Darien native Maura Farley is a true testament to hard work and perseverance. Farley graduated valedictorian of Darien High School's Class of 2009 before heading off to Dartmouth College, where earlier this month she was recognized as one of Dartmouth's five valedictorians from the Class of 2013.

Farley earned a 4.0 grade point average along with four fellow students, granting them the co-valedictorian distinction.

While at Dartmouth, Farley pursued a major in history, focusing her interests on medieval and early modern European history as well as American literature and Spanish. This August, Farley will move to New York City to join investment firm BlackRock's investments team as a credit analyst in its fixed income division.

What led Farley, a history major, to take on a job in the finance world?

"That's actually one I get asked quite frequently," she said. During her sophomore year at Dartmouth, Farley joined the Smart Woman Securities club, a national organization dedicated to teaching women basic finance concepts. "I found myself pretty interested by what I was learning so I went back to them the following semester to do equity research. I really liked that because I found that I could actually use and leverage a lot of skills that I had as a history major doing deep fundamental research trying to really get to the bottom of what made companies and industries tick."

In addition to being a Smart Woman Securities member, Farley is a member of the Dartmouth Society of Economics and Investment, the Alpha Xi Delta sorority, an early inductee of Phi Beta Kappa in 2010, and a Rufus Choate Scholar (an honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class) for all four years at Dartmouth.

"It was important for me to take breaks from my work at Dartmouth and kind of recharge with friends and have a good time," Farley said of balancing her academic and social life at the college. "The other thing is that I really loved my work at Dartmouth, so it didn't feel like a chore for me to go to the library."

More Information

Fact box

Farley was already familiar with the Dartmouth campus before she arrived in the fall of 2009. She and her older sister Kathleen overlapped a year at the college, which made transitioning to college life easier.

"When I got there, Kate was really helpful, telling me things like: `These are really good classes;' `If you want an introduction to this subject think about this class.' So I found myself in classes with very talented professors and it was just a lot of fun to have my sister there as well; she and I actually took a couple of classes together," Farley said.

During Farley's commencement address to the Dartmouth community she stated: "Looking out at the extraordinary people assembled before me, who have demonstrated time and time again their resolve to hold ourselves to the highest possible standard, to strive for excellence and to give our best or give nothing, I am quite confident in our ability to continue to do so outside of this fabulous College on the Hill."

Farley offers the same kind of advice to high school students headed to college.

"I would recommend people find a field that they really care about and are passionate about," she said. I think it is a lot easier to work hard and become engaged in your studies if you love what you are reading about and love what you are doing.

"Dartmouth is a classic liberal arts education where you do major in a specific subject, but you also have to fulfill these other distributive requirements to make you well-rounded and I'm actually really glad that I had that kind of education, being in situations where you have to immerse yourself in new fields and figure them out quickly," Farley said of how Dartmouth has prepared her for the real world.

Now a post-grad, Farley is looking forward to "getting to know a new city and totally different lifestyle." She worked for BlackRock last summer and is already familiar with her colleagues and the atmosphere.

"But obviously graduation is a big change, as is living on your own and living in a completely different place," Farley said of the difference between New York City and Hanover, N.H.

"But that's kind of exciting. I look forward to figuring that out and discovering the new challenges along the way."

Mac McDonough is a freelance writer.