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UNF finance major finds love and earns his degree

Matthew Dougherty HeadshotAfter nearly four years of keeping track of college courses, meetings with advisors, tutoring, club activities and internships, the time has finally come to transition into the “real world” for Matthew Dougherty, a senior majoring in financial planning and finance.

The 22-year-old Charlotte native had a plan, trusted the process and everything just fell into place.

“I had a good idea of what I wanted to study in college and where I wanted to go to school,” said Dougherty who’s set to graduate in December.

Fascinated by human behavior, how people act and what drives their decisions, Dougherty had an interest in studying psychology. But after enrolling in a personal finance class his junior year in high school and working at a bank his senior year, his interests changed.

“After taking a personal finance class, I knew that financial planning was the career for me,” said Dougherty. “Plus, I figured I could combine my interest in psychology with my interest in personal finance. Both require you to be curious and ask a lot of questions of people.”

With a clear goal for his career path, Dougherty sought out universities with strong financial planning programs that also included Certified Financial Planning Board certification — the University of North Florida stood out to him.

“I did my research and found UNF was perfect,” Dougherty said. “The size and the student-faculty ratio was a big factor and that it’s located in a major city with lots of opportunities for networking and jobs. Also, the school is highly regarded as a top university to earn a financial planning degree and I liked how beautiful the campus is and how close it is to the beach.”

Dougherty started his freshman year in fall 2020 — during the peak of COVID-19. He said although that was a tough time because all his classes were online, he still made a point of getting involved in organizations related to his major albeit, virtual.

“COVID was tough for many reasons, but I thought it was important to make the effort to network and get involved in organizations that had meaning to me,” Dougherty said.

One of those organizations was the student-run Financial Planning Association (FPA) club. As soon as some COVID restrictions were lifted, Dougherty and others worked to get the club “off and running again,” reinstating in-person meetings, recruiting new members and scheduling speakers. He has been serving as the club’s president since summer 2022.

“Joining FPA opened a lot of doors for me,” said Dougherty. “It allowed me to meet so many people in the field and it helped me secure internships.”

Three internships to be exact. In his nearly four years as a UNF student, the 22-year-old senior gained valuable hands-on experience and is graduating with a job offer from one.

“Last summer, I interned with Vanguard and they offered me a job at their Charlotte office after graduation,” Dougherty said. “My parents live outside of Charlotte and are happy that I’m moving back closer to them.”

Matthew Dougherty and his fiancé Jaime Farrar Another organization Dougherty joined that was close to his heart, was the Baptist Collegiate Ministries – an on-campus Christian club for students. That’s where he met a fellow Osprey and his soon-to-be wife, Jaime Farrar, who graduated over the summer with a degree in kinesiology. The couple are planning to marry two days after his graduation in December in the Virgin Islands.

“I joined BCM my freshman year because I wanted to be around like-minded people and grow in my faith,” said Dougherty. “I ended up meeting my lifetime partner.”

Dougherty credits his educational success to his involvement in the FPA club, his student mentors as well as his instructors along the way, all of which solidified his career choice.

One instructor in particular, Ronald Heymann, an adjunct in the Coggin College of Business, made a lasting impression on him.

“You can tell Professor Heymann genuinely wants his students to succeed,” Dougherty said. “It’s apparent in his optimism and for what he’s teaching. He gets you fired up when he brings real-life experiences to his classes.”

“Matthew sought out UNF with the intent to learn from the best educators in the field and pursued this degree with intensity and passion for learning that very few students possess,” said Heymann. “From day one, he demonstrated an intense drive to become a certified financial planner, engaged with his professors, helped his fellow students and built an impressive professional network,” said Heymann.

Heymann said he noticed Dougherty stood out among his peers early on.

“In my 18 years as a financial advisor and 10 as an instructor, I’ve never seen a student push themselves as hard as Matthew outside of the classroom,” Heymann said. “He studied hard, but also dedicated an enormous amount of time tutoring others, gaining work experience with a few highly regarded firms such as Farther Finance, Fidelity Investments and Vanguard and presided over a student club.”

At the recommendation of his professors, Dougherty started tutoring his peers through the Student Academic Success Services (SASS) his sophomore year and was promoted to Lead Peer Tutor his junior year. While he still tutors students, his added responsibilities include management of the service, recruiting and training new tutors.

“This is a great free service for students enrolled in traditionally challenging courses,” said Dougherty. “I know firsthand, the benefits of SI [Supplemental Instruction]. I took advantage of the tutoring help, made some adjustments to my study habits and was able to perform better in my courses. It works.”

In September, Heymann, Dougherty and a few other students traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to compete in a national financial planning competition against approximately 100 other universities across the country. Teams were asked to create a complete financial plan for a hypothetical family. The UNF team was one of eight school teams who advanced to Phases 2 and 3 and won an all-expense paid trip to Phoenix to compete with the other seven schools. Overall, UNF placed sixth in the country.

“That was truly a great experience and one that gave us so much pride,” Dougherty said. “I don’t think it would have been possible without the leadership and guidance of our instructors.”

“I’m grateful for my college experience at UNF,” Dougherty said. “I got everything I wanted and more from UNF — knowledgeable and attentive instructors and professors, a great education, a job lined up, good friends and my future wife.”