MS in Commerce Blog

Why Choose the Finance Track in the M.S. in Commerce Program

Jaffer Mirza, a student from the M.S. in Commerce Class of 2023, interviews students and professors from the Finance Track to get their perspectives on the track's features, benefits, and why one should consider studying finance.

Jaffer Mirza (M.S. in Commerce '23)

By Jaffer Mirza (M.S. in Commerce ’23)

The M.S. in Commerce (MSC) Program offers a variety of tracks, and everyone has different reasons for pursuing their chosen track. The Finance Track within the MSC program provides a strong business foundation in the first semester, in which students develop critical thinking skills by taking various business courses, from Strategy and Systems to Organizational Behavior. In the second semester, students can choose classes tailored to their personal career goals, including Real Estate Finance, Advanced Corporate Finance, and Asset Management.

To better understand what the Finance Track entails, what makes finance unique, and why you should consider studying finance, I interviewed students and professors from the program.

Margaret Lloyd (UVA ’22, M.S. in Commerce ’23)

Margaret chose to study finance after being an Economics major, as she felt finance would be more practical, whereas economics tends to be broader and more theoretical. Margaret mentioned how the Commerce School offers practical education, and first-semester classes such as Strategy and Communication have been helpful for her development as a future business leader. After taking recent Finance classes, Margaret felt stronger in her qualitative and quantitative abilities. Her favorite part of the program has been the mixture of classes and the ability to meet peers from various undergrad colleges and majors.

After graduation, Margaret plans to work in DC within the real estate sector. Regarding networking, Margaret advises scheduling a call with speakers who come to McIntire during alum panels and look for jobs in those companies. And most of all, she encourages others to be bold, reach out to people, and attend as many events at McIntire as possible.

Zachary Johnson (Michigan ’22, M.S. in Commerce ’23)

Zachary mentioned how this program has taught him invaluable skills such as time management and teamwork. Most of the assignments in the program required collaboration; these skills translate into real-world practical experience that can be leveraged after graduation. Regarding finance skill development, Zachary has learned to use technology such as Tableau, become more proficient in Excel, and learned how to adjust financial models.

After graduation, Zach wishes to work in a management consulting position within consumer retail. For Zach, what drew him to consumer retail was how the industry is more hands-on and tangible, as industry consumers have everyday interactions with the product compared with other industries.

McIntire and the MSC program are fortunate to have a wide range of alum support across various industries. The way Zach approached networking was to first search for jobs through Handshake, and then he narrowed his search further by looking for McIntire alums in those companies and job roles. Once he could identify the right people, he contacted them and scheduled a phone call to better prepare himself for the application and interview process.

GCOM 7060 – Financial Management with Professor Ben McCartney

Professor McCartney believes his class is valuable for preparing students for a finance career since financial capital is scarce, and with scarcity comes limited options. Professor McCartney teaches his students to think critically and question which financial options to pursue. Being successful in a finance career requires making sound decisions about what those best options are, and to do that requires thinking carefully about trade-offs – money now or money later, higher expected return or lower risk. In Financial Management, we develop the toolkit for evaluating limited options in a replicable and rigorous way.

According to Professor McCartney, what makes Financial Management a special class is that he tries to teach his students how the skills learned in his class can be used in various contexts to help us make good decisions about allocating scarce resources. Instead of just doing math, he incorporates real-world events within his practice examples, where the topics of the day can be seen in action.

In addition, Professor McCartney teaches his students essential skills, transferable after graduation, including not just the ability to correctly discount cash flows and adjust for risk but to convey the findings of financial analyses to non-finance audiences. Professor McCartney mentioned that a huge benefit of Financial Management is that students from all the MSC tracks are grouped together and can practice communicating across disciplines right from the get-go.

For Professor McCartney, what makes finance special and exciting is how finance allows two different people with different allocations of ideas and money to come together, trade, and part better off. In fair, regulated, and transparent markets, finance can have the power to make a powerful impact on society.

GCOM 7710 – Corporate Valuation and Financing with Professor Gayle Erwin

Professor Erwin discussed how the purpose of her class is for students to see the bigger picture and understand the fundamentals of valuation. Her goal is to push her students to try to apply the material in an integrated format by understanding how corporate strategy (a core class) is incorporated within financial assumptions regarding the future.

Additionally, Professor Erwin’s course teaches transferable skills, such as technical skills like DCF, time management, being curious, and asking questions. In addition, her class also prepares students for technical interviews in industries such as investment banking and understanding questions on a deeper level rather than memorizing questions from a study guide online.

Professor Erwin wants her students to look beyond the numbers in finance and see the qualitative side since she believes finance can be more of an art than a science. In Professor Erwin’s opinion, what makes finance special is that finance is about learning how to allocate scarce resources most effectively in a world of scarce resources. To maximize shareholder value, Professor Erwin believes finance can create value for all the constituents of a firm, ranging from employees, customers, creditors, investors, and communities. Finance is a career where we can make society better off.

The Finance Track is a small, tight-knit community in which the professors really care about the students on a deeper level and are invested in the success of students. The track attracts students from different backgrounds and majors who are interested in working in a wide range of fields, from investment banking to real estate to consulting. Most of all, the Finance Track intellectually stimulates students to dig deeper, be curious, and incorporate different styles of thinking across business.

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