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Double major, 3.5 years, debt free and hired before graduation — How’d she do that?

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Senior accounting and information systems double major Grace Olson has capped off her wide array of student experiences with her student-faculty collaborative research project on April 14 at NCUR, the national undergraduate conference held at UW-Eau Claire.

If you ask senior accounting and information systems student Grace Olson how she is managing to complete a double major in under four years and will graduate next December with a job in hand and no loan debt to pay, she will likely attribute it to the fact that she “likes to stay busy.” 

To say she “stayed busy” would be an understatement. 

In addition to pursuing two majors, a certificate of equity, diversity and inclusion, entering the University Honors Program and taking part in a range of student organizations, Olson has committed to paying for all her tuition herself each semester. Throughout her time as a first-generation student, Olson has worked multiple jobs each semester, up to 25 hours per week and double that in the summers. 

blond female student in front of a classroom at a white board

Olson presented at NCUR to an audience of student and faculty researchers from universities across the nation. She says her project "examined the role of envy in the dark behaviors associated with imposter syndrome."

When asked what her “secrets” were to this impressive student career, Olson did divulge some tips to maintaining her pace and academic standards while enrolled in her dual degrees. In no certain order, those tips are: 

  • Take advantage of opportunities to enter college with existing credits, from advanced placement classes or community or technical college. Olson attended a high school near UW-Eau Claire – Barron County and began her first semester here with a double-digit credit total from classes taken during high school.
  • Take advantage of summer and winter terms — Olson took a full course load in three summer sessions and two winter terms.  
  • Stay in contact with academic advising, even for general credits. Many of Olson’s early general education courses fulfilled requirements for both the accounting and information systems majors.
  • Apply for scholarships — each semester there are department-level and Foundation funds that might be a match for student program accomplishments and financial need.
  • Get involved with student groups — Olson attended BOBfest her first semester and says she signed up for “probably 14 orgs” and remained active in several. She says that “getting involved really fostered community and connections from that first year.”
  • Make connections with faculty — Olson attributes much of her sustained focus and success to support and encouragement from faculty.
  • Stay focused — while she knows there must be time for fun and relaxation, Olson says she looks at college as a full-time job. 
four girls in front of an outdoor Christmas tree

Grace Olson encourages all new Blugolds to join at least one student organization. "Last year I went to see the lights in Chippewa Falls at Irvine Park with friends I met in three different student orgs — it's a great way to make friends!"

“I have literally structured my weeks as four days of 12-hour workdays for school, ‘clocked in’ from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. That gave me Friday afternoons and weekends to hang out with friends and not be stressed about schoolwork.”  

Mark Alfuth

Mark Alfuth, senior lecturer in accounting and finance

One member of the College of Business faculty who Olson says has played an early and significant role in her success was Mark Alfuth, senior lecturer in accounting and finance at UW-Eau Claire. 

“He taught one of my first business core classes freshman year. Although that was my only class with him, he’s been the one to always remember me, greet me in the halls and eventually offered support like writing recommendation letters for my scholarships. I’ve really valued that kind of support,” says the Spooner native.

Alfuth is proud to have offered that support. 

“One of the advantages of a university like UW-Eau Claire is the ability to meet directly with instructors as needed,” Alfuth says. “Interactions certainly include questions about class material, but also often include advice about careers.”  

“Instructors can play a key role helping students transition to being a professional. It’s a joy to watch a student like Grace reach the place she is today.”  — Mark Alfuth, College of Business  

Her impressive academic record and out-of-classroom experiences helped Olson secure an accounting internship at Anderson, Hager and Moe in her hometown of Spooner, a rare full-year internship. The firm already has offered her a position after fall graduation. 

“Although I had about 20 internship offers, I know that a small-town lifestyle is my ultimate career goal, so taking the one at home felt like the right move,” Olson says. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities that my UW-Eau Claire education has offered.” 

two male one female students in business attire in the Dakota Ballroom of Davies Center, career fair

Grace Olson, center, and fellow leadership in the UW-Eau Claire chapter of the Student Accounting Society helped plan and execute the annual accounting and finance career fair in Davies Center.