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When Briana Pittman moved to Richmond from Hampton to attend Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business, she was a shy, reserved freshman. But Michelle Blair saw something more.

“I knew from her high school transcript that she was a strong student and would be successful once entering the workforce,” said Blair, a counselor for the university’s TRiO program, which works to increase graduation rates for first-generation students, low-income students and students with disabilities. “However, given her choice of a career [in finance], I believed it would be truly beneficial for her to gain more confidence in her ability to be in front of the room and make decisions in small or large group settings.” 

Blair suggested that Pittman participate in the VCU LEAD Living Learning Community, a two-year program for undergraduate students dedicated to developing their individual leadership skills. 

“I was supportive when she chose LEAD because I thought it was the perfect opportunity for her to socialize and gain leadership skills while also learning more about herself as an individual,” Blair said.

The program significantly increased Pittman’s involvement in the VCU community and her confidence when working in teams or groups.

“At the end of the program, we had to reflect on all of the activities we had participated in since joining, which was very impactful because I had not realized how much I had grown over those two years,” Pittman said.

Thanks to LEAD, Pittman had the confidence to become a TRiO ambassador and a peer financial literacy coach for Money Spot — a peer-to-peer counseling program for students to better understand their finances. She also joined the Eta Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

“The most memorable thing that has happened to me is joining Delta Sigma,” she said. “I have enjoyed hosting … programs that impact the black community, one being ‘Owning Your Loans,’ which informed the community to be aware of their financial position as well as knowing where they stand so that they have a plan to repay their loans after graduating. I enjoy working with my sisters to create powerful change and give back to the community.” 

But Pittman is most proud of graduating summa cum laude. She pushed herself toward this accomplishment after making the dean’s list her freshman year. Remembering that feeling, she strived to maintain her 4.0 GPA. She is also proud to be a first-generation college graduate who is entering the workforce a semester early. 

Last summer, Pittman interned with Dominion Energy in the tax department. After finishing the internship, she used the School of Business Career Services to find a position at the Federal Reserve Bank as an analyst. She begins her new job in January. 

Pittman became interested in finance while in high school. She was able to merge her love of math and business while taking classes at VCU.

“Finance is not only useful for managing organizations, but it is also important for understanding my personal finances as well, which I have learned through my experience as a money coach for the Money Spot,” Pittman said. 

Most importantly to Pittman is the fact that she is leaving VCU debt-free, thanks to merit-based scholarships — something that was also important to her family.

“I am glad I could make them proud,” she said.

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