From Tar Heel to Cavalier

I will always be a Tar Heel, but now, I am also incredibly fortunate and proud to be a Virginia Cavalier. I’ve had the best of both worlds and five great seasons of basketball. The M.S. in Commerce program at UVA has allowed me to transition from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Charlottesville, Virginia with ease, and I’m loving every minute of it.

I realized towards the end of my time in Chapel Hill that I wanted to tie some loose ends before I entered the professional world. As a history and economics major, I had learned to read, write, and read some more. My communication skills had also improved, but there was a gap between my skill set and where I wanted to be professionally. I hoped to enter the business world, but I hadn’t felt very polished in interviews. I also had shied away from the help of career services in Chapel Hill. Company information sessions seemed foreign and unhelpful. After attending an information session with McIntire’s Graduate Admissions during the fall of my senior year, I decided the M.S. in Commerce program would be the perfect complement to my undergraduate years.

Graduating in May 2016. On to Charlottesville!
Graduating in May 2016. On to Charlottesville!

Charlottesville and the University of Virginia have been incredibly welcoming to me and my fellow Tar Heels. I’m one of five Tar Heels in this year’s class. We represent the second largest group of undergrad students. Fortunately, the basketball rivalry doesn’t spill over into the classroom, and the consensus is clear among my fellow UNC grads: we love Charlottesville and UVA.

UNC-UVA may be the friendliest rivalry in college athletics. It makes sense when you think about it. The two schools share a number of great traditions and traits. Both schools are rooted in incredible history. They represent two of the most respected public institutions in the United States. They share similar size, geography, and missions. Most importantly, both mold character and encourage success beyond campus. These similarities have made the transition to Charlottesville seem like a natural extension of Chapel Hill.

While I could brag endlessly about both schools, the M.S. in Commerce program is made up of students from countless great schools and nationalities. My fellow students have made my experience in Charlottesville the unique and extraordinary several months that it’s been. The diversity of backgrounds stimulates conversation in and out of class. In my core group of six, our undergraduate majors included: Economics, English, Foreign Affairs, Spanish, Physics, and Math. This diversity of thought has stimulated our course work and allowed us to learn from one another.

My core group met with Professor Ira Harris, director of the program, during Orientation.
My core group met with Professor Ira Harris, director of the program, during Orientation.

My first six months at McIntire far exceeded my expectations before entering the program. I’ve learned so much about business, the job-search, and myself since I first stepped on UVA’s Grounds. The courses push me to stay current with business news and apply the concepts in the classroom. Each course builds on the next and creates a compounding effect. Best of all, we continue to relate our coursework to our own path as we embark towards our careers.

We’ve all sharpened our public speaking skills. From daily discussion of readings to pitching a business proposal for a company, the M.S. in Commerce program promotes strong communication and presentation skills. Additionally, the courses encourage us to network and understand the ins and outs of the recruiting cycle on campus. Once seemingly unhelpful, companies’ information sessions have become a great place to network and showcase myself. Commerce Career Services at McIntire became my second home in the first semester. These trips to CCS helped me build relationships and practice interviewing. Importantly, I discovered how to hear “no” and keep my head held high. My classmates were all working in the same recruitment cycle and served as an excellent support network.

Our group at the Rotunda following the end of first semester. WaHooWa! (one of us isn't too happen we only have one term left in the program...)
Our group at the Rotunda following the end of first semester. WaHooWa!

The University of North Carolina provided me an excellent base to develop personally and professionally. I will always cherish the time I spent in Chapel Hill. I can confidently say, however, that this master’s program emboldened me to become a better student, communicator, and team member. These skills translated well as I explored companies in the fall. I ultimately accepted a position as an Analytics Consultant at IBM in their Consulting by Degrees program. I believe this position blends both the knowledge from my current track, Business Analytics, and the liberal arts courses of my undergraduate years. This program can serve as a great asset to any student, from Chapel Hill or elsewhere, who wants to better themselves and broaden their studies.

Go Heels and Wahoowa!

-Written by Jack Whitson, M.S. in Commerce 2017

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