KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Combining the demands of being a student-athlete and the rigors of a graduate program can be daunting, but that is exactly what Natalie Samdal is doing—advancing her finance acumen by pursuing a graduate degree from Western Michigan University while continuing her golf career.
Samdal came to Western in fall 2022 to pursue a Master of Science in finance with a specialty in data analytics and to join the Bronco golf team. It’s a winning combination for Samdal, one that offers her the flexibility to pursue both goals.
“As a student-athlete, I’m not always able to control when I will be out of class,” says Samdal. “Professors have been very flexible, working with my schedule so I can learn the material and make up any coursework that I may have missed while competing for WMU. The HyFlex finance courses give students the choice to attend class in person or virtually on a day-to-day basis, which has been incredible.”
Learning that material in her first two courses—financial management and financial data analytics—helped Samdal secure her current role as a finance intern. Using her golf connections after moving to Kalamazoo from Grand Rapids to find internship opportunities, it was the new skills she acquired in those first courses that let her make an immediate impact at One Way Products, Inc. in Kalamazoo.
“Using the knowledge and skills learned in my first semester of the M.S. in finance, I was able to benefit the company tremendously from the first week on the job,” explains Samdal. “The career-specific specialties in the WMU program are exciting. I chose an analytics specialty that immediately translated to the requirements for my internship. In applying my data analytics education, I exceeded my manager’s expectations for my position and expanded the scope of with new projects and responsibilities.”
Samdal continues to expand her knowledge and understanding of the financial intricacies of business in her current courses. For the spring 2023 semester, she is enrolled in visual analytics and financial econometrics and forecasting courses.
Prior to WMU, Samdal earned a B.B.A. in accounting from Davenport University in Grand Rapids, where she graduated with honors, competed for the golf team and was a two-time Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Academic Excellence Team honoree. She was also named to the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Academic Scholar Team. Samdal is certain that her accounting background and her advanced finance studies are the winning sequence for her future career.
“The combination of accounting and finance adds an extra layer of understanding to a company’s financials,” she says. “Choosing to pursue an M.S. in finance allows me to have a greater understanding of all areas of any company. I will be able to look at financial statements before making any decisions regarding investing, budgeting and more. The ability to connect the accounting side with the finance side of a company will be a huge benefit to my professional career.”
For Samdal, the WMU program is the ideal choice for her and for others. From the technology resources available to students to the one-on-one relationships with professors to the small class sizes and tight-knit student groups, Samdal encourages other students to enroll.
“The Haworth College of Business at Western is outstanding and has become my community within WMU” she says.
If you are considering furthering your finance education, Samdal has one piece of advice: “Just do it! It’s so worth it.”
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