A few weeks into her co-op job at MFS Investment Management, Kristen Reardon asked if she could meet with the company president, Carol Geremia.
Reardon, a business administration major from Medfield, Mass., had recently helped launch a Women in Finance student group in the Manning School of Business, and she wanted to get Geremia’s thoughts about succeeding in the male-dominated industry.
Their meeting turned into a long-term mentorship. 
“The fact that the president was so willing to back me up as a co-op was eye-opening. She has helped me develop so much personally and professionally,” says Reardon, who continued working full-time over the summer at MFS after her six-month client services and relationship management co-op ended in June. Then she ended up staying part-time during the fall of her junior year.
“Working at MFS has been transformational for me,” says Reardon, who was unsure going in if she wanted to work in finance. The co-op “debunked” her assumptions about the industry. 
“I’ve learned that women really do have a seat at the table in the industry, but not having the correct company culture can really affect how you use that seat,” she says. “It’s a quick-paced industry, and it’s hard to stay afloat and stay confident in yourself if you don’t have people backing you up.”
When Reardon’s Women in Finance group surveyed students on how companies like MFS could better recruit women, she shared the results with Geremia. Geremia was so impressed that she asked Reardon and fellow group leader Melanie Sunnerberg, also a co-op at MFS, to present the data to her management team — which was done virtually on Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Presenting to them was such an amazing feeling. It was so big for both of us,” says Reardon, who has gained confidence in her public speaking abilities at MFS. “Getting real-world experience with it in an organization like that, you realize it’s not so bad.”
Reardon worked for two months at the MFS office in Boston, “running around preparing portfolio materials for big client meetings.” When the co-op transitioned to remote work from home in March because of the pandemic, Reardon took the opportunity to train with the sales and speaker coordination teams to make sure she had plenty to do.
“You need to have that mindset where you want to be challenged,” says Reardon, who also met one-on-one during her co-op with the namesake of her business school, MFS Executive Chairman Rob Manning ’84, ’11 (H).
“I had all these questions prepared, but the second we started talking he was like, ‘Tell me about you and how we can help you.’” Reardon says. “It shows his character and leadership style.” 
The Professional Co-op Program was a big reason Reardon chose UMass Lowell (along with its accessible price and nationally ranked hockey team). The inclusive culture in the Manning School, and at UML in general, has been a welcome discovery, she says.
“UMass Lowell has a great balance of being there to support you, but they’re not going to walk you step by step. It’s up to you to take the opportunity,” says Reardon, who started the Women in Finance group as a spinoff of the Joy Tong Women in Business student organization.
“We’re not an official organization, more a resource and networking platform,” says Reardon, who has invited Geremia and Manning School alum Kelsie Nadeau ’14, an internal wholesaler at MFS, to speak with students about money management and investing.
“I still have so much to learn,” says Reardon, whose concentrations are in finance and management. “But I have a platform and connection to MFS, so why not use it in a way to get more students interested in finance?”