Master’s In Finance: Jasmin Johnson, Vanderbilt (Owen)

Student Name: Jasmin Johnson

Graduate Business School: Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: I’m a creative stuck in a businesswoman’s frame of mind. I love innovation and building.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: Fisk University, Accounting.

Current Employer and Job Title: UBS, Investment Banking Analyst (mergers and acquisitions).

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was able to help a few people on my team at UBS build the UBS-HBCU Financial Development Program, which is the largest HBCU recruiting effort at UBS to date. We were actually able to turn it into a standalone program with support from many senior leaders within the firm. During our first session of the program, where we paired students with UBS mentors, it was great seeing all of the students and their mentors smiling and enjoying connecting with one another. It wasn’t a transaction, but the impact was everything to me.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: As a grad student, I was briefly mentioned in TechCrunch for my work as a Hustle Fund intern pushing to diversify the venture ecosystem. It was amazing to be seen and heard in reference to doing work that I’m passionate about.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Owen has an amazing close-knit culture that makes students feel comfortable and at ease. I visited a few times as a Fisk undergrad, and I was always met with open arms and kindness. This was important to me, because during my time at Fisk, I felt like a part of a larger family, and I wanted to continue to enjoy that same close-knit connection in grad school. Even as the only black woman in my cohort, I felt a strong bond with the faculty and my peers who came from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. I’m still close with many of my peers and administrators today.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Finance over an MBA? I chose to pursue my Master’s in Finance because, despite being early in my career, I already knew what technical skills and roles I was seeking. The Vanderbilt MSF program was the perfect fit, because the curriculum was practical and the entire experience was tailored to helping early career professionals land their dream jobs. It also allowed me to reserve the option of going to pursue an MBA for a larger network or to pivot later in my career. I especially appreciate that distinction now as an admit to Harvard’s Deferred MBA program (which I applied to during my time at Vanderbilt). 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? My favorite course at Vanderbilt was Entrepreneurial Finance with Professor Berk Sensoy. At the time, I was very focused on the venture capital career path, but I took the course to get a better understanding of financing for start-ups more broadly. Now I’m building a startup on the side, and having the context of why different fundraising rounds are structured in different ways and how that changes over time is incredibly useful for strategic planning.

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? Vanderbilt is 100% the reason I was able to land my job at UBS, and I credit a lot of that to the work of our MSF Career Management Center Coach, Megan Nichols. Megan put a lot of time and effort into helping me prep with my peers and on a one-on-one basis for interviews, to think and rethink how to present my resume, and she supported me when things were difficult in the job-seeking process. Her insights and lessons allowed me to prepare well and ultimately succeed in getting the exact job I was looking for.

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? My classmates at Vanderbilt had a variety of experiences and came from so many different places. It was enriching to be around such an interesting group of people. I also appreciated that we were all like-minded and aiming for similar goals but without cutthroat competition. We all wanted everyone to succeed at the end of the day, and it showed in how we supported one another through the recruiting process. We also completed a lot of group work, so learning from each other was a big part of how we came to understand different concepts.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? My favorite faculty member at Owen is Professor Whaley, who is better known as the creator of the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX. I was actually very nervous to take his Applied Investment Management class at first, because I don’t consider myself to be technically strong. But what was so empowering about his class was that he was able to distill complex financial concepts into lessons that were digestible while making sure that we were able to apply the concepts in practice. He also took the time to bring speakers to class who tied our learnings back to the real world, and he often quizzed us on topics affecting the markets in real time. It was a great shift in my understanding of finance, and I’m grateful to have been able to learn from him.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? My advice to prospective and current applicants is to embrace who you are authentically and take the time to communicate what you’re looking to get out of the MSF program. You don’t have to have studied finance before or have the perfect grades and scores to get in, but knowing what you want to get out of the program and what you bring to the table are important in such a small cohort. Also, don’t be afraid to dream beyond your first job – really share who you are and who you’re looking to become in the long run.

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? My best memory from the MSF program was actually when we all met during our pre-program weekend visit in April of 2019. Everyone was excited to come live in Nashville and to meet everyone else. It was exciting to explore the city with my new classmates, and the people I met that time are still some of my closest friends. 


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