After graduating from the School of Business with her BS in accounting, Melissa Perera returned to complete her masters and get another leg up on her competition. Perera’s hard work was rewarded with the 2021 Graduate Division Emerging Business Leader Award. “I have been working while taking night classes, and I’ve kept on pushing because I’m the only one to support myself,” says Perera. “After all the hard work, the positive results seem to come all at once, and this award is further proof.”
Being good enough was never going to be acceptable to Melissa Perera. As an undergraduate student, she graduated in the top 10 percent of her class, while serving as the president of George Mason University’s Accounting Society and the treasurer of the Tau Sigma Honor Society. While many of her peers were satisfied with simply getting by, she kept pushing. Along the way, Perera would find faculty members who went out of the way to help her reach her potential. Jenelle Conaway, assistant professor of accounting, to whom Perera served as research assistant and Namrata Maguire, adjunct professor in accounting, provided advice and support that would prove invaluable.
Originally unaware of the opportunity, winning the Emerging Business Leader Award came as a complete surprise to Perera. As part of her recognition, she was honored at the Annual Business Celebration and the Scholarship Luncheon. At both events she took advantage by networking with donors, alumni, and other students—people she would have never otherwise met. “I was surprised that several people, knowing that I won the award, approached me and I was able to meet many winners of other scholarships, too,” she says. “Getting to know the donors and my fellow scholarship recipients was a wonderful experience.”
Approaching her expected graduation in the spring, Melissa Perera is now fielding offers from accounting firms. Clearly, the time and effort invested in her education and career are proving to be worthwhile. To other students who may doubt their educational dreams, she says, “The struggle is worth it. You may feel alone but you’re not.” The accolades that she’s now enjoying are just the tip of the iceberg. “I’m excited to have put myself in a position where I’ll have many options when I graduate,” she says. “Now I know that anything I want, I will be able to attain.”