Degree: MS in Economics
Class Year: 2017
Position and Employer: Quantitative Analyst II, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
Hometown: West Virginia
It was the location in Philadelphia that first made Leigh-Ann Wilkins consider Drexel University. But after talking to a number of faculty members, she knew the Drexel master of science in economics program was the right fit for her.
Having just completed her undergraduate degree in economics and psychology at West Virginia University, Wilkins came to Drexel not knowing what area of economics she was interested in studying but hoped to figure it out through her classes. She found that the faculty in the School of Economics were able to both challenge and support her. She sees them as a major strength of the program.
“I had a lot of great professors,” she said. “Every professor we had, if you went to them and said you didn’t understand something, they worked so hard to make sure did and give you the resources you needed.”
Her professors used difficult assignments to challenge her and her classmates to work through the problems and come to class better prepared for discussion. Wilkins said it was the first time she encountered this teaching method, but she found it very effective. It engaged her between classes and made her ask better questions. She believe the classes prepared her well for her summer internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where she completed data collection and analysis for banking and too big to fail research. She was able to take the theory she was learning in class and apply it in a real-world setting. Through that, she discovered that she enjoyed this area of research more than she expected.
“I was given a research question and told go,” she said. “That had never happened to me before.”
Of course, she learned practical research and data analysis skills like programming. But the biggest impact of the internship was in helping her identify her area of interest within the field of economics. She hopes to continue her work in too big to fail research in the future, possibly while pursuing a PhD.
Wilkins notes she would not have had this opportunity if it hadn’t been for Drexel’s extensive network and strong reputation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reached out to the MS in Economics program looking for the best students to interview for a summer internship. That is how Wilkins landed the job.
“The one thing that is unique about the Drexel program is that the [undergraduate] co-op program makes this such a good school for connections. Period.”
“The network is so strong that when you are looking for an internship to get the work experience you need, those connections are there. I don’t think a school without the co-op program would have those connections.”
“People in Philadelphia contact Drexel because they know it is a great school,” she said. “That is how I got my internship to begin with and why I have my job.”
Wilkins was offer a permanent role at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia as a quantitative analyst while finishing up her final term of classes. When a position was opening up, her supervisor from her summer internship suggested her for the role. An impending federal hiring freeze required her to push up her start date. For the final seven weeks of her graduate program, Wilkins worked full-time at the Federal Reserve and attended classes full-time to complete her degree.
“When it comes to finding a job, I think the connections at Drexel really put you a foot ahead. If you do well, you have professors that are willing to go the extra mile for you. They’re willing to say ‘we want to help you do this.’ If I would have went anywhere else, I would not have had this opportunity.”