Jenn Larson was just 14 years old when she took over the bookkeeping for her family’s dairy farm near Firth, Idaho. She soon saw firsthand how challenging it was for her parents, who lacked any college education, to properly manage the unpredictable revenues of farming. This experience ignited a lifelong passion for finance, and it led her down an unexpected path to becoming a role model she never had.
Larson’s early experience with bookkeeping inspired her to pursue an education in finance, hoping to transform her family’s life in the process. Yet, such ambitions ran in stark contrast to everything familiar to her. "I didn’t have any mentors,” Larson says. “I didn’t have anyone to look up to for a professional example. All the women I associated with were stay-at-home moms.”
Despite having parents who couldn't fully understand her ambitions, Larson enrolled at the BYU Marriott School of Business, where she earned a business degree and focused much of her coursework on international finance.
Larson worked for seven years as a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual, advising clients on important fiscal decisions. Even so, Larson felt a pull toward teaching that had started when she served as a teaching assistant during college. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching,” Larson says. “I love helping other people learn something that I think is valuable.”
Larson returned to BYU Marriott in 2008 to earn an MBA, and accepted a position in the school as an adjunct professor following her graduation. For more than a decade, Larson has taught finance classes to undergraduate and MBA students.
Even today, Larson’s experiences on her family’s farm affect the way she instructs her students. While she teaches corporate finance, Larson strives to help her students see how mastering finance principles can also impact their personal lives. “Everything I talk about in class I bring back to the individual,” Larson says. “I explain how these principles can benefit the student on a personal level, just like they did for my family.”
Constantly striving to balance motherhood and work, Larson makes adjustments to the way she teaches. She gave birth to her first three children in three years while teaching at BYU Marriott, wondering at times if labor might start while in front of a class full of students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Larson taught online classes from her dining room table while juggling care of a newborn and other young children at home.
Despite the demands, the mother of five still prioritizes family above all else. “I wouldn’t teach if it meant I couldn’t be a mom,” Larson says. She strives to be a positive example to women around her, including her own daughters. “In fact, I feel like teaching has made me a better mom,” Larson says. “I think it shows my children that moms can work.”
As a female instructor in the often male-dominated finance industry, Larson works to inspire other women who seek a similar path to hers. When she shares her story with students, women often express a strengthened belief that they can navigate motherhood and the business world. She has received several emails from former female students thanking her for her example.
“I’m just doing my own thing. This is what I do,” Larson says. “I love teaching. I love being a mom. And I love the fact that I can have both. I didn’t realize the impact you can have just by doing your own thing.”
In the process of pursuing education and a career, Larson became the role model that she never had—the example that a 14-year-old girl staring at a farming expense sheet couldn’t find. Now, Larson’s children and students will always have that example.
Written by Alec Pope