Ben Pallas has hit his stride.
With one semester left before completing his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration (Accounting), the former Missoula College student is set to graduate top of his class, intern with a leading accounting firm this summer and begin graduate coursework next fall.
But for Pallas, whose interests after high school ranged from construction to business startups to management, the road to his current success was long and winding.
Pallas graduated from Big Sky High School in 2010 and enrolled at Montana State University in Bozeman. He completed general education requirements, but never felt drawn to a single area of study.
He moved back to Missoula for the College’s Business Management Program. Though this was a better fit, it still wasn’t quite right. Years working as a foreman for a friend’s startup lawn mowing company led him to try out the Entrepreneurship option, and that’s where he met Professor Lisa Swallow.
“To be honest, I thought Accounting 1 was going to be my most boring class,” he remembers of the required course. “But when I met Lisa, it just changed.”
Swallow has been a faculty member at Missoula College, her alma mater, since 1994. Following her studies, she spent nine years traveling, living overseas and earning a Masters.
Swallow took an interest in Pallas’s studies. She saw progress and promise in her new student, and also recognized Pallas’s struggle to balance his coursework with his full-time job. She urged him to switch programs to study accounting and together they developed a personalized education plan.
“The critical piece in advising is to truly listen to what the student desires and help make that happen,” says Swallow. “I am humbled and grateful for the years of experience working with a diversity of students.”
Accounting came naturally for Pallas. He found the homework easy and started acing tests. He took every course Swallow offered in the Accounting Technology Associates of Applied Science program.
Eventually, they both realized that to reach his potential, he would need a bigger school with connections to larger accounting firms for internships. Pallas transferred to UM’s School of Business Administration to earn a Bachelors and sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam, and he’s been ahead of the curve ever since.
“I got the attention I needed to find where I was headed,” said Pallas, who will begin an internship with Moss Adams LLP in San Diego next May.
“His dream of moving to southern California to begin a career in accounting has been realized, and I couldn’t be prouder,” said Swallow.
“I still have great professors as it is now,” said Pallas, “but there are some classes I think, man, I wish I had Lisa.”