Category: Graduate Student Profiles
Math Concepts Applied.
Before starting the Mathematical Finance (MSMF) program at the School of Management Ilanit Shtein (MSMF’12) spent several years as a math and physics instructor for flight cadets at the Israeli Air Force Flight Academy and as a JAVA software engineer for Comverse, a technology firm. She earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Tel-Aviv University. Passionate about software and math, Shtein sought out new intellectual challenges where she could apply her skills and grew interested in financial engineering.
When Shtein moved to Boston in 2009 with her husband where he was pursuing an MBA, she decided to look into a master’s in math finance. “I figured this would be a fascinating application of my math and engineering passions,” she says. “There are so many interesting problems to be solved in derivatives pricing, risk management, and algorithmic trading.”
Shtein became most excited about BU’s program after attending a financial masters programs fair where she met several BU representatives. Professor Lyasoff, founder of BU’s MSMF program, impressed her with his passion for the program and his commitment to balancing theory with practice. “I liked the fact that they try to keep it very mathematical and very practical,” she explains.
A subsequent visit to Assistant Professor Konstantino Kardaras’ stochastic calculus class helped reinforce her interest in BU. In fact, Kardaras became one of her favorite professors. “He explains everything so thoroughly,” says Shtein. “He teaches three-hour classes without bringing a single note with him. He remembers everything, and writes everything on the board. My notes from his classes are better than any book. He also tries to relate everything to practice.”
Summer Better Than Others.
During her first semester, Shtein attended on-campus presentations by several financial firms including Duff & Phelps, a financial advisory firm where she successfully landed an internship the following summer. “The MF program has a very strong relationship with Duff & Phelps,” she says. “There are four graduates of the program who work or have worked at the San Francisco office, which includes about a dozen team members, so they truly appreciate our program.”
At Duff & Phelps, Shtein worked on researching and developing a LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate) market model for pricing interest rate derivatives, a project that drew on her coursework in stochastic calculus and fixed income securities.. “The MF program was a wonderful preparation for the hard work required to independently research and implement financial models,” she adds. Additionally, Shtein worked on projects for valuations of convertible stocks and compensation plans using Monte Carlo simulations and binomial trees.
She urges incoming students to take lots of notes but not to develop tunnel-vision about studying to the extent that they ignore professional development opportunities. “Start researching companies during the first semester,” she says. “Don’t apply without researching the company first. It’s better to apply to fewer firms that you’ve had a chance to meet with their professionals or research the company.” Shtein also suggests preparing for interviews during winter break, since second semester tends to be hectic.
Looking ahead, Shtein says there are still many aspects of math finance that she’d like to explore. She hopes to gain more professional and managerial experience before eventually returning to Israel to start her own financial practice.
Alexis Lempereur, International MBA ’11.
Alexis Lempereur, International MBA ’11, talks about how an International MBA helped him transition from consulting to finance. By working in different cultural environment and working with current global issues, Lempereur explains how the International MBA program prepared him for real-world management issues.
Business in Motion
Growing up in Kansas City, Erin Gregory (HSM, PNP’12) starting dancing at age five and participated in a competitive dance team from the age of seven through senior year of high school. She says business school was the last place she pictured herself, but Gregory’s dance background and love of the stage has helped her excel in the classroom. “I love giving presentations,” she says.
She does it well outside of class, too. She was chosen as the student speaker for her MBA commencement ceremony.
Gregory studied journalism and psychology at the University of Kansas, where she joined Alpha Gamma Delta and served as president of the Panhellenic Association. After college, she worked as an account coordinator and later a senior account executive at Morningstar Communications, a small public relations firm in Kansas City.
“I had clients in retail, telecom, healthcare, nonprofit, and professional services like law firms, which really gave me a broad introduction to the importance of strategic communication,” she says. As she moved up the ranks and took on increasing responsibilities, Gregory discovered an interest in the healthcare and nonprofits, so she’s pursuing certificates in health sector management and nonprofit management.
At the time she may have surprised her family and herself by enrolling in Boston University’s MBA program, but Gregory says it was the right step for her professionally. As she puts it, “No matter what role you have, you need to have an understanding of business to move up and take on leadership roles.”
She’s gained experience through a summer internship with Beacon Health Strategies and a management consulting class in which students work with a local nonprofit. “It was a full-fledged consulting engagement,” she says of the class, “everything from doing a scope of services to delivering a project plan and implementation timeline for a real client that needs your help.”
In Gregory’s case, that client was Access, a nonprofit that advises high school students on financial aid options for college. Gregory and two of her classmates worked on identifying several metrics that would measure success across all of the organization’s departments so that senior management can gauge whether the organization is on track to meet its goals. “It’s a great resume builder but it’s also a great experience,” says Gregory. “The organization has a mission that I very strongly believe in.”
Outside the classroom, she’s involved in the School’s graduate student council as VP of governance and attends as many SMG social events as she can, including Cohort Cup events. “You’re placed in one of four cohorts and we all compete throughout the year through attendance at social activities like a basketball tournament or karaoke,” she explains. Those events, including trivia nights and a Halloween party, have helped Gregory bond with classmates in a more casual setting. She says meeting second-year students during her first year offered her valuable connections and advice.
After graduation, Gregory hopes to stay in Boston and work in consulting. “I think consulting is a great opportunity to put my new MBA skills to the test,” she explains. “In the long run, I want to think of myself as the kind of person whose life is not so planned that I can’t take advantage of things that come my way.”
By Susan Johnston
Learning to empower others
About 10 years ago, Anya Thomas wanted to be a player in the movie industry. Majoring in film production at the University of Southern California, Thomas began to have second thoughts during her senior year when she came to a realization that the profession wasn’t as much of a useful outlet for her outgoing personality as she originally thought.
“I did a lot of film editing, sitting in front of a computer” she said. “I’m people oriented and I wanted to try something that had interactions with lots of different kinds of people.”
So Thomas struck off in a new direction, taking a job with Christian Challenge, a faith-based nonprofit that organizes conferences for college students to help them experience spiritual growth.
While there, Thomas took students on service trips during the summer. Three years in a row they went to teach English in Ethiopia. What happened there made her reassess her life’s path for a second time.
During the trips she encountered several Ethiopian university students who, despite having an advanced degree, couldn’t find work due to their country’s poor economic situation.
“Ethiopia’s economy is in a state where there aren’t any jobs for people; it doesn’t matter how qualified you are,” she said.
These dire circumstances are forcing well-educated Ethiopians to emigrate from their homes to look for work in the United States or Europe, stripping the country of its most brilliant minds and preventing them from improving Ethiopia’s communities.
At this moment, Thomas, like the rest of the world, doesn’t have a proven way of digging large groups of people out of impoverished living situations. But she’s absorbing and filtering as much information on different helping strategies as possible.
“I don’t know what exactly it will look like, and I don’t know how long it will take,” she said. “But I’m really passionate about giving people access to education and opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s why I’m getting this degree. It’s more of an entrepreneurship in giving people a livelihood.”
Having spent the last 12 years of her life in California, Thomas wasn’t sure traveling across the country to BU was the right fit, but the turning point was when she came out for Open House on campus.
“It’s such a supportive environment,” she said. “I really felt welcomed by the community.”
Recently, Thomas was named an MBA All-Star by the Boston Business Journal, based on a recommendation for the School of Management.
After graduating from BU, Thomas would like to put her knowledge to use back in Africa.
“I want to work with organizations that take a more holistic look at international development, but at the end of the day I’m going to look at more income-generating activities,” Thomas said. “I would really like to help Ethiopians—especially women—develop small businesses that would not only provide for them, but really help revitalize their communities.”
Ask Katy Perkins (MS•MBA ’12) about healthcare process improvement, and her eyes light up, ready for a challenge. This petite, soft-spoken management student is a savvy network who’s not afraid to tackle complex problems. She’s working on both a Master of Science in Information Systems and an MBA in Health Sector Management and completed an internship at Children’s Hospital Boston.
Before coming to Boston University’s School of Management, she studied math and economics at Bucknell University and worked as a research coordinator and executive staff program manager for a private medical practice in San Francisco. Gaining experience on the research and management sides of healthcare helped Perkins discover her interest in process improvement, which she describes as “a way to take a complex problem and come up with an organized solution tying together lots of different aspects.”
Perkins had the chance to hone her process improvement skills in her first healthcare class, HM703 Health Sector Issues and Opportunities, where groups of students act as “consultants” to solve an assigned problem. For the semester-long project, Perkins’ group examined ways to deal with inefficiencies in an emergency room.
“We had someone from pharma, me, coming from private practice, and a third teammate who had never worked in healthcare before, so it was interesting to take all these different backgrounds and work together to find a solution where we would all move forward,” she adds.
To supplement her coursework, she worked as a process improvement intern at Children’s Hospital Boston in the department of Environmental Health and Safety, collecting and analyzing data for the annual report, among other projects. “We are doing projects to increase the safety in the hospital and working to collect data as part of those projects, to show the value added of the work that the Environmental Health and Safety Department is doing through their Annual Report,” she explains.
A self-starter who’s eager to build her professional network, Perkins has gone on dozens of informational interviews with healthcare administrators around Boston and says networking made a huge difference in her internship search. Katy has found that “when you email someone as a student and say ‘I just want to learn about what you do,’ I’ve never had anyone say no.”
She also used the Feld Career Center for resume advice and joined the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) after attending a presentation on campus. In addition to hosting events, ACHE maintains an email list and offers resources to keep members current on healthcare reform and trends in hospital management.
Though Perkins misses California, she’s enjoying the change of seasons in New England and plans to stay on the East Coast after graduation. She hopes to work in process improvement eventually become Chief Operations Officer of a hospital someday. “In the long term, managing the day-to-day operations as a COO of a hospital would give me the leverage to make larger changes and give guidance at a strategic level,” she says. With her commitment to process improvement and the education she’s receiving at BU, Perkins is well on her way.
Originally from Cranston, RI, Brian lived and worked in Boston for two years before beginning the MS•MBA program in Health Sector Management (HSM) at Boston University’s School of Management.
“I chose Boston University specifically for the combination of the Health Sector Management program and the MS•MBA. Before starting on my MS•MBA degree, I worked with a vendor of enterprise hospitals solutions and found hospital information systems to be fascinating. Since I didn’t have any formal technical training I chose the MS•MBA track to gain a better understanding of technology.
“Hospitals and the health care industry present a very unique set of challenges and issues. I saw the Health Sector Management program as an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the depth and complexity of those issues.
“My view and understanding of how to understand and use information systems has grown in leaps and bounds. The Health Sector Management program has not only expanded my knowledge of the issues our health delivery network is facing, but I have also been able to meet and network with a vast number of alumni and professionals. I was able to secure my summer internship due to connections I made with HSM alumni.”
“Do you want to be an average soccer player or a great engineer?”That was the question posed to Luis Jugo (MS•MBA ’11, Entrepreneurship) by his brother-in-law. “Once I heard it put that way, it was easy,” says Luis. “I wanted to be a great engineer.”
Luis was attracted to engineering from the seventh grade. “I was very passionate about computers even then and the shift that was occurring there,” he says. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs and lawyers, he was excited to be the first engineer in his family. Luis’s grandfather had started his first business trading between states with a mule and later created the first bank in their hometown of San Cristobal, Venezuela. His equally entrepreneurial father had founded the most widespread regional television channel in Venezuela, a point of Jugo family pride.
And the apple didn’t fall far—engineering notwithstanding. Luis’s goal was always to eventually combine engineering with business. “One of the main reasons I came here to get my MBA was because I wanted to look deeper into my family history of business and figure out where to go. I want to influence my community in a positive way like my father and grandfather have. But I felt I needed the technical aspect first.”
But getting back to Luis’s soccer career. He was a renowned player in his area and, as a teenager, had received several scholarships, one of which was to the prominent Loomis Chaffee school in Windsor, Conn., which he attended for one year between high school and college.
“Soccer taught me to be the best of whatever you’re doing. But more importantly it taught me that it’s the sum of the parts more than any single thing that will get you to a goal. For example, my position was forward, so my job was, literally, to make the goals. But that could never happen if I didn’t get the ball. At some point, I realized that the teamwork important in soccer applies to business too.”
For Luis, soccer has also offered an avenue to giving back, something instilled in him by his family, especially his mother, from an early age. In Venezuela, his coach and teammates organized a clinic that taught the sport to underprivileged kids living in the slum next to his high school.
“Giving back to my community has always been a top priority for me. If you’re going to take advantage of an opportunity, as Venezuelans are known to do, it ultimately has to have a good impact on society as well—that’s something I consider non-negotiable. If it doesn’t give back in some way, then it’s not a worthwhile opportunity.”
Unfortunately, Luis eventually suffered a serious injury at Loomis Chaffee, and instead of pursuing professional soccer against the odds of a long recovery time, he chose to return to Venezuela to become a great engineer.
“We saw moving to the US as an opportunity to take a step back and get a new perspective and additional education. I’ve always wanted to earn my MBA.”
Currently in his second year of the MS∙MBA program, Luis is an active student, heading up the Latin American MBA Association (LAMBAA) as president and serving on the University-wide Global Accelerators of Technology Entrepreneurship organization, or GATE, created by BU’s Office of Technology and Development. Professor Paul McManus, managing director of the University’s Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization (ITEC), personally asked Luis to join GATE, whose purpose is to match new business solutions with developing countries in need.
With all his studies and extracurricular activities, Luis isn’t hurting for ways to spend his time—but he’s not complaining. “In my first couple weeks here, one of my professors told me that if, at the end of the two years, I remember more about what I did inside the classroom than what I did outside, then I wasted my two years. I’m living by that.”
Luis hopes that, eventually, he’ll be able to take the things he’s learned from the School of Management community back to Venezuela to address the problems at home—and make the ultimate positive impact on his community, just like his father and grandfather before him.
PEMBA, Health Sector Management
With a mother who majored in math and a physicist for a father, Steve Sentovich (PEMBA), now a colon and rectal surgeon, thinks of himself as a bit of the family rebel, having chosen medicine over science, and being, at least in his mind, the least educated in his family.
“My parents cultivated a solid learning environment throughout our lives. In high school, I definitely gravitated toward math and science. I had an excellent biology teacher who really inspired me, and I read a lot of books on medicine. I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but my parents kept saying, ‘You could always fall back on engineering.’”
It’s not often that someone’s backup plan is engineering, but it turned out that Steve didn’t need one anyway. He completed a seven-year undergraduate/medical school program, five years of general surgery residency, and a two-year fellowship in colon and rectal surgery. Then he was recruited to work at Boston’s Deaconess Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital), where he worked for five years. He has spent the past 10 years at the Boston University School of Medicine as an associate professor, and he runs his practice at Boston Medical Center.
“Being a physician was very appealing to me because I wanted to care for people. And surgery allows me to do that in a physical way,” he says.
But something was still missing. On the flip side of patient care, Steve had a practice to run, and discovered that he was without the right information to make many of the administrative decisions he was facing.
“During all those years of medical school,” he says, “I had zero training in business and administration. Nobody ever said one thing about it.”
Inspired by a colleague who had attended the School’s Executive Education program and encouraged by the accommodating schedule of the part-time Professional Evening MBA program (PEMBA), Steve added “earn an MBA” onto his already busy schedule of clinic and office visits, surgery, and lecturing. He’s concentrating, of course, in health sector management.
“I really started with zero management knowledge. In fact, for a lot of these MBA classes, I walked in and really didn’t even know what we were going to be talking about. But my professors and classmates have given me a framework for understanding how you organize people, how you learn, and how finances are managed. And with that, I have immediately started applying it to what I do.”
Although Steve understands how important efficient processes, operations, management, and technology are to running his practice, he’s more excited by how his new understanding of health sector management will help make him a better doctor. “When it comes down to seeing a patient in my specialty, I’m able to provide them with the latest, most effective, and comprehensive treatment. It’s still that personal one-on-one that I’m most proud of. And it’s very satisfying when you have a happy outcome.”
By Alissa Mariello
The Business of Biology.
Managing two medical research projects, including a psychiatric clinical drug trial at the University of California, San Diego and a Department of Defense project on post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, inspired Sara Meinke to learn more about the business side of healthcare. “I see how [new drugs] make a difference, so I wanted to be more involved at a higher level and make a bigger impact,” she says.
Though moving from Southern California to Boston brought a bit of culture shock (Meinke admits to missing her car), she settled right into the School of Management’s Health Sector Management Program (HSM). Outside of class, she plays in a coed soccer league and serves as president of the BioBusiness Organization, which connects students to the life sciences community in Boston and beyond.
Meinke says her choice to attend BU was a no-brainer, because HSM had “the best course offerings. We’re in such a robust life sciences community, and I love BU’s friendly culture. It’s somewhere you want to be.”
In between her first and second year, Sara landed a summer internship in global clinical operations at Genzyme, a biotechnology company where she analyzed data and patient information collected during drug development.
In addition to connections and resume help from the Feld Career Center, Sara credits the Integrated Project she completed during first semester with preparing her for the internship.
After a semester on that project with a team of students creating a pitch book on the fake acquisition of a snack product, Sara learned not only business skills but also the ability to work with different personalities in a deadline-driven environment. “I came from a clinical background and I didn’t know anything about business,” she says. “I’d never touched PowerPoint. We did a complete analysis on how we could revitalize the product through financial projections, marketing strategies, analysis of the entire snack food industry. It prepared me for my internship in ways I couldn’t imagine.”
The diversity of her HSM classmates is also preparing her to understand the global nature of healthcare. As Meinke points out, a drug developed in the United States might be available in other parts of the world and regulations in those countries often differ from those in the U.S. “We have people from all corners of the globe, so you learn how industries are run in different countries,” she says. “It’s a much richer experience.”
Once Meinke completes her MBA in 2012, she hopes to gain more experience in clinical operations and use her knowledge to help startup companies develop new medical treatments. With the education and connections she’s gained at BU, Meinke says, “I can help those people make a viable product that can get to market in budget, on time, and efficiently.”
PhD Studies Citizen Actions on Issue Resolutions.
Growing up in a big factory town in central China, Ricky Guo, PhD candidate 2012, saw businesses cope with mass layoffs even as they tried to innovate with new technologies to survive.
From those early beginnings in Wuhan, Guo, now 32, became fascinated with how change happens.
“Wu Han was like Pittsburgh with heavy industry trying to be high tech but still struggling with that transition,” said Guo.
For much of his life, Guo has been at home in overlapping disciplines and their real life applications. And his search for answers has taken him far from his home. Guo headed off to New Zealand for his Master’s and still has a slight Kiwi accent from seven years in Auckland. Fortunately his parents encouraged his adventurous nature.
“My parents think you go out there and find your own life; it’s a coward who stays at home.”
After finishing his schooling, Guo remained in Auckland to work as a consultant in Auckland. He said he was struck by the way that people with varying interests and backgrounds overcame conflicts to complete projects. “That’s what was exciting about consulting, pulling people from very diverse backgrounds together,” he said.
It was an experience that resonated for him because during his Master’s studies a professor in New Zealand had suggested he contact BU School of Management (SMG) Associate Professor of Information Systems Paul Carlile because of Carlile’s focus on innovation from a social relations perspective.
“Carlile is curious about how people from diverse backgrounds can come together under one roof and create something totally new,” said Guo. Carlile responded to Guo and soon they struck up a brisk correspondence between New Zealand and Boston. It was a critical exchange, one that led Guo to his academic future.
“I realized that the challenge in the workplace issue was a research question,” and that research was where his future lay.
“I realized that the challenge in the workplace issue was a research question,” and that research was where his future lay.
That prompted him to apply to doctoral programs –focusing on a lifelong dream of earning a PhD in the U.S. and adding to his dream the chance to study with Carlile.
In 2008, Guo started working on his PhD at SMG. His relationship with Carlile has grown, he says, to more of a “discipleship,” and Guo’s interests have evolved from studying information systems to a focus on strategy.
Now he has a cutting edge dissertation proposal that he will defend in September on how the actions of various stakeholders have influenced the outcome during the 10-year permitting and approval process for Cape Wind, America’s first offshore wind farm planned off Cape Cod. Views of the project changed over time in the public and in various agencies and government offices, he said.
“I want to look at what happened and what actions people took to induce what outcome,” Guo said. As a project in a bold new industry, Cape Wind blazed a trail in an area that lacked much regulatory structure. “I looked at the impacts on views of how issues were raised, studied and evaluated over time from 2001 to now” for everyone from the Army Corps of Engineers to the opposition group the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
Guo’s research, which is still preliminary, has focused on why the actions of some stakeholders are more effective than others. For instance, he is comparing the impact of a group that invests in scientific studies to make their point with ones that stage protests or post signs advocating for or against the project.
The research, he said, is more about the process than the wind farm per se. It could be based on any significant public project. “The question is which strategy have people taken and how those strategies have produced different results.”
The dissertation would break new ground, he said, because prior research has not linked people’s actions with outcomes.
Guo said that a year from now he plans to be writing his dissertation and looking for a job in academia.
Already, he said, he has learned a lot by living on campus and keeping company not only with his own cohort but also with graduate students outside SMG. He said he loves to engage the mathematicians, biologists, and law students on his research.
“If I don’t make sense to a law student then I reflect on how it is that I can make my proposal meaningful to others,” he said. “If we stay in the business school we take too many things for granted.”