Whether it’s dollars or distance running, Brian McKnight is a UW Oshkosh student who knows how to handle 10K.
McKnight is a collegiate athlete who participates in both cross-country and track and field in addition to being an award-winning finance and economics double major.
On April 18, McKnight was given special recognition at the Financial Executives International of Northeastern Wisconsin chapter meeting as one of five FEI Academic Achievement Award winners. The award was developed to recognize finance and accounting students throughout northeastern Wisconsin who demonstrate excellence in their field.
Just four days later, McKnight was also awarded the Allan W. Gerow Memorial Scholarship and the FEI Scholarship at the College of Business Undergraduate Honors and Awards Banquet Sunday.
“I am very honored and humbled to have received the scholarships and thankful to be relieved of the financial burden of college,” McKnight said. “I have put a lot of time and focus into the field of finance over the past couple of years, so I’m glad it is beginning to pay off.”
On track to graduate in December, McKnight first realized his fascination for money management as a high school student at Oshkosh West High School.
“I have always been very interested in the financial markets and investments ever since high school, so I knew I wanted to major in finance since my freshman year,” McKnight said. “Once I began learning more about the field, I began to realize how entwined both subjects are and that a thorough understanding of economics is essential in order to be a successful investor. At that point, I decided to add the economics major.”
McKnight has been involved in the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge and the Student-Managed Endowment Fund. He said these programs have given him valuable experience and have led him to pursue a career as a buy-side equity analyst with the goal of eventually becoming a portfolio manager.
UWO accounting professor Will Morrison, who served as McKnight’s adviser for the research challenge, said what makes him stand out is his ability to work beyond expectations.
“When he was researching the company we were working on, he would spend a lot of time looking at the industry and looking up different reports and just kind of going outside the box,” Morrison said. “Not just trying to, you know, do the normal things that people do to be successful in the CFA research challenge. I mean, he was really trying to absorb all the knowledge he could.”
Finance professor and faculty adviser for SMEF Stephen Huffman said he believes McKnight’s work ethic stems from his drive in athletics.
“He’s a cross-country runner, which takes a lot of dedication, a lot of time, a lot of energy to do,” Huffman said. “And you also have to do things right. You can’t just overtrain or undertrain. And he’s applied that same concept, that same work ethic, to investments that he did in his athletic endeavors. So I can sort of see the impact of that. The idea of having a goal, being driven to get to that goal and figuring out what’s the best way to get to that goal.”
“It really doesn’t matter if he’s running a 10K or if he’s trying to manage a $800,000 portfolio; he’s using the same concept of trying to achieve a goal.”
Though McKnight’s interest in finance began early on, his passion for running took root even earlier.
“I first got into running back in middle school when I joined cross-country just as something to do after school,” McKnight said. “From the start, I liked the individual aspect of the sport and the idea that you get out what you put in. It’s a sport that requires year-round commitment and work in order to be successful.”
As a high school student, McKnight was recruited by UWO cross-country head coach Eamon McKenna.
McKnight made the cross-country team’s top seven and went on to finish 13th as part of the national championship team in the NCAA Division III Championship in his sophomore year. That same year he finished fifth in the 10K at the WIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championship.
His junior year, McKnight suffered a stress fracture during cross-country and has since competed off and on as his health permitted. That year he also began to take on more of a leadership role for both teams, from organizing team activities to helping with the recruiting process.
“He’s balancing quite a bit, but he’s been a good leader and mentor for some of our younger student athletes,” McKenna said. “Just kind of taking them under his wing, helping demonstrate the proper work ethic that we expect, you know, how to take care of not only the training but the stuff outside of practice as well, like organization as a student, making sure we have academic goals, taking care of ourselves socially and that type of stuff.”
Track and field head coach Justin Kinseth said McKnight is a positive presence in addition to being an effective leader on the team.
“He’s an absolute pleasure to be around,” Kinseth said. “I believe he really is the embodiment of what a true Division III student athlete is and what that means, especially from a perspective of facing not only the academic but athletic perspective within what it means to be a student athlete in cross-country and track and field.”
With his time at UWO coming to a close, McKnight was selected to intern for the summer in New York City by Tocqueville Asset Management LP, an investment management company run by alumnus Robert Kleinschmidt.
Despite moving from a city with a population of 67,000 to one of 8.5 million, McKnight said he is much more enthusiastic than he is nervous about the move.
“I think I’m most excited to be in New York because it is the financial capital of the world,” McKnight said. “Between Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and all of the major institutions, the city has it all.”