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DSU grad scores in top 1 percent on business test

If anyone wants to know where Jason Kovacevich is, a good bet would be to follow the money.

A finance major who completed his bachelor's degree at Dickinson State University in the spring, Kovacevich was an accomplished business student at the college who, for the time being, deals blackjack at the Red Coach Lounge in Dickinson.

Earlier this year, Kovacevich, 25, scored in the top 1 percentile nationally in the Educational Testing Services business exam, which is taken by graduating business program students at DSU.

"We had several students score in the top 10 percent this year, but I've never had a student score in the top 1 percent before," said Charles Conrick, a business professor at DSU. "So Jason did very well. The level that he tested out on is on par with an Ivy League level or better. I'm very proud of him for doing that well. It shows a great deal of intellect and a great deal of business knowledge."

An Alaska native, Kovacevich followed family to Dickinson after attending school in Texas for a time and found his niche while at DSU.

Continuing to work the job he held while in college, Kovacevich said he and his fiancée, Courtney Senger, are planning to leave town once he is able to find a job.

"Ideally, I'd like to be a financial analyst or something like that," Kovacevich said. "I've also been looking into accounting jobs. I'm looking for jobs right now in South Dakota and on the eastern side of North Dakota in Fargo and Grand Forks, among other places. We're wanting to get out of the craziness of the boomtown, if possible."

Kovacevich said close to 300 other schools require students take the ETS business exam as part of their undergraduate business curriculums. A 120-question exam, the test quizzes students on a wide range of business topics, including management, economics, accounting, human resources, finance, information systems, business law, international issues and others.

"I really liked the business program at DSU," Kovacevich said. "I learned a lot from my professors and I especially liked Dr. Conrick. He was my advisor and I got along with him really well. He really focused on real world situations and not just what the book teaches you. I liked that about a lot of the teachers at DSU. Textbooks can be pretty dry sometimes, but they emphasize real world situations there."

More than 100 DSU students took the exam in May and scored a combined mean institutional score in the 68th percentile nationally, Conrick said. Scoring in that percentile means that DSU business students tested out higher than 68 percent of the students who took the exam.

"The scores of our graduates speak to the quality of DSU's business program, our students and the university as a whole," said assistant business professor Holly Forsness. "We are delighted this year that eight of our students scored in the top 10 percent nationally."

After arriving in Dickinson in 2010, part of Kovacevich's college experience has been the unique -- and sometimes exasperating -- opportunity to live in a boomtown.

"It only seems to have slowed down a little bit in the past six months, but it's still very busy," he said. "It's interesting sometimes dealing blackjack. I think most of the people who have come here are good people, but then you have the few bad apples who think everything is owed to them even though the state is giving them the opportunity for a job. But there's also the vast majority who get it and are thankful for what they've found here."

Kovacevich said he and his fiancée plan to start a family over the course of the next few years, but he worries that the inflated cost of living in Dickinson would be difficult for an entry level employee fresh out of college to manage.

Whether it's in the working world or furthering his education, Conrick said he envisions a lot of success for Kovacevich in whatever he chooses to do.

"Certainly, if he wanted to, he would probably do very well on one of the tests for graduate school," Conrick said. "If he so desired, I think Jason would have an opportunity to go to one of the top schools in the business world to further his education. If he just wants to go to work, given training and experience, he could handle any type of job in the finance world. He has the talent for it."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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