Finance MajorChristopher O'Brien '15

"The staff, students, and opportunities at IUP and the Eberly College of Business and IT lead me to a rewarding career path with the ability to succeed, as well as help and see others succeed."

I'm originally from the town of Meshoppen in rural northeast Pennsylvania. I chose to attend IUP because of Eberly's reputable business program, the size of the school, and the cost of tuition. At first, I was intending to become an international business major. But, due to the influence of one of my accounting professors, I realized that finance was a better fit for me.

While I participated in several clubs, I didn't become real active until I realized that I really enjoyed finance. Once I became intrigued by my new career path, Eberly allowed my education to take off. During my junior year, I joined the Student Finance Association (SFA) and the Student Managed Investment Portfolio (SMIP). These were two pivotal clubs that allowed me to network and be mentored from seniors within my major. I enjoyed the clubs so much that eventually I became president of SMIP and the treasurer of SFA.

As a junior, I ran as treasurer of SFA because I believed that there was a better way to manage the group's resources. After obtaining the position, we implemented the first accounting system in order to keep track of dues, club enrollment, and budgeting. Through this new system, and coinciding with the secretary records, we were able to have a great year.

The largest impact during my college career was becoming president and chief investment officer of the student managed portion of the school's $70-million endowment fund. In two years' time I went from learning how companies are managed to managing a $750,000 portfolio with over 30 individual investments and 25 members. Not only did I learn how to balance a large diversified investment portfolio, but also how to manage people and teams. Together, the advisor, the portfolio manager, and myself restructured the leadership, various departments, and the vision of the organization. With new leadership, we did a large recruiting effort which lead to twice the membership of the prior year. This also included a mentorship program which allowed younger students to become more involved in the program. We believed that this would also lead to lower turnover of allover control and vision of the portfolio. With renewed visions, defined leadership, and deep mentoring, our efforts were tested at the international level. The ENGAGE investment conference in Detroit put us up against the best portfolios in North America. We brought home the highest overall return of any portfolio in our category. This conference was made possible through the SFA budgeting and donations from the Foundation for IUP, BilkeyKatz Investment Consultants, and Eberly College. We were also able to implement an early leadership handover program so that the new team could be fostered by the current leaders. The support of our team, our advisor, and Eberly College lead to a very successful year.

Eberly also furthered my skills through the College of Business Student Advisory Council (COBSAC). This council is a board of leaders from other Eberly student business organizations. Together, at round table, we shared ideas of how to better ourselves, our clubs, and the college in general. The students that were a part of it were the most involved students in the school, which created a remarkable experience. We also rallied together to raise money for charity through collaborative fundraisers. We created the first COBSAC logo and the first annual business bash which we hope will continue for future classes.

Through classes and networking I was also able to compete in three business competitions against some of the top schools. The investment portfolio competition put us up against students all across North America. We won our category. Another competition led to a professional connection, which ultimately helped lead to a job offer in commercial banking at Citizens Bank. IUP and Eberly helped me find the career path that fit best, expanded my knowledge outside the classroom, and created lifelong friendships and connections.