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A professional edge

There are many paths students at MSU take after they graduate. Some will pursue graduate education or research opportunities, either at Montana State or other institutions. Others may enter military service, join the Peace Corps, or volunteer for a cause close to their hearts. But for most students, graduation marks the start of their professional careers.

The latter was certainly the case for Garrett Shaw ’13, a recent MSU accounting graduate who recently accepted a position in the Anchorage, Alaska office of one of the nation’s top accounting and consulting firms, KPMG. In addition to his hard work, strong grades, and the internship he held, Shaw credited his success to the business programs that really propelled his potential, both in the classroom and extracurricular activities.

“I will remember the excellent teaching for the rest of my life,” said Shaw, a second generation Bobcat, who in his junior year took the College of Business’ Careers Perspectives class to help him better understand career expectations and professionalism for different career tracks. It was also the same year that he joined MSU’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, a student-run organization that connects business accounting and finance students through events across the country.

Shaw quickly became a chapter officer, encouraging others to join and sharing what he learned at regional and national events with other students.

“That was a pivotal year that really paid off well,” Shaw remembered. With funding provided through the Alderson Program in Entrepreneurship, Shaw was able to attend Beta Alpha Psi events around the country, participating in leadership training and presenting topics to a range of industry professionals.

The Alderson Program in Entrepreneurship was started by MSU alumnus Jim Alderson ’69 and his wife, Connie, to support professional development and leadership training opportunities within the College of Business. Designed to help students with expenses for travel to competitions, career exploration, and skill development, it offered exactly the support Shaw needed to enhance his academic career.

At the regional events, Shaw met with guest speakers who provided insights into subjects ranging from solving organizational problems to industry best practices. Each event immersed Shaw and other students in the realities of their chosen professions, giving them a glimpse of their future and helping them understand how what they were learning in the classroom will apply to the jobs they will have upon graduation. “It’s a great position to be put in as a student,” Shaw said. “It puts you in situations that are out of your comfort zone.”

Perhaps even more important were the leadership development workshops he attended.

“Those experiences were great,” Shaw said about the leadership programs. “You start out doing teambuilding tasks with people you don’t know. It’s something where you look around at the other teams and can at first be intimidated and nervous, but you focus on your team and keep them moving at a decent pace. You learn to pay more attention to your own team’s performance, not others, and learn different ways to build teams—that was a really important lesson in my college career.”

A lesson that Shaw is certain to carry with him into his professional career as well.