First Generation MSF Student Balances Active Duty and Remote Learning

Innocent Adebiyi
Innocent Adebiyi

Innocent Adebiyi has one of the more inspiring George Mason University’s School of Business stories. A first-generation graduate student and a 2021 Virginia State University graduate, Adebiyi has been pursuing his master’s in finance (MSF) while also serving our country as an active-duty Logistics Officer and Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Active-Duty Component. Adebiyi will graduate this month.

When asked how he balances his many responsibilities, Adebiyi says the structure of the MSF and professors’ flexibility has been helpful. Classes are in the evening and he says “the faculty are always willing to meet” to ensure he completes the work for his program while also leading his 40-person National Guard unit.

Asked how the online program differs from in-person, Adebiyi offers “The transition from in person to online isn’t that different. I’m still doing the same math, coding, and statistics [that I would do in-person.] The online program still feels hands-on, and that’s a great feeling, especially since I’m on active duty and physically far away from Mason. It's a different format, for sure, but the overall experience isn’t that different.”

While balancing his responsibilities is a challenge, Adebiyi says the key is time management. He keeps track of classes, meetings, and military responsibilities, and makes time for homework and projects around his work and class commitments. “It’s a challenge, but it’s not bad,” Adebiyi says. “It’s all about managing your time.”

Adebiyi’s family is in his home country of Nigeria, and he cites family as a major motivation, pushing him to succeed. He is the first in his family to attend college or join the military, and they view Adebiyi as a hero. Knowing his family is proud helps maintain his forward momentum, even when his responsibilities are challenging.

When asked why he chose the MSF, Adebiyi says his due diligence on the job market and program helped him to realize his degree would be applicable to a wide variety of positions, particularly portfolio analysis. Coming straight from Virginia State, he felt the MSF gave him a better chance of securing a well-paying job than an MBA.  

In terms of advice, Adebiyi acknowledges the challenging nature of his schedule, he believes others can follow in his footsteps, “It takes commitment and balance, but you can do it. Talk to your professors, let them know what’s going on. Use your resources. Don’t be scared to try.”


The master’s in finance is a 33-credit program designed to be completed in one or two years. The program, designed to meet the standards of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute's Candidate Body of Knowledge, is structured around the principles of financial knowledge, as well as advanced qualitative and programming skills.