When Brandon Johnson entered the business school for the first time, he wasn’t sure where he would end up.

“I had no clue what I wanted to do,” Johnson said.

And that confusion showed in his classes. He says he struggled his first two years at Richmond.

“I didn’t want it badly yet, I hadn’t had any real-world experience, I just knew my mom worked in finance, so I figured I would try it out,” Johnson said.

Then, he took Principles of Financial Management with Maura Alexander, instructor of finance, and it inspired him to work harder.

“She always encouraged me to keep studying, and not to give up on the concentration,” Johnson said.

The following summer, he landed an internship at Premier Financial, a wealth management firm in St. Louis, Mo.

“It completely changed the way I looked at school,” Johnson said. “I met the other interns, and saw how smart and ambitious they were, and knew I had to up my game.”

Once he started putting in the work his junior year, he says his grades improved tremendously. He began working closely with John Earl, associate professor of finance, to make sure he would be prepared for life after graduation.

“Brandon was a great student,” Earl said. “He was always in class and always engaged. He got where he is today by his own hard work and determination,” Earl said.

He accepted another internship at Fox Haven Asset Management in Charlottesville, Va., and by his senior year earned a scholarship from the Robins School to take the Chartered Financial Analyst exam. He scored in the 90th percentile.

That’s when he reached back out to Alexander.

“I had to thank her for driving me to be better,” Johnson said.

Alexander immediately remembered him, and knew early on that he would succeed.

“I remember Brandon in particular came to my office weeks before final exams. He had outlined the whole course back to the beginning of the semester and had very specific questions,” Alexander said. “I was so impressed that he was thinking so far ahead. He had already done so much to prepare, at a time when many other students are just starting to think about exams.”

She said that commitment to the course, even though he was struggling, showed her he was driven enough to do well.

 “It’s wonderful to see him succeeding now. You always want students to discover their interests and passions, whether it’s what you are teaching them or not,” Alexander said. “When they find that, and then put in the hard work to achieve their goals, it’s absolutely incredible. I’m so proud of him.”

Johnson now works at Vanguard, an investment management company based in Philadelphia, Pa., and says he wouldn’t be able to do his job without the skills he learned from professors like Alexander.

“The curriculum that the Robins School teaches is so advanced, and you’re surrounded by so many driven and competitive people at University of Richmond that it fosters a drive within you. My job encompasses accounting and finance, it’s a mix of everything I learned at Richmond,” Johnson said. “I reached out to her because wanted to show her that I had come so far, and that she made a difference in my life.”