Jacey Stuckey, a UNCF/Koch Scholar, is a finance and international business major with a minor in economics at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Indianapolis. She expects to graduate in fall 2019.
Tell us about where you grew up.
I grew up in rural Bennettsville, South Carolina, in Marlboro County about an hour away from Myrtle Beach and Charlotte, North Carolina. The median income in Bennettsville has always been under $29,000 since I have lived there. My entire county lacks infrastructure, jobs, role models, and quality education. South Carolina ranks low in education, and Marlboro ranks low in South Carolina. We only have one public high school in the county, and the majority of the schools in my area are falling apart. This is not an ideal place for fostering young, brilliant minds for the collegiate and corporate world.
What got you interested in your field of study?
I have always been interested in entrepreneurship since I was younger. I particularly became interested in finance recently. I didn’t know that I was passionate about connecting talent with funding, which is essentially what bankers do, because I was never exposed to those types of careers. Where I am from, getting on Wall Street was never even a thought for anyone in the community. It wasn’t until college that I was exposed to a wide range of career fields. Personally, about 15 to 20 years after graduation, I would love to have my own private equity firm. Also, I am interested in investing in real estate in low-income, rural areas while building the communities from within.
Has a book ever changed your life?
Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill changed my entire perspective on life. I realized that after reading that book, my mental paradigm shifted. The book was a conversation the author had with the Devil about why most people can never reach success and how to avoid doing the things they do. I use the principles that book taught to accomplish my goals such as planning, creating good habits, and having an equally driven team.
What about a place you’ve traveled or an experience you’ve had that changed or challenged your thinking?
The earliest part of my journey entails me getting my college funded through scholarships. I felt like it was unfair that I, an extremely bright student, lacked the funding to attend school, while students with mediocre grades could go to school because they had the funding. At that point, I decided change doesn’t come from being comfortable and not taking risks.
I always say that the experience of going to college was incredibly mind-altering. I was an 18-year-old female orphan who packed up all of her belongings in a U-Haul and drove 15 hours from South Carolina to Indianapolis, alone in the middle of the night, with nothing but a money order for my rent and $200–$300 to survive on. With no one to turn to, I essentially had to start from the bottom to build myself to where I am today. All of the odds were against me and, statistically, I was set up to fail and end up back in South Carolina fairly quickly. I was in a completely new area in a place where I knew no one, but I still had to go to class every day and “flourish.” I knew that getting to college would be only the beginning of my journey, and not succumbing to adversity was something I had become an expert in. I was someone who was able to personify my dreams.
Today, I am able to say that I have “survived.” Has it always been easy? No, during the summer, working 80 hours a week, between two jobs, while taking summer classes isn’t exactly easy, but it definitely builds character. Since moving here, I have been able to maintain straight A’s, get accepted into the honors college, and start my own tutoring business. On top of all that, I am currently working to start a mentorship program for students at my old high school.
What’s something your friends find surprising about you?
A lot of my friends from college are surprised to find out that I didn’t come from a private-school, two-parent, middle-class household. I crush everyone’s negative preconceived notions about poor, ghetto, uneducated youth. It shocks people that a student from a school district that can’t afford to provide enough books for its students can outperform students who came from private schools that had everything they could wish for.
What’s the one piece of advice you’ve taken to heart—from a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other person in your life?
My mother always told me to take what other people say with a grain of salt. This means that advice, praise, or criticism from others should be taken lightly and not be used to get you off track. If I had listened to people when they told me it’s not a good idea to go to college out of state, then I wouldn’t have learned half the lessons I’ve learned or grown as much as I have today. Not everyone has your best interests at heart, nor do they know your capabilities better than you do, so always let your passions lead you.
What do you want to be known for?
I would like to be known as the “Queen-Pin” of investing and private equity, like a female Warren Buffett. I would like to invest in education and mentorship programs in low-income areas and develop school programs to teach investing to talented poor children, especially in rural areas. I never knew anyone of color who was an investment banker or in private equity from where I was from. That path was never an option for me because I didn’t know it existed. I would love to be a source of exposure to the finance industry for kids who have no access to role models within the industry.