Michael Polan poses on a New York City street in a suit and tie

On the fast track

Michael Polan '15, MBA '16, is a project analyst at Bank of America Merchant Services.

M

ichael Polan ’15, MBA ’16, has more than a majestic view of Manhattan from his midtown office on the 42nd floor. He also has a front row seat to global banking.

As a project analyst at Bank of America Merchant Services in New York, Polan manages credit card processing for both domestic and overseas clients. He works hard to reduce their exposure to stock market volatility, default and other risks identified during audits. “I enjoy managing multiple work streams,” said Polan, who grew up on Long Island and now lives in New Jersey.

He credits Quinnipiac’s accelerated dual-degree program — an innovative, cost-effective way to earn a bachelor’s degree in three years and a master's in the fourth year — for giving him a head start in his career with an MBA.

“We were the guinea pig class. The program wasn’t even on the business school website yet when I was invited [in 2012],” Polan said. “Cost is such a big factor in deciding where to go to school. For me to get two degrees in four years — with the fixed tuition and not having to pay extra for grad school — it made a lot of sense.”

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Students smile while paddling a large canoe on the Connecticut River as part of a teamwork exercise

Working together

The Connecticut River in Hartford provided a picturesque and challenging backdrop for an exercise in teamwork for freshmen in the School of Business accelerated dual-degree program.

It also made sense to Samantha Tran ’20, MBA ’21. Tran enjoyed meeting other newcomers to the accelerated dual-degree program last August during a team-building event at Riverfront Park in Hartford. During the exercise, students learned concepts of teamwork as they worked to coordinate their paddling to navigate the long, canoe-like dragon boats on the Connecticut River. Tran described the experience as challenging but fun.

The marketing major and honors student said the dual-degree program was the main reason she chose to attend Quinnipiac: “The overall concept and receiving my MBA at the end of my four years here was the selling point.”

In addition to the School of Business, Quinnipiac’s School of Law, School of Health Sciences, School of Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences offer accelerated dual-degree programs. Students who rank in the top 20 percent of their high school class and score at least 1200 on the SAT or 25 on the ACT are invited to apply.

Quinnipiac also offers five-year dual-degree programs with a seamless transition from undergraduate to graduate studies. Instead of having to apply to multiple graduate schools and take the GMAT, the GRE or other standardized tests, dual-degree students enroll in both programs from the start. In fact, several programs allow students to apply up until the spring semester of their junior year.

Although these dual-degree programs are available across higher education, Quinnipiac is one of only a few institutions that offer accelerated dual-degree programs; others include Brown University, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia.

For years, the conventional MBA track saw students — often in their 30s — enroll full time in programs after spending several years in the workplace. That changed about a decade ago with the advent of online graduate programs and fewer companies picking up the tab for grad school.

Quinnipiac saw the opportunity in 2012 and began to help students envision a new MBA model, even if it was a bit unconventional at the time. The School of Business had successfully piloted the idea a few years earlier with some highly motivated, talented students.

“The students in the accelerated dual-degree program have had great internship opportunities and really strong job placements,” said Matthew O’Connor, School of Business dean. He developed the program’s model at Quinnipiac. “Sometimes we might have to educate employers a little — we knew that was going to happen — but once they understand the quality, the caliber and the capabilities of these students, they seek them out.”

For Polan, the return on investment is clear. Before he landed his current job with Bank of America Merchant Services, he worked as an intern for the company. 

“During my interviews, the program was a great talking point,” he said. “It generated a lot of interest because of what it says about your work ethic, your time management skills and the head start it gives you over other candidates without an MBA.”

Elizabeth Helenek ’15, MBA ’16, said the accelerated program helped her get hired as a risk analyst for project management at JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s largest bank. Helenek coordinates the model risk procedures to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Like Polan, her success came from doubling up on classes and doubling down on a dream.

Although she sometimes found it difficult to complete 19 credits in a semester, she said it was worth it. “This program really stands out when you are applying for a job. When people see my resume, they seem very surprised. I got my MBA when I was 21 years old. Not many people can say that,” Helenek noted.

Helenek also managed to study abroad in London and assume leadership positions with Kappa Alpha Theta, one of 10 sororities on campus. Her biggest break came when she was checking in professionals for a program at the Center for Women and Business.

“There was this one person from JPMorgan in New York, and I made it my mission to find her at the networking event,” Helenek said. “When I found her, we had a really nice conversation. She told me she had a lot of contacts in Boston and New York and asked me to send my resume.”

When a suitable job later opened at JPMorgan, the banking executive remembered Helenek and reached out to her. “She said she had a job on her team and asked me to come in,” said Helenek, who grew up on Long Island, but now lives in Manhattan. “After I got the job, I found out she had talked to a lot of recent graduates, but getting my MBA [sooner] really helped me stand out.”

The School of Communications began offering the accelerated dual-degree program two years ago, but second-year students are already making the most of their opportunities. Gregory Hardman ’19, MS ’20, a double major in English and film, stacked his schedule with math and science classes as a teenager in South Africa. He also shined as a writer and essayist. But after discovering a passion for film when he was about 15, Hardman was eager to spend his college years behind a camera.

“When I got here in 2016, the only thing I knew about filmmaking was that I wanted to do it,” said Hardman, who also is enrolled in the honors program.

“Now I feel confident in my abilities, whether I’m behind the camera or computer screen. I feel like I can finally begin to realize the visions that I’ve had for years.”

For Hardman, the manual experiences of movie making — the editing, the lighting, the sound — complemented his love of writing. Film became a perfect platform to lay out his narratives and develop his characters. By the end of his first year, including summer classes, he had collected 51 credits. He also gets hands-on experience as a production assistant for Quinnipiac Productions, which produces media content across the university.

But to tell the kind of stories he envisioned, Hardman felt he had to see more of the world first. He hopes to take part in the QU in LA program this summer. He also has been accepted to a “Cinema of India” course this fall with associate professor Ewa Callahan that concludes with a travel component to Mumbai in January 2019.

“To me, the [accelerated dual-degree program] is more about timing. I want to get out in the field as soon as I can,” Hardman said. “I want to get going, make some progress and work my way up the ladder. The younger I can start, the better off I’ll be. I want to get as many experiences as possible so I can apply that worldview to my films.”

Samantha Bashaw ’19, MS ’20, also wants to tell stories, but her medium of choice is long-form magazine journalism. After transferring more than 30 college-level credits from high school, Bashaw came to campus with enough credits to qualify as a sophomore in the School of Communications. It was all part of her master plan.

“I knew I wanted to go into journalism as a career right away,” Bashaw said. But in the back of her mind, she thought about earning a master’s as well. “But I never imagined I could do both in four years before the [program] packet came in the mail.”

The program has given Bashaw a head start with student media as well. After spending her first year as a staff writer for The Quinnipiac Chronicle, she became arts and life editor this year. “I’ve found myself ahead of the curve many times, not just because I was taking more credits,” she said. “Everything I was learning in class — AP style, how to use InDesign — I was able to apply right from the start.”

Bashaw grew up in Peru, New York, a town of nearly 7,000 people about 80 miles south of Montreal. She is yearning to see the world — and write about it. She is studying in Dublin this spring and hopes to take part in the QU in LA program in the fall.