Torin Samuelson prepares for career in information systems with help of Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant
Torin Samuelson couldn’t believe it when he found the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant.
He was preparing to go back to school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and had already applied for federal financial aid. However, he was interested to see what assistance Missouri could provide. He stumbled across the program by accident while searching a government website.
Having never heard of Fast Track, Samuelson was amazed to find that he was eligible to receive a grant toward pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting at UMSL from the new financial aid program.
“I was used to finding programs – these great programs – but the eligibility is so niche,” he said. “I was so surprised when I actually met the qualifications for this one.”
The funding has helped him to excel academically – adding a second major – and secure several internships to prepare for a future career in information systems.
“I think it’s important that if you’re going to be participating in a full-time program that you need to be all there,” Samuelson said. “You need to be ready to take on the challenges, and financial burdens are one of those creeping burdens. They’re ever present, and it’s going to hinder your education.”
The Fast Track program is working to alleviate those burdens for Missourians like Samuelson.
It launched in 2019 and is aimed at addressing workforce needs in Missouri by supporting adults who intend to pursue degrees in high-need fields. The program is open to individuals without bachelor’s degrees 25 years and older or those who haven’t been enrolled in any school within the past two years.
The awards vary by individual, but they are designed to fully cover tuition and fees not already covered by other state and federal student aid programs. Recipients must maintain Missouri residency and work in the state for three years after graduation.
“Education changes lives,” Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan said. “Fast Track shows that Missouri is serious about reaching our adult population. This program opens up opportunities for training and education that many adults have not considered possible.”
The high-need occupations were identified by using employment projections developed by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, and Samuelson said it was a happy coincidence that he intended to study an eligible field.
His interest in accounting started in a high school when he took two advanced placement courses on the subject, but the prospect of an office job unnerved Samuelson at the time. Instead, he opted to take a break from school, work a few odd jobs and spend more time on his hobbies.
“When I graduated high school, I had what I call a white-collar crisis,” Samuelson said. “I just decided that it wasn’t the move for me at the time. But here I am a few years later, having had time to reflect on my experiences and what I want out of life and of course I found my way back to accounting.”
While working in logistics at Carvana, Samuelson decided to enroll at St. Louis Community College to pursue an associate degree in accounting. At the behest of his advisor, he switched to general transfer studies with the intention of furthering his education.
UMSL’s reputation preceded it when it came time to choose a bachelor’s program.
“It’s one of those things where it’s a big name here in St. Louis – a ton of alumni everywhere,” Samuelson said. “I had known so many people that I’ve worked with who have been mentors to me throughout my life that have all either been enrolled at UMSL or who have had experiences with UMSL.”
Samuelson has enjoyed working with the professors in the Accounting Department and values the diverse curriculum and opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds – professional and personal.
“I really appreciate that it’s a very portable degree,” he said. “An understanding of accounting grants you an understanding, to a certain degree, of finance or business strategy because the curriculum is so broad. It really helps you understand the big picture.”
After taking one of Assistant Teaching Professor Paul Van Wert’s classes, Samuelson became particularly interested in information systems.
“He mentioned that the outlook for accountants is increasingly dependent on their proficiency in information systems types of skills,” he recalled.
Samuelson gained real-world experience with information systems in his role at Carvana, working with tools such as database management and data visualization software. To reinforce those skills and make himself more marketable after graduation, Samuelson picked up a second major in information systems.
Ideally, he would like to land a position at World Wide Technology in St. Louis.
“I see myself obviously working with accounting and finance, but I think my long-term aspiration is to be more in a strategy or leadership type role,” Samuelson said.
Until he’s ready to enter the job market, Samuelson will gain experience in the industry through a series of internships. He already has three set up – one this winter, one next summer and one next fall.
The first internship is with UHY, where he will work in public accounting. From there, Samuelson will go to Bayer to help the company implement newer systems into its workflows, and finally, he will go back to UHY to work on information systems risk and compliance.
Two degrees and three internships will be a lot of work, but Samuelson isn’t going to stop there. He plans to come back to UMSL for a graduate degree to advance his ambition to earn a leadership position.
“I imagine that I’ll gravitate toward a master of business administration because I am pursuing that strategic goal,” he said. “I think there’s a little bit more return coming from an MBA. Additionally, I do intend to acquire my CPA license, which is an accreditation that a lot of public accountants seek. The CPA license requires 150 credit hours of study, so it just fits hand-in-hand with pursuing that master’s.”
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