After an intense program of research projects, global internships, and competitions, 69 students in the Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) Program graduated last Friday.
Graduation speaker Howard Morgan, a renowned venture capitalist, philanthropist, and angel investor, said he was honored to be speaking to such a distinguished and lucky group of graduates.
“Distinguished in that I think this is best financial engineering program in the nation,” he said during the ceremony at Andersen Auditorium. “And lucky in that you are just at the start of an exciting career at a time when big data, deep learning, and changes in financial regulation that are going to affect the financial world in the next decades.”
Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE Program, honored many of the students in the Class of 2017 during the ceremony, with both lighthearted recognitions (“Most Innovative Eating” went to Jae Sang Shim, for eating bread with a fork, and “Best Dressed” went to Maite Soubeyran), and more serious awards to three students, whom Kreitzman said did not let tremendous personal sorrow impact their success in the program.
Kreitzman praised the students for “doing all that we asked and beyond,” and noted that the group raised the bar for the incoming class.
All of the students held internships, from New York to Hong Kong to London during the program, 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.
“It’s an emotional time for us,” Kreitzman said before the ceremony. “We do bond with our students. It’s a class of 69 and there’s a feeling that they are part of a family. I am always sad to see them leave but at the same time I am excited by what’s awaiting them.”
Dean Rich Lyons noted how transformative the MFE Program is, building the resilience required to move into an exciting industry that’s continuously changing.
“You’ve been transformed in many ways,” he said. “People come up to me from this program and say when they got here they were thinking, ‘other people do that’ and now they’re saying ‘I do that, I could do that, I could choose to do that, it is available to me.’ That is an identity change. That is not just more information or knowledge. Those are the things that are so valuable in life.”
Student speaker Arsh Sood described the phases of the MFE: the first term, where the group bonded; followed by the second “killer term,” where they pushed themselves to the limit. “The challenges we overcame in that term gave us the confidence and the strength to tackle anything we might face in the future,” he said. During the third term, everyone had the opportunity to prepare to step into the world; in the final term, where they finally relaxed and had a little fun.
Sood expressed the class’s gratitude to Kreitzman.
“You left no stone unturned in making us what we are today, and you have always treated us like your children and guided us in the right direction,” he said.
The graduation ceremony included many honors. Ming Li Chew, Sahil Puri, Arsh Sood, and Adam Wearne won the $5,000 Morgan Stanley Applied Finance project award for “Using Natural Language Processing Techniques for Stock Return Predictions.” This capstone project requires all students to work in groups, and present to the faculty and the MFE steering committee.
Other awards presented were:
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Prof. Martin Lettau, Kruttschnitt Family Chair in Financial Institutions in the Haas Finance Group
Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Paulo Manoel
Defining Principles awards:
· Students Always: Yihui Victoria Li
· Question the Status Quo: Tianyi Frank Xia
· Confidence without Attitude: Krishanu Nandy
· Beyond Yourself: Alexander Olson
Award for the Embodiment of all Four Defining Principles: Robin Ferret, Adam Plantinga, Sahil Puri
The MFE Heart Award (for exceptional kindness in interactions with staff, students, and faculty): Kai Liu
Berkeley-Haas Leadership Award (new award in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Investment Officer at the University of California Office of the President, UCOP): Juan Rassa
Alumni awards (for outstanding teaching and service to the MFE Program): Craig Dana, MFE 2016 and Emmanuel Vallod, MFE 2011
The incoming MFE class, which arrived today, includes students from 16 countries, including Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, the UK, Singapore, India, China, and Mexico. The new group has three years of average work experience, the most (45 percent) in finance, followed by research & development, engineering, and consulting.