First Gen: Inspiring Stories Of MBAs Who Beat The Odds

Stephen Meehan

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

Class: 2019

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I attended a Notre Dame football game on my honeymoon.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame, 2010 (Political Science & Philosophy)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Internship (Summer, 2018): MBA Summer Associate, Investment Banking – Industrials Group, KeyBanc Capital Markets (Cleveland, OH)

Full Time (2010 – 2017): Vice President, Marketing & Insights, Beneficial Bank (Philadelphia, PA)

What did your parents do for a living? I was raised by my mom for the first ten years of my life. She was a bank teller and later a research clerk for the bank. My mom married my step-dad when I was in fifth grade. He is a telecommunications technician and a member of the local Electricians Union (IBEW Local #98). While I was in college as an undergraduate, my mom’s job was eliminated and she was laid off. After that, she’s worked in various roles as a contractor at the Philadelphia Passport Office.

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your

father? Both of my parents are high school graduates. My mom started working at the bank right out of high school. My step-dad served in the Navy for a few years prior to beginning his telecommunications work.

Which of your family members is your biggest inspiration? Why? My wife, Rachel, is my biggest inspiration. She knew that I wanted to go to business school, and was not only OK with it, but encouraged me for over a year to apply, to take the GMAT, etc. She kept me honest and inspired. Then, when I was accepted to Notre Dame, she was willing to leave both of our jobs and move us and our new baby halfway across the country so I could pursue a dream. Today, she works full-time so I can afford to go to school. Her willingness to adapt, her excitement and enthusiasm for the hopes and dreams for people other than herself and her willingness to sacrifice for me and our family are huge inspirations to me, every day.

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? I think I decided to pursue higher education pretty early on, around eighth grade. I was awarded a full scholarship to a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the organization that awarded the scholarship offered guidance and assistance in the college application process. So with that, I had decided that I would follow that path.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? I had two major concerns: one was not knowing anyone (no one from my high school had gone to Notre Dame in ten years) and the second was being far from home. I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and the first time I ever traveled on a plane was to visit Notre Dame for two weeks the summer between my junior and senior years of high school.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? The most challenging part was learning to manage my time in a less structured, less supervised situation. I was on my own, 500+ miles from my parents, and had no one telling me that homework was due tomorrow. As I moved through my undergraduate experience, I learned to manage time better, but grew increasingly concerned about the amount of student debt that was waiting after graduation.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher education experience that you wish they would understand better? I wish we had better understood the scholarship and financial aid process during the application period, and each year when new information was needed. Also, the cost of college that does not show up in a bill from the University – the textbooks and supplies, but also the dinners and nights out that I wanted (and at times, felt I needed) to go to with friends.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree? In the job I had after college, I was able to be involved at different levels as my company completed some acquisitions and an equity offering – which piqued my interest in investment banking. As I grew with the company, I saw an increasing need for a more rigorous, formal business education – which I had never had.

How did you choose your MBA program? I obviously knew (and loved) Notre Dame from my time as an undergraduate. It also offered a great academic reputation and career opportunities. I think the most important factor was that the community and location felt like a good personality fit for me and my family (my wife and son would be moving with me). Finally, the cost (and fellowship opportunity) played a big role in my selection of Notre Dame.

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? My biggest worries were quitting a well-paying, stable job and moving my family across the country, and not being sure what my career would look like after the program.

How were you able to finance your MBA as a first generation student? I was awarded a Kenneth Meyer Fellowship by Mendoza, which covers full tuition and a stipend for living expenses. In addition, my wife, Rachel, is working full-time while I pursue my MBA, so we’ve been able to fund the program without student loans.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? Find someone who has done this before and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice when things seem overwhelming or unclear. Sometimes people don’t know what people with different experiences don’t know.

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? I’m interning this summer in investment banking, and I think that’s what I’d like to do full-time after graduation.