From CO-OPs to careers: How MSF students are leveraging paid work experience

Within a year of starting the master’s in finance at Portland State, Mar Chavez ’20 went from being a career changer with no previous work experience in finance to landing a full-time job as a financial analyst. She credits her two-term CO-OP experience with helping her make a smooth transition into her desired career.

“I wanted to choose an MSF program where I would have the opportunity to competitively apply to finance internships as a way to get first-hand experience, and PSU’s CO-OP program provided that,” she said.

The CO-OP program, open to eligible MSF and MBA students, allows students to work in industry for a 3- to 12-month period and get paid. 

In spring 2020, just as COVID-19 started hitting the U.S. hard, Chavez secured a CO-OP position with Avamere, a senior healthcare company, allowing her to bridge her past operational experience in healthcare with her new finance education. While still taking classes, she worked 20 hours a week, developing quarterly debt covenant metrics for external stakeholders and budget development for Avamere’s lines of business. 

Her CO-OP was extended through summer term, and by August 2020 as she finished her degree, she was offered a full-time position with Avamere.

“My full-time role allowed for expansion to more financial analyst duties, and with time and hard work, I was working directly with our business partners and C-suite team summarizing, analyzing, and providing data-driven guidance through forecasting, scenario analysis, risk assessment, and other needed ad-hoc analyses,” she said.

After 18 months with the company, she moved on to a dream job — working for a global company in the tech industry. She’s a new product introduction analyst on HP’s Global Business Unit Supplies Finance team.

“With finance being essential in every industry, I was able to utilize the opportunities and experience I got from working at Avamere to pivot to HP,” she said, adding that the MSF program’s emphasis on teamwork and presentations also prepared her for the new role as she collaborates more with other departments and presents to large groups of people from around the globe.

Ron Tinnell ’22 also hopes to find similar success. When the pandemic effectively shut down his catering business, he decided to pursue something he always wanted: a master’s degree in some form of business discipline. Having done internships as an undergrad, he was excited by the prospect of getting hands-on experience through a CO-OP position. 

In mid-January, he was offered a role with tech startup Ampere Computing when one of his instructors and the school’s former chief accounting and budgetary officer, Kathy Black, started working there. While balancing a full course load, Tinnell works 40 hours a week as a facilities intern at Ampere — and even gets full benefits. Among his tasks have been SharePoint web publishing for the company intranet, finalizing content for another internal application, and working to ensure the company meets OSHA rules.

“As a startup, there are many situations where we need to be dynamic and adapt on the fly,” he said. “I frankly love it though and Kathy is great at ‘herding’ this cat.”

Tinnell said being able to go into the company’s Pearl District office everyday has helped him build his network and make his pitch for a permanent position.

“I’ve met four of eight of the C suite people already,” he said. “I’m not arrogant enough to think that this guarantees me anything, but none of this would be possible without the CO-OP and being in the office.”

MSF or MBA students interested in the CO-OP program must complete this survey. You will be notified within 2-4 weeks of completing the survey if you are eligible and what next steps you must take to become ready to apply for CO-OP positions.

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