As a high school student, Maria McCoy began to ponder college. Her search was propelled by her passion for soccer. "I knew I wanted to be an athlete, and I liked the idea of a smaller school. Soccer became a requirement and driven by what I now know was a symptom of a larger 'perfectionist' complex. I visited over 30 campuses before feeling like I could choose." 

In the end, McCoy felt Calvin was her ideal match, thanks to an encounter that set the university apart. “An admissions counselor came to see me play soccer at my high school, despite me being the only student who had expressed interest in Calvin. He sent me a handwritten letter afterward. I knew there must be more of that commitment to the quality and culture of the school.”

Both of McCoy’s parents are electrical engineers and worked in corporate settings. As a child, McCoy loved the business venture TV show, The Apprentice, and had always been curious about entrepreneurship. Those factors made a business major an easy choice but she didn’t want to follow in her parents’ footsteps. “Because of what I perceived as the demands of a corporate culture; it didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to work in international development, start a small business, or a nonprofit—after serving in the Peace Corps.”


During her freshman year winter intensive, McCoy faced what felt like a daunting challenge. “It was the night before a major project was due, and because I couldn't see the vision for the full assignment, I felt I may fail." I called my dad in panic, and he graciously drove more than two hours to help me work through it."

McCoy faced another watershed moment in her junior year. “I had a required class and I had done poorly on the midterm. Knowing my grade was riding on the final exam was terrifying. After turning in the exam, I remember looking back through the window and seeing my professor grading it. I saw him smile as he read, and I knew I’d done well. I was sure I couldn’t cut it, but the final proved I could if I changed my mindset.”

Even as she was learning to adapt to change, there was more to come. How would she respond when the change was unimaginable? She decided to step away from the same program that had drawn her to Calvin. “I was lucky I’d made the team in the first place. I came in on a year where many seniors had just graduated. I’d been a big fish in a small pond at home. The fact was - I didn’t have the same talent as my peers, and I could see it: I was a smaller fish at Calvin.” Leaving soccer was a major disappointment—but also an effective teacher.

As McCoy faced making new friends in the absence of time with a team, she also had more time, which was a blessing in disguise. “It opened the door for internships at Steelcase and Whirlpool.” And she was able to study abroad, where she found herself making more changes from her original plan. “I still felt altruistic, in that I needed to make the world better, and still shied away from the corporate structure, but my studies abroad, while rewarding, had not sparked the passion I had expected. Professor Jason Stansbury in the Calvin University School of Business was instrumental in helping me release my bias. He encouraged me not to make preemptive decisions. I couldn’t deny that my love for business was exponentially growing.” Little by little, McCoy was learning about herself and expanding her ideas about the future—and her faith.

“Through every facet of campus life, my faith developed in surprising ways. I attended a Catholic school growing up and our family went to an Assemblies of God church. It was difficult to discern between doctrines. The Christian Reformed Church foundation of Calvin threw more new ideas into my basket. The best part about it was that Calvin had a nurturing, open, conversational, and exploratory environment regarding beliefs, and let me establish my own. I learned there was a huge difference between knowing about God, knowing who He is and who I am in Christ.”


McCoy’s takeaways as she progressed through senior year culminated on a day nearing graduation. “After finishing our capstone presentations in the School of Business with Professor Cal Jen, I walked out of class and I thought, I’m so happy I chose Calvin, I’ve loved it here.”

She received job offers from both of her internships, which sent her back to some of her professors for input. “That’s what Calvin cultivates: genuine relationships. Professor Stansbury was so helpful. Professor Jen, so encouraging. After white knuckling through life to avoid failure at all costs, I’d learned failure is a catalyst to growth. I learned to find my safety in my identity in Christ and to take small steps of faith. I learned that no matter your setting or vocation, there is always an opportunity to be an agent of renewal and pursue shalom".

McCoy accepted a position with Whirlpool and earned several promotions, before leaping into the technology industry, at Salesforce. “My Calvin opportunities brought me full circle. I am now an account executive in the small business growth segment. "I get to work with small business owners and entrepreneurs, helping them grow their business with better processes, powered by technology - a dream I could have never imagined as a young high school student."

She feels the ability to be flexible is more important than ever. “The term ‘career path’ is inaccurate today – everything is very fluid. My liberal arts education has helped reinforce that. I have embraced the ‘non-linear.’ I'm grateful for the diverse opportunities I've had thus far and will continue to build a faith-led career that challenges me to grow, fail, succeed, and redeem."