“I eat, sleep and breathe finance,” business administration major Melanie Sunnerberg says only half-jokingly, after recounting all of the courses, work experiences and extracurricular activities that have prepared her for a career in the financial world.
It could be in Sunnerberg’s DNA. Her mom, Manning School of Business alumna Darcie Sunnerberg ’87, is an associate director at the Boston-based investment firm Loomis, Sayles & Co.
“The more I learn, the more I get excited about finance,” says Sunnerberg, who is from Burlington, Massachusetts. “I would love to work in research, something on the asset management side of finance, helping companies pick stocks or bonds.”
Sunnerberg originally tried on a different career hat, studying fashion design at Lasell University. Realizing it wasn’t a fit, she transferred to UML as a sophomore.
“UMass Lowell had the community that I really wanted, and I loved the aura of the campus,” says Sunnerberg, who also “loved everything about the Manning School,” where her concentrations are in finance and marketing. “The professors have industry experience, the dean really connects with students, and the students are so interconnected and supportive of one another.”
Because she was a transfer student, Sunnerberg joined Joy Tong Women in Business to catch up socially.
“That’s where all of my friendships started,” says Sunnerberg, who became co-president of the organization her senior year.
Sunnerberg also helped launch a Women in Finance initiative to encourage more women to explore careers in the field — or to simply improve their personal financial literacy. With the help of Assoc. Prof. of Finance Eunju Lee, the group launched a simulated, two-month finance competition for students in the spring of 2021.
The group has also hosted guest speakers, including Assoc. Prof. of Finance Ravi Jain (who leads Sunnerberg’s Student Managed Fund course) and MFS Investment Management President Carol Geremia, who Sunnerberg met during her six-month fund risk treasury and internal controls co-op her junior year.
“It was the most wonderful experience that I’ve ever had,” says Sunnerberg, whose co-op duties included handling expense payments for mutual funds. “I was pretty familiar with mutual funds since my mom works in the industry, but I didn’t understand what happens on the back side of funds like that. So I was able to really experience huge bank transactions, and how to make sure the budget is balanced.
“The work felt meaningful,” she adds. “Everybody made me feel like I wasn’t just a co-op — I was an actual employee contributing to the company.”
Sunnerberg, who has been nominated for a Chancellor’s Medal, is thankful for how her undergraduate career has played out.
“UMass Lowell has been the biggest blessing to me. I never realized how much a school and a community could impact somebody,” she says. “And I love being a senior now and being able to pay that forward to students who were once in my shoes.”