Laser Focus

Can you balance a double major, an internship, graduating early, and a fun college experience? Mikhayla White, BS ’19 economics and statistics, shows you how.
Mikhayla White
Melody Galen
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science

Not everyone gets to have a career epiphany, but when you do, it’s probably best to heed it.

Senior Mikhayla White graduated in May after only three years at Mizzou, and she makes it sound almost easy to pull off a double major of economics and statistics in a year (or two) less than most.

Mikhayla White

In her last semester of high school, White took an economics course, and she knew, “This is it! I have to know more.” And so she became an economics major. She had enjoyed statistics in high school, too, and thought the two majors would be an incredible blend.

Knowing in your core what you want to do “when you grow up” takes some stress out of a decision that stumps many college students. White knew exactly where she wanted to end up, and her focus has had to be laser sharp to get her there in this short amount of time.

Double Majoring

Because she came to MU with most of her general education requirements already covered by high school advanced placement classes, White pulled off the double major by always taking at least 15 credit hours in a semester but never more than 18. She also never took summer classes.

“Double majoring in economics and statistics has its perks because the degree programs have a lot of overlap,” White says. “More often than not, I was able to take a class that would satisfy both degrees. Successfully doing this double major is manageable, but it is certainly contingent upon time management.”

Professor & Mentor

One of the keys to success in college is often finding a mentor. It could be a professor, an adviser, another student, or really anyone at all. Someone who will offer advice and help guide you.

For White, that person was Professor Joseph Haslag from the Department of Economics.

Joseph Haslag and Mikhayla White

Haslag has helped guide her during her Mizzou career, and the two have even collaborated on research that will culminate in a published book chapter. White says Haslag shared his preliminary data and ideas for the project with her, and because they weren’t under tight time constraints, they had the freedom to work at a more leisurely pace. They met weekly or bi-weekly to set objectives and review findings. White’s role was secondary data collection and data analysis. She used R for computing descriptive statistics, running linear regressions, and creating plots.

Getting hands-on research experience is something every student should aim for during college.

Lecture as a Learning Experience

Joseph Haslag economics class

Of her favorite experience since she arrived at Mizzou, White says, “I feel I’m kind of living it right now.” She has a mentor she admires, and she doesn’t just enjoy her classes—she relishes them—Haslag’s Econ 4329: The Banking System and the Money Market in particular.

“Listening to him lecture doesn’t feel like a lecture. It feels like he’s talking to me about economics, and to have that passion and to be in the presence of someone who has so many experiences about something I’m extremely passionate about—every lecture is a learning experience,” says White.

A Perspective-changing Internship

Another important marker for White’s time at Mizzou has been her experience as a capital markets and accounting intern at Veterans United Home Loans since August. She helps the company analyze data to assess how well it is managing its money among each of the companies it works with to assist with funding the company’s loans. It’s been an intense experience, working 16–20 hours a week in addition to her regular studies, and she has learned some things about herself and the work world during her internship.

As a student, White says her life has been very “me-centric.” Her life is prioritized around her class schedule and academic responsibilities. “Being in a professional work environment, it’s not about me anymore. My responsibilities affect other people’s responsibilities,” she says. Her internship has taught her to be “willing to listen to all kinds of ideas and keep an open line of communication.”

How to Pull It Off

Mikhayla White and classmates at DataFest

White has a simple roadmap to her success: focus. “I devote my time, my energy, everything into my academics,” she says.

She recently spent an entire weekend crunching data (around the clock!) with other students during DataFest, a nationally coordinated weekend-long data analysis competition that is sponsored by the American Statistical Association and hosted on campus by the Department of Statistics.

“The time constraints and extensiveness of the data made for an intense environment that fostered so much creativity,” she says. “It was exciting to see all of the group presentations and how differently we all approached the data. And it was gratifying to see how I can apply my statistical background outside of a classroom setting.”

Flying Through College

White is excited for all the new experiences that she is able to move on to more quickly by graduating early.

“I’ve been dedicated to school for roughly seven years now,” she says. “It’s a great time to welcome change.” But that spirit of discovery is tempered by a bit of regret that she is having to leave her new friends so soon after making them.

Advice to a Freshman

It’s okay to be vulnerable

She admits it was a “pride thing” that kept her from wanting to ask questions in her first year at MU. “I wanted to figure things out on my own,” she says. She did a bit of suffering in silence, but she has seen that can ultimately be a waste of time.

It’s good to unwind

White works out four times a week, and she occasionally falls asleep watching a movie. She learned quickly in her first year that running on nothing but coffee and no sleep is not the way to go. “Taking care of yourself as much as possible makes each day much easier,” she says.

Be open and don’t isolate yourself

She was a College of Arts and Science Ambassador her junior year, and she is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, an international economics society. White realizes that while she may lean heavily on her professors, it’s her fellow students who are experiencing the same kinds of things she is facing.

“Some days I would go the entire day without any student interaction, which really started to take a mental toll on me. Making genuine connections and friends has completely altered my college experience,” says White. “My friendships have given me reasons to go to the events on campus that, otherwise, I would never have gone to.”

Mikhayla White by Jesse Hall

Scholarship Success

Another thing that has helped White succeed at Mizzou: scholarships.

White is grateful for the scholarship package that got her to Mizzou. As an incoming freshman, she applied for the George C. Brooks Scholarship through the MU financial aid website, and she has since earned additional scholarships through the economics and statistics departments. She applied directly through economics for the Clay J. Anderson Memorial Scholarship and the Department of Economics Leaders Board Excellence Award. The Albert Winemiller Undergraduate Scholarship came from statistics, while the John M. Kuhlman Scholarship was through the College of Arts and Science. Those scholarships mean a lot to her.

“This is my passion,” says White. “I put a lot of time and my resources into studying and doing well. To see it literally paying off by receiving scholarships and being acknowledged is worth something. It’s worth a lot.”

Mizzou Memories

Mikhayla White by the Mizzou columns

What will White miss most about Mizzou?

“I’m going to miss learning. As nerdy as it sounds, I’m going to miss going to class and being exposed to topics that you just don’t talk about every day,” she says.

Conversely, she is looking forward to applying the skills and concepts she’s learned in her classes to real-life situations. “I’m excited to see the worth that’s actually going to come out of all the time and effort that I’ve put into being here the last three years.”

Her Future’s So Bright…

In true Mikhayla White style, she has a job lined up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with T. Rowe Price, the global asset management firm. She found the role through a job posting on LinkedIn, and she’s accepted an associate position with the company. The entire process took three weeks. White says the company was very accommodating with her class and work schedule, and she never had to travel for an interview. She’s thrilled that she will be working directly with clients.

“Mikhayla is an extraordinarily curious and organized person,” says Professor Haslag. “Add in her intellectual abilities, and you have a student that is simply a joy to teach and to interact with. She has a very bright future.”

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