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Jerry J. Collier Fellowship a Game Changer for Poole Pack Student Athlete

After spending the past four years as a standout student and athlete for North Carolina State University’s women’s soccer team, senior Kristina Schuster will return to campus this fall to pursue a Jenkins Master of Accounting degree as a recipient of the Jerry J. Collier Fellowship.

The Jerry J. Collier Fellowship is a prestigious one-year award offered to a top entering graduate student who played a varsity sport at NC State. Schuster, who grew up in Germany, said the receipt of the award is a game changer for her.

“It’s huge financial support – it helps take some of the burden off my family,” she said. “In Germany, there is no tuition cost so I was glad I could reduce some of the cost for them.”

As she was finishing high school in Germany, Schuster wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career but she knew she loved playing soccer.

A teammate in Germany had played for the women’s team at NC State, and returned with positive things to say about the coach and the team. Schuster knew the ACC was a strong conference, and when Wolfpack Women’s Soccer Coach Tim Santoro recruited her, she signed on to play. She committed to just a year at first, but later chose to finish her college career at NC State. 

Schuster competes both in the classroom and on the field as a member of the NC State women’s soccer team.

Through courses within the Poole College of Management and interactions with advisors, Schuster decided on an undergraduate degree in accounting.

“It’s been really good; it helped me grow,” she said of her undergraduate experience at NC State. “When I came, I was there to play soccer – I wasn’t really confident that I would find what I wanted to do.

“The classes at Poole and interactions with advisors helped me gain confidence, find my path and a major.”

Accounting “involves numbers, but it’s not all numbers,” which Schuster said she enjoys. 

“You have to dig in and look for details,” she said. “You also get to look at the big picture, do some problem solving, and you still get to work with people.”

When she wasn’t studying, soccer took up much of her time as an undergraduate at NC State, Schuster said. She’d been used to balancing her studies and her athletic career from her time in Germany, when she practiced two to three hours a day after school. 

After scoring a goal, Schuster shows her Pack pride.

“I’m really competitive and always want to do my best,” she said. “It motivates me to get things done on time and to be successful.”

She also found time to be a part of Solar Pack, NC State’s Solar Vehicle Team, serving on the business team, where she worked to find sponsors for the team, applied for grants and secured funding.

Schuster hopes to pursue a career in audit with one of the Big Four accounting firms, and a Masters of Accounting (MAC) degree is the next logical step in that direction.

“I had a good experience in undergrad, and the MAC program at NC State is highly ranked; the faculty is reknowned,” she said. 

She’s also excited about the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Concentration offered within the MAC program, saying there are many future opportunities in ERM.

Schuster learned about the Jerry J. Collier Fellowship from one of her advisors. Students do not apply directly for the fellowship, but are nominated by their prospective directors of graduate programs or department heads, who submit nominations to the Graduate School.

She reached out to Scott Showalter, director of MAC Program and professor of practice in accounting, to ask him to consider her as a nominee, which he did.

“Being a student athlete requires much discipline and leadership,” Showalter said. “The Jenkins MAC Program looks for and values these traits for students entering the MAC Program.

“Based on Kristina’s performance both on the soccer field and in the classroom, the MAC Program concluded she was well deserving of this recognition and look forward to her joining us in the fall.”

Schuster said she looks forward to the new challenges that will come with her MAC courses, and developing relationships with her cohort after hearing that students in the MAC program tend to form close connections.

“There’s a lot of group work, that’s something I’m looking forward to,” she said.

The Collier Fellowship will serve as an extra source of motivation to do well, Schuster said. 

“I think it’s going to be a huge motivation for me to do well, and to pay back the trust that people put in me,” she said. “Financially, I’ll feel less stressed and more focused on my studies.”