, like most interns, and instead sent her “right into the fire.”

“We hired Chelsea because she was smart and bold to ask good questions,” Merriman said.

But was Merriman at all reluctant to hire an intern that wasn’t from a business school?

“Frankly I would hire a Whitman student every year if they were like Chelsea. She proved valuable in doing great work for our team.

“Liberal arts Schools like Whitman teach students how to think and how to approach problems with solutions. That was very evident with Chelsea.”

Darlington impressed Merriman before she even started working at RBC.

“I think they hired me because I showed initiative and that I was willing to learn whatever they needed me to learn. It didn’t hurt that I was a Whitman student,” she noted.

While her Whitman connections got her in RBC’s door, it was her initiative that closed the deal.

Last winter break, when many students were relaxing, Darlington decided to get a head start on applying for her summer internship. She used her free time to search Whitman’s database for finance internship opportunities. She wrote multiple cover letters and met with numerous employers until she found what she wanted.

“I wanted to get ahead of the game because I didn’t want to stress about it later,” Darlington said. “So I locked it down over winter break before I came back to school.”

Despite her experience with WIC, Darlington was nervous about whether or not she could succeed at RBC. After all, Whitman doesn’t offer degrees in business.

“I’ve become a better learner at Whitman,” Darlington said. “Studying at a liberal arts college keeps you well rounded because you have the opportunity to take a wide range of classes and really think outside the box.”

Darlington says her experiential learning opportunities, such as her internship, and the amount of face-time she gets with her professors, have taught her skills she could never have learned at a typical business school.

“At Whitman you have the opportunity to engage in different types of learning experiences. On campus, I have the chance to talk at length with my professors. This develops my communication and critical thinking skills so at my internship I was prepared to speak to clients about complicated retirement portfolios. I don’t think I’d have had this opportunity if I were majoring in business at a large school.”

Perhaps more valuable than her critical thinking skills is the confidence she’s gained from her internship, which she has brought back to campus for her final two years at Whitman, a confidence that enabled her to take over as CEO of WIC.

“I’m not afraid to throw myself at something unfamiliar. I went into the RBC offices and realized I can go into unchartered territory, learn what I need to know to be successful, and actively participate in the world of finance.”

—Edward Weinman