Two Generations of Barney Students Connect Through Barney Hall of Fame

Jianjun (Jason) Li M’94 and Leslie Li ‘25
Jianjun (Jason) Li M’94 and Leslie Li ‘25
In 2009, Jim Fairfield-Sonn, then dean of the Barney School of Business, led the effort to launch the Barney Alumni Hall of Fame. Working closely with him in this endeavor was the Barney Board of Visitors, of which Steven Mulready M’77, currently the University’s acting president, was a member. A few years after the initial start of the program, members of the board, including Mulready, expanded their efforts by establishing an annual scholarship to be awarded to a deserving student who is studying for a career in the industry represented by each new Hall of Fame inductee.

This year’s Hall of Fame inductee was Gillian Riley M’93, who earned her degree as part of Barney’s Paris MBA program. Hall of Fame co-founder Fairfield-Sonn, who attended the ceremony with many members of the Board of Visitors, was overjoyed to see that this year’s scholarship recipient, Leslie Li ’25, is the daughter of one of his former graduate assistants.

When asked about how he felt about this year’s ceremony, Professor Fairfield-Sonn said, “Terrific! I am thrilled that the Alumni Hall of Fame ceremony has become the Barney signature fall event. The icing on the cake for me, however, was not only to see a wonderful graduate of our Paris MBA program become the inductee, but to also see the very talented daughter of a former graduate assistant become this year’s scholarship recipient.”

Leslie Li ‘25, the 2023 Alumni Hall of Fame scholarship recipient, is a second-generation Barney student. Her father, Jianjun (Jason) Li M’94, was thrilled when his daughter decided to attend UHart—he knew that she would receive a great education and career preparation. However, he was beyond surprised when attending the ceremony honoring his daughter to learn that Professor Fairfield-Sonn, who he worked for almost 30 years ago, would also be in attendance. Jianjun was “so proud that two generations attended the same business school and became successful through a Barney School education.”

Jianjun worked as a graduate assistant to Fairfield-Sonn for two years. Besides teaching, Fairfield-Sonn had several consultation projects with Fortune 500 companies and research works. This ability to collaborate with academic concepts and the real business world was “so impressive” to Jianjun. “We would find the solutions to problems in the real world through critical thinking and principles learned in the classroom,” he remembers.

Jianjun says that UHart’s Career Studio did a great job assisting students to find jobs back when he was a student. As a first generation of immigrants, he says this help was vital—from résumé writing to on-campus job interviews. Even though the economy was weak at the time, he was able to get a job thanks to a recommendation from the school. Since then, Jianjun has worked in public accounting firms and has most recently spent 20 years in an aerospace engine component manufacturing company as a controller and CFO. Currently, he practices accounting, taxation, and consultation services to various industry clients through his own public accounting firm.

The Barney School’s curriculum helped prepare Jianjun to achieve professional credentials after graduation. He passed several professional credential tests, such as CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CMA (Certified Management Accountant), and EA (Enrolled Agent by IRS) examinations in two years. He credits ”knowledgeable and friendly faculty” for guiding him through this aspect of his professional life.

Thirty years later, you can now find his daughter, Leslie, as a member of the Barney Leadership Council, a talented athlete on the women’s golf team, a peer tutor in the Center for Student Success and Barney, an honors ambassador, and student in the honors program.

I would encourage UHart students to value their college experience because it is a time to embrace risks, learn from mistakes, talk to new people, and ultimately experience personal growth.

Leslie Li ‘25, 2023 Barney Alumni Hall of Fame Scholarship Recipient

Leslie, who has been playing golf since she was 12 years old, completed an internship with the Connecticut State Golf Association, which she emphasizes has helped prepare her for future career opportunities. She credits learning many valuable skills, such as networking, to her Barney School experience. “I have grown so much in the last two-and-a-half years here at UHart,” Leslie says.

Similar to her father, several Barney School faculty members have made an impact on Leslie. She says that, in particular, Ben Brewer, assistant professor of economics, and David Stec, visiting instructor of management, are enthusiastic about the topics and classes that they teach. “They are exceptional individuals and professors who want their students to succeed,” Leslie explains. “They offer help with materials to ensure that students understand them.”

Leslie’s advice to incoming students is to take a deep breath and remember that other students are in the same boat as you. “We’re all looking to make friends, have fun, and learn something new,” she says.

Leslie’s plan for the future is to work towards her MBA in finance. She says that there is nothing she would change about her experience at UHart because she has loved every minute—even when juggling golf, academics, and extracurricular activities. Leslie says the thing she has liked the most about Barney is that it is a strong community, and you get to meet a lot of people that are also in business.

Overall, the Alumni Hall of Fame Ceremony brought these two generations of Barney students together in a unique way. Leslie says this is an event that she has gone to every year since she has been a student here, and that she couldn’t believe she was this year’s scholarship recipient. “It was amazing to see how my family and friends showed up for this event to support me,” she says. “It is a great honor to receive this scholarship award and it has made a huge impact on me and my family.”

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