As a first generation college student, Jerome Prince ’00, chose to attend the University of Nebraska–Lincoln without fully knowing what it would take to earn a degree. An even bigger issue loomed for Prince in discovering which degree track to follow. He began student life as a computer science major but his story soon changed.
“I came to Nebraska because I believed it would give me a platform nationally, and offer the most flexibility after college,” said Prince, an Omaha North high school graduate. “But when I got to Lincoln I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.”
He participated in a pre-college program during the summer before college, which helped him grasp the amount of time needed to be successful, including how to organize his studies. It also taught him the importance of reaching out to others for guidance.
“There were many people who had an impact on my college career such as Mark Davis (assistant director of recruiting) and Jake Kirkland (emeritus assistant to the vice chancellor), who are still around the Nebraska campus today. They played a crucial role advising me and keeping me on track academically,” he said.
Davis lauded Prince for his willingness to reach out to people from the day he stepped foot on campus. Davis became a mentor for Prince and immediately was impressed by the young man’s focus to accomplish what he set out to do.
“Jerome was an example of a student who did all the right things,” said Davis. “He connected with people around campus to develop a solid base of role models, and he’d do everything you told him to do. When we’d go to lunch, instead of talking about what he did on the weekends, he wanted to know the next step to earning his degree. He was on a mission to Start Something.”
Through self-reflection and consultation with others, Prince decided computer science did not offer him the best path to be competitive. The idea of studying business quickly took center stage.
“One of the most significant conversations I had was with the (former) Director of the School of Accountancy Thomas Hubbard. He told me, ‘If you’re searching for something to do, you ought to give serious consideration to accounting, because accounting is the language of business.’ That conversation resonates with me to this day,” he said.
From that conversation, Prince realized accounting would provide a technical skill he could develop, and would give him a broad platform of career options at a variety of companies. He began to hone his skills through rigorous study and participation in the accounting fraternity Beta Alpha Psi.
“Beta Alpha Psi did a tremendous job providing me social experiences with other accounting students, as well as getting connected with companies looking for interns. I got an internship in public accounting. I had a great experience but also realized that wasn’t my cup of tea,” said Prince.
After graduation, Prince tried his hand at auditing with the Union Pacific Railroad. Though he enjoyed the workplace, he realized auditing was not for him either.
“That’s when I decided to get into commercial banking. I had an opportunity to join General Motors Acceptance Corporation and got into commercial lending at that point. After five years, I transitioned to J.P. Morgan, again in commercial lending but in a much broader platform, and I’ve been here 12 years, currently serving as an executive director in the Dallas area,” he said.
Prince credits accounting with giving him the ability to differentiate himself from others in the finance world. He believes it played a major role in getting his foot in the door.
“They were specifically looking for someone who had more accounting knowledge, because the bank deals with companies in many industries, so it’s important to have a sound understanding in accounting to apply it to the financial performance of a wide variety of companies. I can really see now how important it was to reach out to other people, and the significance of that initial conversation with Thomas Hubbard.”
Prince relishes in the stories he finds when examining accounting details of a particular company. It provides him an enjoyment he could not appreciate before his journey at Nebraska Business.
“The accounting of a company tells a story, and you have to understand accounting to understand the story. I came to appreciate and enjoy analyzing the data, the income statement, balance sheet, cash flow – making sure I understand the story they’re telling me, because often times the story is consistent with what the CEO is saying but sometimes they can be a little bit different, and you have to understand why. That’s the beauty of accounting and why I enjoy doing what I do,” he said.
Today Prince serves on the Nebraska MBA Advisory Board. He remains excited about the future for Nebraska students.
“It’s been enlightening to see the positive changes happening, and it’s exciting to hear what’s coming next. Nebraska is really listening to what employers want and designing programs to meet the needs of employers and students alike,” he said. “It shows Nebraska is trying to provide the best educational experience they can, which is very rewarding for me both as a former student and current advisory board member.”