Penn State Great Valley Residency Creates Valuable Experience for Finance Student

Image of Angela Gray via Penn State News.

As an undergraduate biochemistry student headed toward a career in pharmacy, Angela Gray never considered a job in accounting or finance. She enrolled in an accounting course only to satisfy a prerequisite for her chosen doctor of pharmacy program.

Much to her surprise, she loved numbers even more than molecules, and even considered changing her major. Instead, she finished her biochemistry degree, took two years of required accounting courses, and with only four months of preparation, Gray passed the CPA exam on her first try.

In a twist of fate, Gray took a job as a controller for a pharmaceutical software company in Shreveport, La. Blending her two interests, she understood both the medical and business operations of the company, eventually moving up the career ladder to become the vice president of accounting. Not wanting to become stagnant, and always looking to learn something new, she decided to sharpen her finance skills.

Gray thought about her options. An MBA seemed too broad, and there weren’t any local universities offering a specialization in finance. That’s when the president of her company suggested she look into Penn State Great Valley’s online master of finance program offered through World Campus. At first, she was skeptical: How many students would be in her courses? What if she needed a more thorough explanation of a difficult topic than what a textbook could provide?

She enrolled in the program and was pleasantly surprised. Rather than being in a course filled with hundreds of students, Gray was among an intimate cohort of professionals with diverse backgrounds in banking, geology, and even kinesiology. When she had a question, faculty members answered quickly, with a thorough response.

“I was concerned I’d be on my own,” she said. “That’s anything but the case. The professors are fantastic and provide me with personalized instruction and feedback on my exams. If I’m having trouble grasping a concept, they take the time to explain things to me.”

For Gray, what really stood out is the program’s weeklong residency at the Great Valley campus in Malvern. The cohort divided into groups to determine stock valuation for a company — a project they worked on for the week. At the end of the week, each group presented their findings — whether they wanted to sell, buy, or hold the stock — to members of the finance faculty.

“The program’s residency is one of the reasons I chose to enroll,” said Gray. “It was intensive, but I loved it. Even though I got to know my classmates online, it was nice to be in the same room with them, and despite our diverse backgrounds, we are pursuing similar goals and learning together. Plus, the valuation project taught me something I can immediately apply to my job.”

Click here to read more about Angela Gray from Penn State News.

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