Elena Popova, SBA/CAS ’11, found opportunity in her mailbox.
Nearly packed and seemingly committed, the then-Adams High senior in Rochester, Mich., was heading to the University of Notre Dame for her undergrad degree until a life-changing letter arrived.
“I received a letter offering me a full-ride — the Presidential Scholarship — to Oakland University,” Popova explains. “Given the situation for me at the time and knowing my parents weren’t going to pay for school, it was truly a godsend.”
The true value of the scholarship turned out to be priceless, Popova says. She squeezed every bit of learning into her four years at Oakland University. She earned three majors — finance, economics and math, taking 26 credits her final semester to fit it all in.
Oakland University’s strong curricular foundation was only a part of her experience. In her sophomore year, she made a concentrated effort to take full advantage of the wealth of hands-on experiences OU’s School of Business Administration offers its students to help her cement the foundation she was building for her future.
She became president of the Women’s Economic Society, president of the SBA’s Scholars, chair of the SBA Dean’s Scholar Board, financial reporter for the SBA’s new Society for Applied Investing and Financial Education, member of the Financial Management Association, and a student representative for the Executive Committee of the SBA Faculty Assembly and the Judicial Conduct Committee for the Dean of Students.
She also interned twice: in product research at Chrysler Group LLC, and in portfolio management at Copper Beech Wealth Management.
Her activities outside OU included the Detroit Association of Business Economists, the Detroit Economic Club and Omicron Delta Epsilon, an international economics honor society.
“I learned so many valuable skills from these opportunities,” she says, many of which she uses daily at her job as an investment analyst at The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich., a job fellow alumni Robert Manilla, Finance ’85, offered before she even graduated.
Thanks to the real-world experience she gained in these programs, she learned how to lead, strategize, run a meeting, motivate, plan, talk in front of a crowd, network, multi-task, organize and more.
“I was able to make a contribution quickly because of all my hands-on experience,” she says. “There’s so much value in that.”
Popova feels the trust Kresge has in her skill set because not only do they give her responsibility to nurture the endowment’s $3 billion value, but also because they let her travel solo for business. “I’ve learned through everything I did at Oakland University that you have to take the initiative and lead, so I know how to represent myself and The Kresge Foundation,” she says.
Another believer in soaking up all that OU’s SBA has to offer is Eric Tawney, SBA ’12, who graduated with a dual major in finance and economics, as well as a minor in applied technology in business (ATiB).
He leveraged his participation in student organizations, teamwork in class projects, and engagement in community and business internships to round out his coursework, a move that helped him gain acceptance into some of the country’s most competitive graduate school programs.
Tawney began his Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the University of Chicago in September, where he is concentrating in economic policy and public finance. His dream job is to work in institutional investments.
Opening the door on opportunity
“I really want to set myself apart,” says Tawney, explaining his choice to continue his education despite receiving a dozen job offers to launch his career. “The business world is very competitive, and I want to stand out.”
Tawney stood out at OU. He was president of both the Society for Applied Investing and Financial Education and the Economic Students Association, chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board and Financial Management Institution, and completed six internships, including working for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, where he helped develop the legislative agenda with the governor’s leadership team.
His involvement helped teach him critical thinking skills, the ability to work as part of a team, event planning, and the importance of enthusiasm, professionalism and leadership.
“Oakland University is a rising star,” Tawney explains. “I’m very happy that I chose Oakland. OU’s School of Business Administration played a key role in helping me grow and presenting opportunities for me.”
Popova agrees. “You can make your own experience at Oakland University,” she says. “It’s a small school, so you have great opportunities everywhere you turn.”
By Rene Wisely