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Darla Moore School of Business

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Image of Ailean Salinas in the Moore School courtyard


First-generation college student and Rising Scholar graduating early, secures banking job  

Senior Ailean Salinas will be one of the first of the inaugural Rising Scholars to graduate when she completes her degrees in finance and economics in December 2021.  

Salinas, a first-generation college student from Elloree, South Carolina, is graduating a semester early and is one of the initial success stories of the program, designed to connect underserved students pursuing degrees within the Moore School with key opportunities and resources across campus.  

As the daughter of two Mexican immigrants who work at an Elloree horse-training center, Salinas was uncertain about how to maneuver the college environment when she came to USC in 2018. She jumped at the chance to be part of the first cohort of Rising Scholars to ease her transition. 

She said the Rising Scholars Program is composed of people who are dedicated to the students and their education. Salinas specifically mentions Brian Shelton, the Moore School senior director of undergraduate student services, as someone who has provided tremendous support for her during her time at USC.  

Shelton “has been there for me my entire college career, and I could not imagine having anybody else,” she said. “He's been a great help adjusting back to campus from being virtual and with graduation around the corner. This program is filled with so much love, support and guidance. It’s truly been a great experience from start to finish.” 

As part of the Rising Scholars Program, which is entering its fourth year in 2021-2022, students attend a tailored session of the University 101 first-year experience course, participate in social, academic and professional development activities, network with successful alumni, are paired with faculty and peer mentors, benefit from personal finance education and can obtain BB&T emerging leadership certificates. 

Additionally, all Rising Scholars have the opportunity to reside in a living-learning community during their freshman year and have access to peer tutors and ad hoc academic resources. Students with financial need receive a renewable scholarship each academic year. 

Salinas credits the Rising Scholars Program for giving her the support and resources needed to make the most of her experience at USC.  

“I've gotten involved in multiple organizations over the years ranging from Collegiate DECA [Distributive Education Clubs of America] and working in University Housing as a resident mentor to becoming a sister of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Inc., a Latina interest but not exclusive sorority,” she said. “Getting exposed to these resources allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and develop my leadership skills. I've grown professionally and as a person over the years being involved in these organizations that I was exposed to because of Rising Scholars.” 

Salinas highly recommends the program to incoming students because it allows them to meet like-minded peers looking to further the skills needed to become successful leaders.  

“It’s a good size to make personal relationships and opens the door to opportunities in your field of study,” Salinas said. “Being a part of the Rising Scholars program has greatly eased my transition into the Moore School and to the university in general.” 

Currently, Salinas works as a mortgage operations associate for Southern First Bank. In this position, she said there are many lessons she can use in her own life and potential career paths.  

“I’ve learned valuable information about being a homeowner that I can utilize in my life and even help my friends with,” Salinas said. “In the workplace environment, I've learned how collaboration and communication between teams and team members help breed productivity.  I've also learned how to organize large workloads, how to interact with clients and networking skills that will help me in my future endeavors.” 

After graduation, Salinas will continue working for Southern First Bank at their Charlotte location. She will stay with the company’s mortgage department and hopes to become a mortgage processor once she begins working full time.  

In the future, Salinas is considering becoming an analyst or project specialist in either retail banking or mortgage operations. Her personal goal is to retire early and live somewhere in the United States up north or on the west coast.   

-James Culbertson 

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