Alexandra Larch-2016 Student Gallery WinnerFinance and Economics Majors

"The Eberly College of Business and IT at IUP has exceeded my expectations in every way. From the academic preparation, the involvement in the community, and the interaction between studentsI know I made the best choice for me by choosing IUP. What is more, I have been given the knowledge and tools to continue to exceed my own expectations and continue reaching for my dreams by becoming the best person I can be."

I graduated high school from Agora Cyber School. I had originally planned to move far away to a big city after high school graduation, but the summer before my senior of high school I was selected for the Cook Honors College Summer Program. This program opened my eyes to IUP and helped me see how it would feel to be a student here. I was hooked after the first week. The beautiful campus and the nice facilities, the professors, and the great classes all gave me the sense that I belonged here. I was concerned that I would feel stifled going to college in my hometown, but those fears vanished as I lived on campus those few weeks. It was like IUP was its own world and didn't feel like the town I grew up in.

I joined the Eberly Business Honors Program and started as a sophomore at IUP. Joining this program was one of the best decisions I made during my college career. The honors program gave me the opportunity to be a part of a group of students who shared one important character traitmotivation to learn and grow as a person. When you are surrounded by students who don't accept mediocrity as an option, you develop a network of peers that are always pushing you to do better and be better.

My education and work ethic have given me the opportunity to work and intern for many companies. I was a real estate agent and real estate appraiser trainee in Indiana for most of my college career. Opportunities given by IUP allowed me to be selected for an internship at a commercial bank in Pittsburgh, and they gave me a scholarship for my senior year.

After the urging of some faculty in the Finance Department, I joined the Student Managed Investment Portfolio (SMIP) during my junior year. It was overwhelming to say the least. SMIP members pitch to buy and sell stocks in the stock market with money from the Foundation for IUP. We were using real money to make investment decisions, with the goal to have our portfolio outperform the S&P 500 index. I was given the newly created position of chief economist during my junior year. This position required that I research U.S. and global economic conditions and deliver weekly reports to the club to help give members perspective to make better investment decisions.

During my senior year, I took on a leadership role as the financial sector leader and also continued as chief economist. In these positions, I strived to implement a system that would increase our retention of members and their engagement. SMIP can be an overwhelming experience, especially for younger members who have not had the advanced financial courses that older members utilized. We reinforced our sector meetings and used tools to increase communication between members and their sector leaders in order to not allow people to feel lost or unable to contribute.

I increased SMIP visibility and credibility through social media by utilizing Twitter and Facebook to promote the club's attributes and keep members up-to-date on our activities. Being a leader of SMIP has given me a confidence in my abilities to take classroom knowledge and apply it in real-world settings.

As a testament to the valuable education IUP has given me, as well as the determination I've fostered these few years, I have received many job offers from banks and corporations in the financial industry. I am so grateful for all the opportunities I've been given as a student at IUP.

Alexandra is currently employed by PNC Bank as a financial analyst in their Finance and Accounting Department (as of May 2016).