"Maybe it was because I was so involved with athletics at such a young age, but goal-setting comes naturally to me," says Callahan, who is a junior in the Montana State University College of Business, majoring in finance. "I have always had an intense desire to succeed, and I think it's fair to say that I'm pretty self-motivated."
In fact, values brought Callahan and her family to the small town of Big Timber in the first place. More than six years ago, Callahan's parents cited a lifestyle change and family values as the reason they left busy lives and careers in San Ramon, Calif. area to move to Montana.
It was indeed a big lifestyle change for Callahan, who was completing eighth grade and immersed in the competitive California soccer and swimming scene.
"I went from attending a high school of 2,000 to living in a town of 2,000," Callahan said.
Callahan said she kept an open mind to the change and learned to appreciate the trade-offs.
"I chose to become involved," said Callahan, who substituted swimming and soccer for volleyball, basketball and golf in Montana. "In the beginning, there was the fear that I would fall behind academically. But, I had lots of different opportunities in my new school. I found Big Timber had a strong (academic) program and solid core values that you can't find in California. After four years here, I found that I didn't miss California at all."
Even before Callahan graduated as the valedictorian of Sweet Grass County High School in 2002, she planned a career in the world of high finance.
"I love to compete," Callahan said. Given my goals, investment banking seemed to be a natural choice, perhaps with an international focus."
Callahan had been offered scholarships to business schools at Valparaiso and Boise State when she and her family were encouraged to visit the MSU campus. Rich Semenik, dean of the MSU College of Business, met with her and convinced Callahan and her parents that the quality of education and financial aid package that she would receive at MSU would be superior than going out of state and offered a scholarship package competitive with the other two schools.
"Rich Semenik is one of the biggest factors in choosing MSU," Callahan said. "I was so impressed with the business program and the dedication to students that I saw here."
Callahan hit the MSU ground running. She currently has a 3.99 grade point average and serves as a student representative for the MSU Office of Admissions. She is active in the campus Finance Club, the ASMSU Finance Board, Alpha Lambda Delta, Golden Key Society, AdvoCats, the International Business Club, and has still managed to hold a part-time job throughout her time at MSU, currently at the Intramurals office. Recently, Callahan was selected MSU's Rotary Student of the Month of November for her GPA and impressive resume.
"Alexis is a smart and dedicated student who has fabulous oral and written communication skills," said Dan Moshavi, professor in the MSU College of Business and one of Callahan's mentors. "I have no doubt that she'll be an accomplished professional in the future."
Callahan's drive will take her to London next semester, where she will study economics and the London stock exchange and financial system. Next summer she has been selected for MSU College of Business' competitive Starzen internship in Tokyo. When she returns to the U.S., she will head to Las Vegas and an internship with Pulte Mortgage, where she also interned last summer.
The story of how she was hired to intern at Pulte Mortgage says a lot about Callahan's drive. An engineering student and friend of Callahan's urged her to sign up for an interview when Pulte Homes was at the MSU Career Fair a year ago. Callahan was the only interviewee who wasn't an engineering major, but she convinced the company that she was interested in working in an organization with their values and reputation.
"They were impressed with my desire to join their company," she recalls. "They made a few calls and found a spot for me."
Callahan said the Pulte experience has already helped her build a network of connections in her chosen field and has given her some valuable financial and corporate experience.
"Investment banking is an extremely competitive field and knowing that, I am taking progressive steps to allow me to be competitive in the industry."
Callahan shrugs off questions of how she stays motivated at such a young age. "For me, motivation is very intrinsic," she says. "The more I do, the better."
And she says she never regrets her family's move to Montana.
"I feel like I got the best of both worlds," Callahan said. "I got to see life on the edge, but the move to Montana made me realize the importance of family and a small town atmosphere."
Contact: Dan Moshavi (406) 994-7017 or Alexis Callahan (406) 539-1762