Whitney Connell '04

 

Describe your path since graduating from Portsmouth Abbey School.

After graduating from Portsmouth Abbey School, I was accepted to Wheaton College and earned a double major in US History and Hispanic Studies with a minor in Economic Theory. After Wheaton, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in or career path to pursue. I reached out to Mr. O'Connor who had an opening in the Summer School program and he brought me on board to teach History and English. While I was happy to deposit my first “real world” paycheck, spending six days a week with students, who weren’t exactly thrilled to be spending their summer in a classroom, was exhausting. This was a learning experience both for the students and me. I have even more appreciation and admiration for my former teachers having gone through a summer in their shoes. Additionally, just one month in the classroom setting helped me to realize: I did not want to teach.

Throughout the summer program I would pop into the alumni office and say hi to the faculty and staff. Although I was not actively looking for a job (and at the Abbey, no less) I was asked to and applied for a position in the Development and Alumni Affairs Office, which turned out to be a perfect fit. After two years as a Development Officer, advisor, and coach, I was ready to move in another direction. Knowing only that I wanted to graduate from small town living to the “big” city, one of my teachers turned colleagues, Ms. Chris (aka Mrs. Reiser), told me that her husband’s company was hiring and that he could get me an interview. I interviewed with Sovereign/Santander Bank in Boston, MA as an entry level Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Analyst and was hired the next day. Eight years, three banks and seven promotions later, I found myself in Miami, FL as an Assistant Vice President, AML/BSA/OFAC Supervisor. As I continued to climb the corporate ladder, I realized there was still something missing from my professional development. In the fall of 2017, I was accepted to and enrolled in a Juris Master program through Florida State University College of Law focusing on Financial Regulatory Compliance.

After eight years in banking, I recently decided to enter the start-up space full-time and work on my company BettorHalf, a sports betting platform for novice gamblers. This company is the marriage of my love of sports and desire for compliance; two passions the Abbey helped to cultivate. This summer, I relocated to New Haven, CT and continue to use my Portsmouth Abbey connections as I move forward with this new venture by reaching out to fellow alumni, and even parents of alumni, with startup and venture capital backgrounds.

How did your experience at Portsmouth Abbey School help you become the person & professional you are today?

Even before I attended, I had been told that “the Abbey teaches you how to study.” Upon seeing that I was never officially registered for “study hall” as a day student, I immediately called BS and was frustrated that no one was going to show or tell me how to study.

I thought nothing more of it until my freshman year of college where it became very clear: I had an advantage over my peers as I was accustomed to balancing homework, sports, travel, and social life thanks to Portsmouth Abbey’s structure. Although I was not a varsity collegiate athlete, I was still able to compete in club and intramural sports, earn scholarships and stipends to travel the world, and graduate magna cum laude with a double major and minor.

Portsmouth Abbey not only gave me a strong academic background rooted in Humanities, which transitioned well into a liberal arts environment, but also instilled in me a work ethic that propelled my career. Whether you know it or not, you're learning a great deal both in academic and life lessons right now.

What is the best advice you could give to a current student?

Don't think you have to have everything figured out right now (I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up). All of my friends are successful in one way or another, and half of them aren't in a career related to their college major. It's about how you take what you've learned and apply it moving forward. Being able to pivot is an important quality in life.

Most importantly: use the network and resources the Abbey gives you throughout your academic and professional careers. Every step of the way, I have utilized my connections whether they are teachers, coaches, classmates or alumni for advice, career leads and overall moral support. They have given me the confidence to excel both personally and professionally. My high school friends have been and remain the strongest friendships in my life and I am incredibly grateful to Portsmouth Abbey for that.

With that, I will close with a constant reminder that it's always a great day to be a Raven.