Student Spotlight - Allison Fernandez

The Finance Major credits mentors and motivation for success

Allison Fernandez spent three years at USF as an architecture major, but after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and an injury put her plumber father out of work, she decided to pursue a more practical career path.

"Architecture was expensive" because of all the materials she had to purchase to build models, she said. "I realized I had to graduate and help my family."

Fernandez, who was born in New York and lived there until she was 14, had always said she wanted to be on Wall Street. Eventually, her younger brother asked why she didn't major in that if she enjoyed it.

A year and a half later, Fernandez is poised to graduate in August with degrees in economics and finance, as the secretary of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting at USF, and with an internship at T. Rowe Price under her belt.

However, she said that success didn't come without hard work. The professional development required to succeed in the finance world wasn't something that came intuitively to her.

When she started taking finance classes, Fernandez wanted to make friends in the College of Business, so she walked into the advising office and looked at the list of programs. She saw a Corporate Mentor Program flier, which advertised the program as providing support and guidance to first-generation students who are the first in their families to attend college.

"I thought, oh, that's me. I need guidance," said Fernandez, the daughter of Ecuadoran immigrants.

Fernandez, who usually takes five to six classes per semester, said she has learned how to be a self-starter from growing up in a family where her parents weren't able to help with her school work.

"It is a lot of studying, but I like it so much, it's like reading a story," she said. "I don't have anyone else to motivate me, so I have to motivate myself."

From the etiquette dinner to the networking events, Fernandez said the Corporate Mentor Program helped her learn what she didn't know she was missing, like which way to pass the bread at a round table.

"For me, the Corporate Mentor Program was that base that made everything happen for me," she said. "I know I have to prepare myself. Before I didn't even know how."

The Corporate Mentor Program gave her one of the most important pieces of her professional development: her mentor from T. Rowe Price. Fernandez said her mentor helped her navigate the internship process at the company, where she has interned since October, and she also received a scholarship from the company. She wants to work for T. Rowe Price after graduation and eventually hopes to pursue her dream of working on Wall Street in New York City.

"It really is all about who you know," she said of the networking skills the Corporate Mentor Program has helped her build.

Morgan Watts, Fernandez's mentor, said she has seen firsthand the growth in professional skills and confidence Fernandez has experienced.

"She has been so wonderful to have around as I think I learn as much from her as she does from me," Watts said. "She is very driven to succeed and knows that hard work pays off. She is willing to put in the time and effort, whereas others may have thought, 'it's too hard,' and given up."