Brielle Symdon represents another successful student story to emerge from the inaugural Commerce Cohort group as she prepares to start her career in the Analyst Development Program at Capital One.
Coming to Grounds from the Milwaukee suburb town of Hartland, WI, she joined the initial Comm Cohort at McIntire in the fall of 2018. The group, created to support a select group of high-achieving, high-need first-year UVA students from traditionally underrepresented groups, provided Symdon and her peers with the opportunity to explore McIntire and University resources while developing analytical, communication, and employment skills. And while not every one of her peers would eventually find that they were interested in studying at the Comm School and working toward a future in business, Symdon certainly was.
Benefiting from the support that came with having access to a tight-knit community immediately made available to her, she recalls that her Cohort advisers became “wonderful mentors and great to turn to for advice,” including Manager of Special Projects Rebecca Locke Leonard and [former Director of Undergraduate Admissions] Sadie Royal Collins.
Having thrived in the program as a participant and then later as a mentor and academic coach, the Finance and Marketing concentrator remained engaged in the program by advising first-years herself, assisting new students throughout the most isolated phases of the pandemic. Sharing her own experiences to facilitate connections to help younger students follow their passions, she provided input to lead others to find the most fitting courses of study, which would sometimes result in ultimately guiding others on how to best approach applying to McIntire as she had.
For Symdon, the decision to move from the Comm Cohort to a full-fledged Comm student was the result of seeing the value in studying Commerce, as well as the advantageous outcomes that McIntire graduates enjoy in distinguishing themselves in the job market.
“The School has phenomenal resources they provide for students in preparing them for career and life in the business world,” she says. “I also felt that a Commerce degree was very versatile, and as a young undergraduate student, I was not sure what I wanted to pursue a career in, so I felt like a Commerce degree would give me a solid foundation to build on.”
While she notes that the coursework will serve her well in her career, she’s expecting that those relationships she built at the School will stay with her, too—especially those she forged with her fellow block members during their time spent in the Integrated Core.
After completing a track in Real Estate and an internship at Baird Private Wealth Management with The Popovich Financial Group, and having held the position of Vice President of Finance for the Consulting Group at McIntire, Symdon is ready for the next chapter in her life. She’ll return home to spend time with her family and friends before starting in her new role at Capital One, but before she does, we asked her a bit more about who and what else have shaped her experience at the Comm School.
What Comm School course, professor, or educational experience has made the greatest impact on you and why?
All the faculty in the Comm School I have encountered have been wonderful and engage with students to work with them to serve any needs they may have. I cannot say I have had a single professor who has not cared about their students in any of my Commerce classes. Some specific McIntire faculty who have been so supportive and encouraging before and throughout my time at McIntire are Professor Cynthia Fraser and Professor Gayle Erwin. [Assistant Director for Career Development] Anne Afriyie at Commerce Career Services was also so supportive in my internship search. Her immense help during the ups and downs of finding a job and internship made me feel supported during the process and confident that I would land that sought-after internship. Lastly, my academic adviser, [former Assistant Director of Student Life] Julia Hilkey Gray, has made a great impact on my educational experience.
What have you learned at the Comm School that has helped you navigate your professional future?
An important lesson I have learned at the Comm School that has helped me navigate my professional future is the importance of continuous learning. One professor said to me, “You know you’re in the wrong place if you think you are the smartest person in the room.” I think this piece of advice just goes to show how important it is to surround yourself with people you can learn from and that your education is not over once you leave McIntire, but there are thousands of McIntire alumni and experiences out there from which to learn valuable insights and gain wisdom.