Melissa Tacey

Master’s in Commerce Provides a Boost Up the Career Ladder

Melissa Tacey (College ’09, McIntire ’10)

O’Connell Global Immersion M.S. in Commerce Endowment

While an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Melissa S. Tacey completed three summer internships with the U.S. Department of Defense. She learned that a bachelor’s degree would place her at a GS-7 level on the federal pay scale, but a master’s degree would move her up to a GS-9 level, promising higher lifetime earnings and putting her on track for an executive career.

“I didn’t want to work days and study nights to get my master’s degree after taking a job, so I decided to get it done all at once,” she said.

Last fall, Tacey, a native of Woodbridge, Virginia, enrolled in the Master’s in Commerce program in the McIntire School of Commerce. She had earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in economics and history from the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences the previous spring. In spring 2009, she received her master’s degree in commerce with a concentration in marketing and management from McIntire.

“A master’s in commerce allows me to take what I learned in economics and apply it,” she said, “and management gives me a handle on whatever I do in the future, no matter what industry I go into.”

The master’s degree in commerce comprises a core curriculum in business; a specialization in marketing and management or financial services; and a five-week global immersion experience. The study abroad trip allows students to apply their classroom knowledge in a global setting, while introducing them to the social, economic, and cultural dynamics of global organizations.

Tacey chose a trip to Southeast Asia. Dean Carl Zeithaml and Peter Maillet, associate dean for global initiatives, traveled with the group.

While her parents paid for her undergraduate education, Tacey was on her own financially for graduate school. To pay her bills, she spent many hours outside of class teaching fitness classes at U.Va.’s Aquatic and Fitness Center and babysitting.

She was happy to learn she was one of eight M.S. in Commerce students selected to receive O’Connell Global Immersion Awards. The grants, offered for the first time this year, help students cover travel expenses for their global immersion experience.

The O’Connell Global Immersion M.S. in Commerce Endowment, established by John T. O’Connell (McIntire ’79) and his wife, Anita D. O’Connell, in April 2009, funds annual student awards of at least $500 and enhancements related to the program’s global immersion component.

“We were first exposed to the program through our son, Robert (who received a master’s degree in commerce in 2009), and we were really energized by his experiences—especially the GIE (global immersion experience),” John O’Connell said. “We wanted to make the program more affordable to a broader cross section of students.”

Tacey used the award to cover the cost of her plane ticket to Asia.

While she hasn’t yet landed a federal job with a GS rating, she’s not worried. Just before leaving on her international trip, she accepted a job with Northrop Grumman Corporation in Northern Virginia. She’ll be working in the technical services department with U.S. Air Force civil engineering operations.

And she’ll have her master’s degree in hand.