Isatou Jallow has worked hard to get to where she is today. An immigrant from The Gambia, Jallow started at Portland Community College before matriculating into Portland State University, working full-time through both degrees. She is now completing her Master of Science in Finance (MSF). If Jallow was initially uncertain about whether The School of Business would help her meet her goals, her doubts vanished after speaking with an advisor at ATMOS. “Because I was working full-time and was also a first-generation college student, I wanted a community of students I could go to events with who look like me, and hear from people who look like me in industry that I can learn from,” Jallow shares of her motivation to join ATMOS.
ATMOS has long been a valued resource for undergraduate students. The program supports diverse and underrepresented business students of color, providing advising services, connection and networking opportunities and career resources. It has also hosted high-profile events for the PSU community, including the well-attended annual event series Women of Color in Business, Men of Color in Business and WOKE Week.
“A business degree is wonderful to have, but without networking and a strong understanding of where you are trying to go, it can be hard to transition into a career,” says Evan Green, Assistant Director of Diversity & Equity Outreach at The School of Business. “We translate education into gainful and meaningful employment.”
Graduate school readiness and services
ATMOS has grown considerably, currently advising over 165 undergraduate students. The students can opt in at any time to participate in activities and career advising sessions. “As long as I have been in the program, career development has been the most important piece,” says Green.
Previously, ATMOS has not focused on graduate school readiness since certain programs, particularly The Portland MBA, are tailored for professionals with several years of work experience. But graduate school remains a great option for students like Jallow, who already have professional experience, or other students whose career paths are certain to require a graduate degree. For students who have not decided on their next steps, Green assures, “We can nurture you later on in your career. And if you’re going to get your master’s, why not do it at PSU, because I think we just do business differently.”
Building essential professional skills
For Jallow, ATMOS was the perfect opportunity to get the support to excel as an undergraduate student and advance into a graduate business program. Reflecting on her time in the ATMOS program, one of the highlights for Jallow was the collaborative learning environment: “It was great being in a cohort with people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. Sometimes you change your point of view, and sometimes someone else comes around to your way of thinking.” She also credits ATMOS with introducing her to other important business school programs, including Beta Alpha Psi and the Accounting Mentorship Program.
Jallow appreciates all the skills she’s learned at the School of Business, especially her newly honed competencies in finance and data analytics. She enjoys being able to watch financial news and having a deep understanding of what they are talking about.
She is particularly proud of the soft skills she has acquired through ATMOS. A self-identified introvert, Jallow always shied away from networking and making professional contacts. She recalled speaking with a recruiter at an event who asked if she wanted to have coffee, filling her with panic. Luckily, she told her mentor, who not only encouraged her but connected her with a professional to help her practice networking and interviewing skills. Now, she says she feels confident holding her own in professional networking scenarios. Several months away from graduating with her MSF, Jallow has already taken the next step in advancing her career: accepting a position as an auditor with KPMG in Portland.