Our Stories

Maximizing Her Time

MSF was key to building Chen’s U.S. banking experience

Laura Chen
Investment Banking Analyst, BlackArch Partners

Vanderbilt MS Finance 2023

As she neared graduation from the University of Florida and considered her next steps, Laura Chen was thinking not only about where she might begin an investment banking career, but also how long she could pursue it in the United States.

“As an international student, I was facing the OPT issue,” explains Laura, a native of Changchun, China. (OPT stands for Optional Practical Training—temporary employment related to the major area of study for international students with F-1 visas.) “After finishing my undergraduate degree, I had only one year of OPT. However, after graduating with my Vanderbilt MSF, I would have three years of OPT. So I could get a more holistic investment banking experience than in one rushed year, and three years of OPT would make me a more appealing candidate to employers as an international applicant.”

The Vanderbilt MSF program rose to the top of Laura’s list because of the flexibility she found in the curriculum. “It was really interesting to me that, at the end of the program, you’re pretty much able to pick your classes, depending on what you want to pursue. If you want to pursue investment banking, certain courses will help you achieve that goal. If you want to go into consulting, there are certain courses for that as well. That stood out to me.”

The additional finance training, she realized, also made her a more attractive candidate to prospective employers. As an example, she cites the Advanced Corporate Valuation and Merger & Acquisition classes she took as part of the program. “We went through so many real-world cases and did so many models and analyses together,” Laura says, “that these classes definitely made me more confident in my technical skills.”

Most of all, at Vanderbilt, Laura felt at home within a supportive community. “There are so many international students here from all over the world,” she says. “You never feel like you’re alone. And in this program, we’re not competing with each other. Instead, we help each other through the whole recruiting process. The MS Finance program coaches start working with you before you even enter the program. That’s how I knew I was in good hands.”

Fun Fact: Laura is such a fan of hotpot that she once had three hotpot meals a day for an entire month.

“The MS Finance program coaches start working with you before you even enter the program. That’s how I knew I was in good hands.”