Our Stories

Competing at an Elite Level

Swimmer hits her stride in Finance

Lauren Thomas
Strategy and Consulting Analyst, Accenture

Vanderbilt MS Finance 2022

Starting at a young age, Lauren Thomas would visit her grandparents’ farm in Tennessee and dream of attending Vanderbilt one day. After she eventually arrived on campus as an undergraduate—where she competed on the women’s swimming team—she began thinking about business school. “I was always intrigued by the prospect of joining the business school,” Lauren says, “since we had a limited array of undergraduate options in the field.”

Following the guidance of her undergraduate advisor through the athletic program—“my biggest cheerleader since the day I came to campus,” Lauren says—she was able to complete her degree in three years and enter the MSF program in what would have been her senior year.

“Finance drives the decision making of every organization, and I wanted to gain a better understanding of how to finance any activity or venture,” explains Lauren. “The opportunity to spend a year alongside students in MBA and other specialized master’s degree programs was where I pictured myself prior to beginning my career.”

As someone with little experience in finance, Lauren admits she was a bit intimidated early on. “But I wanted to be challenged,” she says. “I wanted to be immersed in an environment where I would never be the smartest one in the room.”

The closeness of the community—fellow MSF students, those from other programs, and faculty alike—helped her make her way. “The first time I stepped on campus, I felt a sense of belonging,” she says. “All the staff I met had a genuine interest in ensuring I was directing my own narrative of success. The professors would take time out of their schedules to meet with me. There were several instances when I sat in with a professor, and he went over every single question on a 60-question midterm during his lunch break. They’re just so committed to you.”

Even though it meant hitting the pool every morning at 6:30, Lauren used her fourth year of athletic eligibility to become the first Owen student to compete on Vanderbilt’s swim team. Performing at a high level—in both the classroom and in athletics—was an achievement for which she remains particularly proud.

Fun Fact: A Division I swimmer in college, Lauren appeared in an issue of Sports Illustrated after volunteering with a student-athlete-founded nonprofit.

I wanted to be immersed in an environment where I would never be the smartest one in the room.