A Triple Threat
June 25, 2019
At Southwestern, the students are known to be “extra”: they do graduate-level research, they present at conferences and coauthor publications, they are committed to myriad volunteer and student organizations, and they often work one or more part-time jobs. You wouldn’t expect that on top of all this, a student would take on three majors. But when asked how she completed three capstones and graduated with her B.A. in business, mathematics, and Spanish, Gillian Glover ’19 says modestly, “It’s not impossible.”
As a first-year student, Glover planned to focus on chemistry because she was proficient in the sciences. But she admits that her freshman year was a rough start, so she decided to explore other fields that were less intensive. That plan didn’t work out, either. “I started out wanting to do the easiest thing possible, and I just ended up doing the hardest thing possible. But I still don’t understand how biochem majors do it,” she laughs.
Investing in knowledge
Business was her first declared major. Finance especially intrigued her. In her capstone course, for example, she engaged in a business-simulation game in which she had the opportunity to role-play as both the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer of a company that was competing against corporations represented by other student teams in the class. She enjoyed the teamwork as well as learning about financial planning, tracking the simulated company’s cash flow, analyzing its financial strengths and weaknesses, and recommending investment strategies.
Another of her favorite courses at the University was Financial Statement Analysis, a small course taught by Assistant Professor of Business Hazel Nguyen. “Dr. Nguyen is just so funny and sassy,” Glover shares. “She made reading those statements fun. Looking at companies’ balance sheets, income statements, and cash-flow statements—it sounds dreadfully boring, but it’s kind of like a puzzle reading them. And we talked about the ethics of what financial information companies decide to share with their shareholders. It’s one of those classes that you would never know how interesting and enjoyable it is until you’re in it.” She appreciates that learning how to analyze such statements is a skill many in the industry don’t learn until they’re on the job, so she feels fortunate that she is already prepared to write, decipher, and understand them. “I think that will be very important in the future,” she predicts.
The Financial Statement Analysis course is required for members of Southwestern’s highly competitive Financial Analyst Program (FAP). Glover’s fascination with numbers had inspired her to apply, and she was grateful to be accepted, especially considering she was the rare participant to be accepted as a sophomore. She would spend two years in the program. Her junior year, she served as the public-relations officer, which she said was “fun because I was in charge of recruitment, interviewing recruits and making sure we were bonding so that we weren’t strangers running a portfolio.” Her senior year, she transitioned into the statistician role, which satisfied her penchant for working with numbers.
But she was beginning to notice a particular number pattern in both the FAP and her major. “That year, there were a lot of applicants, but I was the only woman who applied,” Glover recalls. “And in my two upper-level finance courses, I was the only woman as well.” She says that the gender gap is characteristic of the finance field at large; she was seeing evidence of female underrepresentation at professional conferences, where guest speakers and other participants would frequently comment on Glover being the only woman attending a given talk. “There aren’t a lot of women in finance, and it’s not just at this school. Women are doing amazing things, but there are very few of us.”
Instead of being dismayed but what she was observing, Glover decided to turn it into an opportunity. “So I’ve also been trying to convince as many women as possible to apply to the FAP,” she comments; she would love to see a 1:1 ratio of women to men at some point. She also wants women to know that if they major in business, they should consider continuing beyond introductory finance classes rather than pursuing a concentration in marketing, which is where most women land. “I haven’t had much difficulty at all,” she maintains. “Everyone listens to me the same. I don’t get treated differently.”
For Glover, the benefits of studying finance and gaining hands-on experience in the FAP are academic as well as personal. “I’ve learned discipline from this,” she reflects. She says she’s been well trained to adhere to a preplanned, logical financial strategy rather than acting on impulse or emotion when it comes to investing money. “If I go into finance or just manage my own retirement funds, I’ll know what to do. Your brain knows better than your heart in finance. Don’t go off what you feel but what you know,” she advises confidently.
The numbers game
In the fall semester of her senior year, Glover found herself focusing almost solely on her second major: she was enrolled in four mathematics classes, one of which was her capstone. Like business, math was an unplanned course of study. She had enjoyed Calculus I in high school, but she didn’t take a math course at Southwestern during her first year. The numbers were calling her back, though, so her second year, she elected Calculus II with Professor and Chair of Mathematics Fumiko Futamura. “She’s one of my favorite people,” Glover says glowingly. “I could talk to her forever. She just made the class so much fun, so I added a math minor.”
Glover says that she’s drawn to courses like calculus because she finds number crunching “therapeutic”: “That’s my favorite kind of math: calculations. It’s so satisfying to do it quickly and get lines and lines and lines of numbers until you get your answer. I love difficult problems like that, but not the abstract ones. I love concrete math applications.”
Completing a project linking mathematics to finance helped Glover decide she needed to elevate mathematics from a minor to a second major. In her Finance and Investments class with Nguyen, Glover realized that certain equations they were learning could be better implemented with the matrices and vectors she was working with in her Linear Algebra class with Futamura. That interdisciplinary project would later influence her capstone, “Make Money with Linear Algebra: A Model of Portfolio Analysis,” which also included programming skills she had learned from Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Schrum. Glover explains, “I actually coded a program that uses linear algebra to analyze financial portfolios”—including Southwestern’s FAP portfolio—“to tell you their risks and returns.” She was excited that the project allowed her to explore the intersection of her business and math majors, and in fall 2018, she presented her findings at the 14th Annual Texas Undergraduate Mathematics Conference.
In her Finance and Investments class with Nguyen, Glover realized that certain equations they were learning could be better implemented with the matrices and vectors she was working with in her Linear Algebra class with Futamura.
She appreciates that Southwestern allowed her to explore her initial interests in the sciences as well as rekindle her passion for numbers in both business and math. “The content can be pretty hard, but it’s good that you can switch majors and still graduate on time here,” she comments. “Otherwise, I’d be miserable.”
Donde hay gana, hay maña
But Glover wasn’t done—not just yet. Soon after declaring her second major in mathematics, she would start inquiring about a third—this one in Spanish. She had studied Latin in high school, which served as a useful foundation, but, she recalls, “I had never taken a Spanish class in my life before Southwestern. There was a joke in my family that I didn’t even know what hola meant. But Dr. Ross was just so cool and encouraging, so even though I felt everyone in the class had more Spanish than me, I didn’t feel awkward.”
It was Professor of Spanish Katy Ross who first broached the idea of studying abroad in Granada, where Glover studied Spanish culture and conversational Spanish in 2017. “It’s not like you’re going to a Spanish class here at Southwestern because it’s immersive—you’re in that country and need to learn how to speak so you can talk to your host family and other people you meet,” she remarks. Soaking up the sun on Spain’s resplendent beaches, sampling tapas, admiring the historic architecture, and taking advantage of inexpensive travel were just some of the highlights of Glover’s six-week trip. It’s no wonder that she decided to minor in language study.
But after her return to SU, Glover approached Ross with a proposition. “‘Don’t laugh at me, and don’t say I’m crazy,’” Glover said to her advisor, “‘but can I triple major?’” Almost to her surprise, Ross responded encouragingly, but she warned that Glover would have to take course overloads for three semesters and study abroad in Argentina the next summer to complete all her requirements.
Glover welcomed a second opportunity to learn and travel in Buenos Aires, in part because she was keen on comparing the culture and lifestyle of two Spanish-speaking countries on different continents. “In Spain, the culture focused a lot on history whereas Argentina was more about its more recent volatile past,” she remembers. She also delighted in South America’s sublime natural wonders. “The Iguazu Falls were amazing, and Perito Moreno Glacier was so breathtaking,” she relates with relish. “I love hiking and nature, and I’m definitely more of a nature person than a city person, so it was really cool to see those.” Of course, arriving in Argentina in winter meant a polar-opposite experience from having studied in Spain during the sweltering summer: in Granada, she often sought out the air conditioning at local fast-food restaurants to get her homework done, but Buenos Aires was in the midst of a freezing winter, where Glover was less than sartorially prepared for the cold temperatures. “It was freezing, but I didn’t bring any big heavy clothes!” she laughs.
She was also happily plunged into the carnivalesque atmosphere of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which was taking place in Russia that summer but was broadcast on a giant screen in the centrally located amphitheater Parque Centenario in Buenos Aires. “That was amazing,” she says. “The whole city shut down while there was a game. During a normal day, there’d be men in business suits cheering. It was a big part of the culture there, and it was so cool to be part of all of that… . There’s nothing like being in a different culture, especially over that amount of time, when you can get to be really familiar with it.”
The million-dollar question
Glover still maintains that triple majoring at Southwestern is “not not doable,” especially if you receive substantial college credit during high school through Advancement Placement tests and dual credit. But she is also grateful to have had Ross as her champion. “I don’t think I would have been able to do it without Dr. Ross. I think the advising here really helped me with that.”
But she also is adamant that she’s not majoring in business, mathematics, and Spanish just to build her résumé. “I do all three majors because I love all of them, not because I think they sound cool. I wouldn’t do this if I hated them,” she insists.
“I do all three majors because I love all of them, not because I think they sound cool. I wouldn’t do this if I hated them.”
As she considers her many career options, Glover admits that her postgraduation plan is “the million-dollar question”: “I don’t know what I want to do because I like all of it!” she exclaims. She says she loves numbers, but she also finds fulfillment working with and motivating people. For example, in addition to her three majors, she has been a student–athlete, swimming her first year and joining lacrosse her senior year. She worked as a math tutor and a Spanish teaching assistant. And she served as music chair, membership-development chair, and vice president of membership for her sorority, Delta Delta Delta, the last of which entailed recruiting new members and successfully planning and marketing six major events as well as workshops throughout her last year at Southwestern.
Because philanthropy is such a major component of the Tri Delta experience, including hosting fundraisers for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Glover feels that her sorority—reinforced by her coursework and the Southwestern community—has “made [her] a more service-oriented person.” Reflecting on her Southwestern Experience, she says much of her academic and cocurricular education has resulted in personal growth. “I have learned so much, changed so much, and grown so much in four years. Southwestern gave me an environment in which I wanted to do things [such as volunteer and donate money] and made it more a part of my life,” she comments. “In high school, I was always that person who did service only because I had to. But now, people here on campus encourage you to do it, and you see why it’s important. The students and faculty on this campus are very conscientious and want to help people. And Southwestern makes it so that you can do everything.”