INA, Ill. – Straight out of the mouth of a financial advisor: Rend Lake College makes “financial sense” when preparing for higher education. For graduate Karissa Mooney, it was easy to figure that out.
Mooney, originally from Mt. Vernon, is a resident of Carbondale who works at Edward Jones as a financial advisor. Specifically, she helps her clients prepare to pay for their education and retirement. Coming from Mt. Vernon Township High School in 2008 with the intention of becoming an accountant, Mooney enrolled in some of the most difficult math and science courses available to better prepare herself for a four-year university. She says that preparation, in addition to scholarships, made attending RLC the logical option.
“Going to Rend Lake College made financial sense, and I think it was meant to be,” said Mooney. “I was offered a full-ride scholarship from my high school. Rend Lake was also close to home and I didn’t want to leave Southern Illinois yet.”
With hindsight as a financial advisor, Mooney says now that she sees the benefits to community colleges like RLC. No matter where her clients live, she always suggests the community college route.
“When I talk to clients about school, I tell them not to forget about community college,” said Mooney. “A lot of people don’t realize how expensive school can be, but a community college is a good value and they give a solid foundation for general courses. I took a lot of math courses and most of them transferred after I graduated. Even the ones that didn’t still gave me a great education to take with me.”
Some of those math courses and their instructors made the biggest impact on Mooney’s education at RLC. Specifically, she recalls a physics course with Dr. Linda Denton, retired Physics and Physical Science Professor, and calculus with Kay Shaw, Developmental Math Professor.
“In the classroom, I remember Linda Denton, my physics professor, and she was a big influence on me when it comes to learning physics and differential equations,” said Mooney. “The classes I took with her were made of mostly men who wanted to be engineers, and then me, so I used to bounce ideas off her. She always encouraged me to take difficult classes to help me figure out if accounting was what I wanted to do.”
“I also took Calculus 2 and 3 with Kay Shaw, and she really made me learn it,” added Mooney. “I really enjoyed her classes and they’ve stayed with me on my path through the business degree and concentration in finance. She and Linda Denton were both very important in my education.”
Outside of class, another RLC official makes Mooney’s list of “very important” staff. Jena Jensik, Director of Academic Advisement, offered her the chance to be a part of something brand new at the college – something Mooney says she never thought she’d enjoy.
“Jena was a huge influence on me in both my education and in the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS),” explains Mooney. “I was the first student from Rend Lake to go to Truman State University, and Jena went out of her way to research the school with me and help me get both of my associate degrees to transfer.”
“I was also the president of the National Society of Leadership and Success after Jena asked me to help start it the first year I was on campus,” said Mooney. “NSLS is a club based around educating yourself on how to be a better leader and be successful. We held weekly meetings in the South Oasis where we talked about what the members’ goals were and what they were struggling with. There were training videos and courses we could take to help us get more information on the skills we wanted to improve. For some reason, I didn’t think I could get that kind of education at a community college, and have those conversations with my peers.”
And NSLS did its job. As the president, Mooney led each meeting and learned how to become a better public speaker, a skill she initially dreaded but now uses in her everyday life.
“Being the president helped me realize that I can be a leader and serve in that lead role. Now, I take on more leadership roles without batting an eye,” said Mooney. “It makes sense to me now and NSLS helped pave the way. When I used to run those meetings, I was nervous about speaking to our group, and I had a summer speech class that I didn’t like, but I’m so glad I did it. Between speech class and NSLS, I now do public speaking events often. I enjoy public speaking, and I never thought I would. Being at RLC helped me break out of that fear.”
As if her time wasn’t already filled, Mooney was also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Rho Xi Chapter at RLC. In 2010, she was nominated as an All-USA student for her academic excellence and leadership and service skills both inside and outside the classroom. She was also crowned Homecoming Queen in 2010.
After graduating from RLC with two associate degrees in art and science in 2010, Mooney transferred to Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., where she learned the importance of internships and decided to change her career goals.
“I chose to go to Truman State because they are a top-notch accounting school. While I was there, I had the opportunity to interview for a lot of internships, and I received one with an accounting firm and another with Edward Jones,” Mooney explained. “It was after I completed both of those that I chose to switch my accounting major to finance.”
For the next two years, Mooney would work on a business administration degree with a concentration in finance. She graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science and immediately found a position at Edward Jones as a financial advisor.
“I definitely suggest getting serious about your résumé and interviewing early in your college education. And apply to lots of internships,” said Mooney. “It’s the only way I would’ve ended up here, because I had no idea what financial advising was like. I was always told I was good at math and that I should be an accountant, so that’s what I went to school for, but the lightbulb went on when I got to Edward Jones. You can’t know what you love until you do it.”
As an advisor, Mooney helps individual investors reach their retirement and educational savings goals. Working with Series 7 and 66 licenses, Mooney can sell stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to help her clients prepare for retirement, pay for education, and prepare for the unexpected. She can also help manage a client’s money and plan an estate or inheritance.
Much like with her time at RLC, Mooney also keeps up with several service and professional organizations, including the Rotary Club of Jackson and Williamson Counties Sunset, Business Networking International P.R.O.F.I.T., the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, the Sesser Chamber, and the Christopher Area Betterment Association.
“The Rotary is my service organization club and I’m an active member there. The Rotary was built on networking and service projects, and I’m the only financial advisor in the group because everybody brings a different set of skills to the group. We’re always looking for someone new to bring different ideas in. This is the club to make my heart feel good by doing service projects in the area,” said Mooney.
She added, “The rest are professional networks, including Business Networking International, which helps generate more business for the members of the group; and three chambers, the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, the Sesser Chamber, and the Christopher Area Betterment Association. I’m the Vice President of the Sesser Chamber and we have the main goal of helping businesses in the community. The Christopher Area Betterment Association is another group where we welcome new businesses to the area and work on local projects. I am also a part of the Ambassador Committee, which helps welcome businesses to the Carbondale area and host events for members. I really enjoy being around new people, and meeting and helping businesses in my communities.”
With her hands in so many different activities in communities across Southern Illinois, Mooney said she and her husband don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.
“I plan to continue my career as a financial advisor in Carbondale for the long-term. My husband is in school, looking to go to medical school in the future, and we’re staying here because we love it,” said Mooney. “Carbondale has been a great place for us and we plan on being here for a long while and buying a home. I love that I can continue my career here at Edward Jones and have a flexible schedule so that, down the road, I will have time to allow me to do things in my personal life.”
For aspiring RLC or business and finance students, Mooney has many words of advice that helped her along the journey.
“The other night, I heard a speaker give some really good advice. She said, ‘Make sure you take classes that you like and might want to use down the road.’ So my advice is similar,” said Mooney. “Don’t take easy classes just to get credits, because easy isn’t the best. Take courses that will get you closer to where you want to go down the road. And at Rend Lake, take the hardest classes you can, because they just get harder.”
She added, “For someone wanting to go into business or finance, I would encourage them to go to Rend Lake and use it as a stepping stone to a university. Get involved with a program or club, and if there’s not one, then start it. Rend Lake was a good place for me to start having lived and grown up in Mt. Vernon. It just makes a lot of sense.”
To learn more about Rend Lake College, visit www.rlc.edu/journey.