Executive director brings history from Wall Street, nonprofits to Leeds.
It’s no surprise that the new executive director of the Burridge Center for Finance calls herself a fiscal conservative.
But that doesn’t mean Sheila Duffy doesn’t have an appetite for risk. It’s just a side of her you’ll see on the slopes, instead of the stock market.
Duffy is an avid skier who’s extensively explored the Alps, introduced her two children to the sport in Taos, NM, and heli-skied in Chile. But she’s better known as a career climber who rose through the ranks of Wall Street, alongside finance work in education and government, while mentoring students and young professionals.
“I love the energy and creativity of people who are just starting their journey, and I enjoy finding ways to help them feel supported in understanding their skills and how they fit into finance,” Duffy said. “That was so important to me in coming to Leeds.”
Duffy joins the Leeds School of Business from PNC, where she was a senior business development officer; she also has held leadership roles at Public Trust Advisors, Forest City Enterprises and the New Mexico Treasury, among other roles. She also is president of the national board of Women in Public Finance, where she has become an invaluable mentor—a role rooted in her personal story.
“When it’s the 1980s and you’re on Wall Street, no one is surprised when you’re the only woman there,” she said. “They’re more surprised when the same thing happens in the 2000s. There is still so much work to do.”
A voice for students and young professionals
She’s made it her mission to be a voice for young professionals, including creating a webinar for the CFA Institute on how to build diverse talent pipelines. The webinar is a panel of three influential women in finance who share strategies to help students choose a career path—while showing employers how to improve their student outreach.
In other words, it was the perfect preparation for someone aiming to lead the Burridge Center.
“When I think about who we’re serving at Burridge, obviously it’s our students and our faculty,” she said. “But it’s also our alumni and business partners. We’re literally building their talent pipelines, so we want to keep them close as we figure out how to best meet their needs through our students.”
With technology changing the game in finance—cryptocurrencies, algorithmic trading and robo-advising, to name a few—Duffy is especially eager to continue building relationships with businesses.
“Industry leaders have the crystal ball—they know what they’re going to need in the future, as far as talent goes,” she said. CU Boulder is in a unique position, she said, having just completed the Rustandy Building joining Leeds and the College of Engineering & Applied Science.
“The industry is breaking old models, so we need to make sure we’re teaching our students to be creative—and I think the collaborative approach between engineering and business at CU is a cutting-edge way to address future needs,” she said.
Leeds has an enviable placement rate for graduates, and Duffy wants to ensure students are looking broadly at opportunities for successful finance careers—on Wall Street as well as in finance roles at nonprofits, the public sector and corporations.
Those relationships across industries are part of what made Duffy such a strong candidate, said Matt Fleming, the center’s program director. He’s been leading Burridge while the executive search took place.
“Sheila is student focused first and foremost, and as such, will allow the Burridge Center to expand networks and opportunities for all of our stakeholders,” Fleming said. “I’m so excited about what she brings to the center and the opportunities we’ll enjoy as a result.”
Duffy, in fact, was already connected to the Burridge Center, having spoken on panels and attended its annual conferences. That familiarity will help her hit the ground running as she connects with stakeholders to ensure the center is meeting its mission and being an invaluable resource to students and employers.
It’s her passion for mentoring, though, that will make her so invaluable to Leeds.
“To me, it’s vitally important to give our students courage, to give them inspiration to meet the challenges facing them in the job search and at work,” Duffy said. “I’m so excited to join Leeds and be part of this incredible community.”