Monica Chen knows how to keep herself busy. She’s currently a senior accountancy major, president of the Minority Business Students Association and the James Scholar Executive Committee – which she represents on the College of Business Council of Presidents – and serves as a cultural integration circle leader for the Masters of Science in Accounting Mentor Program. In addition, she has studied diversity in groups as a research assistant for Associate Professor Lewin Loyd, competed in an international case competition with the College at the University of Sao Paulo, and mentored at-risk youth in the Champaign-Urbana community with the Prison Justice Project.
As a result of Chen’s academic excellence and extracurricular involvement, she was named the 2015 Lincoln Academy Student Laureate for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Each year, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois recognizes outstanding seniors from each of the state’s four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities. They were honored in November at a ceremony held at the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois.
Chen, one of five College of Business students to earn the prestigious award in the past six years, was nominated by Rich Johnson, Assistant Dean of the College’s Honors Programs.
“Monica Chen is a living example of a ‘Level 5 Leader’ as defined by the author Jim Collins,” explains Dean Johnson. “She possesses the professional will to lead change and the personal humility to acknowledge that she cannot do it alone. Monica represents the best of the College of Business and UIUC. I feel fortunate to call her my friend.”
Among her many activities, Chen has found the biggest reward in mentorship. “I owe so many of my achievements to my mentors who have paved the way for my success and given me advice on how to navigate tricky situations,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from them, and I’m finally in the position to give back. This semester, I took a lot of time to help my friends who were going through the interview process for the first time by doing resume critiques and mock interviews. It’s been such a rewarding experience, and it was the first time I was really able to see how far I’ve come as well.”
After graduation, Chen plans to intern with KPMG in their Tax and Deal Advisory practices at the Chicago office over the summer. By next fall, she will begin working on a masters of accounting science, and she also hopes to pursue an MBA after that. Her career goal is to start full-time in deal advisory or a consulting firm.
What advice would Chen give to other College of Business students? Get involved, build relationships with a diverse group of people, and focus on activities that matter to you rather than those that will only matter to your resume:
“Your experience here at Illinois is only as rewarding as you make it. Build those relationship networks that will help propel you to success as you enter the workforce. I firmly believe that impact can only be achieved with passion because it is easy to get burnt out and overwhelmed, so intrinsically caring about whatever you are dedicating your time to will make your hard work so much more worthwhile.”
Pictured with Monica are, left to right, Rich Johnson, Assistant Dean of the College’s Honors Programs; William Bennett, Vice Chancellor of the Lincoln Academy; Monica Chen; Bruce Rauner, State of Illinois Governor; and Robert Lenz, regent of the Lincoln Academy.