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Alumni Profiles

How One Recent Grad Found Community, Opportunity in the Jenkins MAC Program

Recent graduate Victoria Gahn reflects on her unconventional journey to the Jenkins MAC program and shares highlights from her time in the program – including participating in the ERM practicum and forming lifelong friendships.

By Samantha Beavers 

While growing up in Staten Island, New York, recent Jenkins MAC graduate Victoria Gahn often heard the same refrain: that she would make for an amazing lawyer one day. The words stuck, and as she looked ahead to the future, she began preparing for a career in law.

“I think there’s always been that voice in my head telling me that I was going to be a lawyer one day. Throughout undergrad, that aspiration remained true. I attended St. John’s University in Queens and they had an amazing program that would have allowed me to obtain a half scholarship to their law school without even having to take the LSAT,” Gahn says.

During her undergraduate career, however, Gahn slowly began to see accounting as another promising career path. 

“I know this is unorthodox for many MAC students, but accounting was never even on my radar. I kind of fell into it as I took advantage of certain opportunities and turned down others,” she says. “In my second year of undergrad, I was offered an internship where my responsibilities included data analytics and various marketing tasks, which aligned well with my coursework at the time. I stayed with the company as a part-time employee and transferred over to the accounting department a year later.”

An unexpected path

That opportunity, plus a few unexpected turns, ultimately led Gahn to press pause on law school and instead join the Jenkins MAC program.

But the journey, she said, wasn’t an easy one. 

“While I’m very grateful for the education I received and the opportunities granted to me throughout my undergraduate career, a majority of it was consumed by the pandemic, so I had very few close friendships and missed out on what everyone hyped up to be ‘the college experience,’” she explains. 

While I’m very grateful for the education I received and the opportunities granted to me throughout my undergraduate career, a majority of it was consumed by the pandemic.

“Additionally, my immediate family moved to Wake Forest in May 2021, when I still had one more year of undergrad to complete. Ironically, I was living in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world – but I was extremely lonely. That year, I also developed severe anxiety,” she continues. “So, as I made post-graduate plans, I knew I wanted to join my family in North Carolina and get a fresh start – and find some way to experience even a semblance of the college experience that I didn’t get in undergrad.

Looking at a variety of different master’s programs in the Triangle area, Gahn started exploring the MAC program at NC State.

“At some point, I thought to myself, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good at this whole accounting thing. Let’s see how far this can take you,’” she says. “One phone call with Jay Arrington and I knew that the MAC program would be an amazing opportunity and a great fit for my career. He invited me to come visit campus, answered all of my questions and eased a lot of my concerns. He is the biggest reason that I applied to the MAC program and I am so glad I did.”

A place to belong

Arrington also introduced Gahn to a handful of students and professors, which gave her a taste of what community is like in the MAC program and the support she would receive along the way.

Her experience, she says, did not disappoint. 

Within weeks, we became very close, and months later I am confident that these will be my friends for life.

“The thing that stands out most is the community of friends that I was lucky enough to meet along the way. At first I was super shy – I thought that I was not cut out for this program and felt like I was worlds behind my peers. Little did I know that everyone felt the same way at first,” she says.

“All it took was spending some time in the MAC lab and getting to know some of the regulars there. Within weeks, we became very close, and months later I am confident that these will be my friends for life. Everyone was so willing to give one another a helping hand – whether that was with schoolwork, recruiting advice or life in general. I’m so grateful for these friends I made and I know they will be great connections to have in the future,” she continues.  

In addition to her peers, Gahn says that the MAC faculty provided continuous support. 

“The professors are so amazing at their craft and you can see how passionate many of them are about what they do. They were so eager to help us succeed not only in their individual classes, but also in our future careers – and they were quick to provide advice that would be helpful to us,” Gahn says.

An opportunity to grow

Beyond the community and culture of support at NC State, Gahn says that experiential learning was another highlight of the MAC program. Her experience in the enterprise risk management (ERM) practicum, in particular, stands out. 

“This was an amazing experience for so many reasons. First, I was on a team with three amazing classmates and we worked seamlessly together from the get-go. The practicum was certainly challenging, but it was so interesting to apply the concepts we learned in Mark Beasley’s ERM class to a real-life organization,” Gahn says.  

Working with Wake County Government, Gahn’s team interviewed more than 50 members of the leadership team and conducted a survey to determine some of the organization’s top risks – and then provided information to leaders to help them employ best practices in ERM. 

“We presented our findings in-person to Wake County in April – which was really rewarding. They were so impressed with us and it was very gratifying to see how our work throughout the semester would help catalyze stronger ERM practices at an organization with a close relationship with us,” she says.

For Gahn, this was one of several opportunities to hone her public speaking skills in the MAC program. “I love public speaking and I discovered that this was not common among my peers. Practicing public speaking in a variety of settings throughout the program has certainly enhanced that talent, and I know this will be a useful skill throughout my professional career.”

This summer, Gahn will start working as a junior accountant with Element 451 in Raleigh while preparing for the four sections of the CPA exam.

“I’m very excited about starting my career in accounting – and I definitely want to keep other doors open as well,” she says. “I’m leaving the possibility of law school open, and I’ve also been thinking about teaching someday. If I’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that you have no idea what the future holds and where you’ll end up.”

To learn more about the Jenkins MAC program at NC State’s Poole College of Management, click here.