Master of Financial Engineering Program graduates 67 students

MFE 2018 commencement. All photos by Jim Block
MFE 2018 commencement. All photos by Jim Block.

Surrounded by friends and family, 67 students in the tight-knit Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) class of 2018 graduated last Friday.

Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, said the graduating students, who hail from 15 countries, became close over the past year.

“I would like to say it’s been a privilege to guide you throughout this year,” she told the students, who gathered in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. “I am very proud of your accomplishments. MFE 18 will be a tough act to follow.”

Linda Kreitzman: The MFE 18 will be a tough act to follow.
Linda Kreitzman, MFE executive director: The MFE 18 will be a tough act to follow.

Kreitzman welcomed graduation speaker Prof. Andrew Lo, who runs the financial engineering laboratory at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, noting that one of the graduating students, Tony Tong, applied for an MFE because he was so inspired by Lo’s work. She also welcomed Gifford Fong, BS 67, MBA 69, JD 71, who provided the seed money to start the MFE program. Fong is a member of the UC Berkeley Board of Trustees and president of Gifford Fong Associates.

Kreitzman asked the audience to rise for Dean Lyons, who is stepping down as dean in June. “You have given us your trust and the resources to take this program to be #1 in the country, and you have articulated the key Defining Leadership Principles to which the MFE program and I hold our students,” she said to Lyons.

“A certain kind of leadership”

Dean Lyons told the students that they originally were accepted into the MFE program by distinguishing themselves as individuals in college and at work, but that the program has changed them.

“Over this past year you may have seen a glimpse of your future, that you will do your life’s best and most important work not as an individual contributor but by working with and through others…by taking 2 or 20 or maybe 20,000 people who wanted to accomplish something special and don’t quite know how or where to start,” he said. “You can help them get there. To do that well requires a certain kind of leadership.”

Berkeley Haas has taken a particular stand on the kinds of leaders the school aims to develop, through the curriculum and the learning environment, and the Defining Leadership Principles, Lyons added. “As students here, you know these principles by heart—you’d better!—and after you receive your degrees today, you will carry them forward into your careers.”

Students celebrate after the ceremony.
Students celebrate after the ceremony.

​Andrew Lo, the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor at the Sloan School, told the students they had some of the biggest advantages of any generation in history, with “enormous amounts of information and tools at your fingertips,” but also some of the greatest challenges—climate change, flu pandemics, cybersecurity threats, and systemic risk in the financial system.

He also reflected on the meaning of the ten-year anniversary of of the financial crisis, which is now in the spotlight. “Finance doesn’t have to be a zero sum game,” he said. “You can do well by doing good if you use that power responsibly—and I suspect all of you will.”

And now for the awards…

MIT Sloan Prof. Andrew Lo

Commencement awards went to:

Question the Status Quo: Achuthan Sekar

Confidence Without Attitude: Shravan Sunkada

Students Always: Manas Shah

Beyond Yourself: Yasmine Moulehiawy

All Four Defining Leadership Principles: Jules Landry-Simard

The Heart & Ethics Award: Pedro Zonari

Valedictorian and Salutatorian: Cheryl Xu and Jules Landry-Simard

University of California, Office of the President Award: Amneet Singh

Alum Who “Helped us Day and Night”: Frank Xia, MFE 17

Best Applied Science Project (sponsored by Morgan Stanley): Tao (Tony) Tong, Manas Shah, Manoj Cherukumalli and Yasmine Moulehiawy

In his speech, class president Ivan Nurminsky noted the great support the class received from Kreitzman and the MFE staff. “They were very much our adoptive parents through this journey,” he said. Snow Wang, class vice president, thanked the faculty. “It’s because of professors like them who genuinely have a passion for student learning that Berkeley has had its place in the world for the past 150 years,” he said.

Linda Kreitzman with students
“Like a family:” Linda Kreitzman with students 

During the program, all of the students held internships in areas such as big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, working in hedge funds, investment and commercial banking, asset management, and financial services. The majority will go on to work in the U.S. or London at such firms as Citadel, PIMCO, BlackRock, Squarepoint Capital, and Morgan Stanley.