Economics spotlight: Vanessa Olivo

Master's student praises department for support and opportunities

Vanessa Olivo, a student in the financial economics program, received the Robert and Karen Lovejoy Economics Scholarship toward graduate education. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Vanessa Olivo, a student in the financial economics program, received the Robert and Karen Lovejoy Economics Scholarship toward graduate education.
Vanessa Olivo, a student in the financial economics program, received the Robert and Karen Lovejoy Economics Scholarship toward graduate education. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

Vanessa Olivo will leave Binghamton University in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a network of people interested in her success.

The student in the accelerated 4+1 economics program credits the Economics Department for the multiple opportunities she has taken advantage of during her time at the University.

“They really want all the people in the program to succeed. There are opportunities where you can do research, even on-campus job opportunities,” she said. “Even as an undergraduate, they’ll inform you of job opportunities, and they’re very big on what you’re going to do in the future.”

One opportunity the Economics Department offers to its economics majors, like Olivo, is the chance to earn a master’s degree in economics in just one year. Participants in the program begin taking graduate-level classes during their senior year.

“When I went to the information session [for the program], I think I was a junior, spring semester. I thought: ‘This is such a good opportunity,’” she said. “I can stay here, start my master’s my senior year and pay undergrad tuition. And then, it’s just the second year I need to pay graduate tuition.”

It’s because of the support she has received from the department that Olivo, a native of Parksville, N.Y., in Sullivan County, decided to extend her stay in the Economics Department. Well, that, and the economics of it.

“I think it was just realizing in the information session that I really didn’t have anything to lose. They brought up the whole thing of economics: If you think it’s going to pay off, the opportunity cost of applying [to the 4+1 program] is quite low,” she said. “You can look for a job, pay the $75 application fee, and if you get a job your senior year, you just get your econ degree and go work your job. You just lose your $75 application fee.”

As an undergraduate, Olivo studied economics as a way to fuel her interest in the real-world application of math. She found, through one of her classes, that she had a knack for business and corporate strategy and decided to specialize in it.

Outside of class, she played trumpet in the pep band, worked as a student ambassador and served as secretary for the National Society for Leadership and Success.

Now, almost halfway through her year as a full-time graduate student, Olivo is confident she made the right choice.

“Getting that extra degree in not that much time, it’s easier for me to do now while I’m still in that school mode, rather than coming back and having to do two years of my master’s. That’s not the easiest thing, and it’s also not the easiest thing to do while you’re working,” Olivo said. “Having that extra degree can put me up a little higher against some other applicants. Knowing a little extra can help push you through.”

She is particularly grateful for the flexibility the program offers her.

“They’re very accommodating,” she said. ”They try to figure out any way to make it work. One of the department administrators (Ginny Stever, assistant to the chair), she’s the best person ever. She’ll do anything for you.”

An email she received from Stever informed Olivo of a scholarship opportunity to apply toward graduate education, the Robert and Karen Lovejoy Economics Scholarship.

Olivo applied, and was awarded the scholarship.

“I was actually very shocked. I got the invitation to the ceremony, and when they called my name I was like: ‘What!’” Olivo said. “One of my professors was so excited for me, and I was really happy it went toward my tuition.”

One of about 25 students in the 4+1 program, Olivo has found community among her fellow students. She said the department encourages creating study groups and working together, especially upon entering graduate-level courses.

“They don’t want you to be in this alone and stressing out,” Olivo said. “I have a few people that I had classes with in undergrad, so we have our own little group chat and we try to do work together. It feels good to have a group of people to not only be in class together, but also to hang out with outside of class.”

Another perspective Olivo believes she has developed through the support of the Economics Department is an emphasis on work-life balance.

“Get ready to really work, take a lot of time with your work and also know you can take time to do the things you still want to do,” Olivo said. “The chairman, he encourages us to keep up with our habits. If it’s something you like to do, find the time to keep doing it. You need to still have that balance. It does really pay off in the end.”

Olivo plans to pursue a career in financial planning after graduation, to help others plan for the future, fund their children’s education and save for retirement.

Thankful for the network of support around her, Olivo is determined to make the most out of the remaining time in her program. But she’s not just doing it for them.

“I’m one of the first people in my family to go to a four-year school and graduate,” Olivo said. “I’m proud to get my BS for my family, but I want to get the master’s for myself. I want to prove that I can do more, to myself.”

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