MFE commencement 2021: ‘Think big and never compromise on your values’

MFE students dine at restaurant
MFE students and MFE Executive Director Linda Kreitzman gather for lunch before the pandemic.

If there was one thing that Linda Kreitzman wanted the Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering class of 2021 to remember, it was this: “You will not be remembered as the pandemic class, but as the class of inspiring heroes.”

Kreitzman, who’s served as the MFE program’s executive director for 20 years, praised the 96 MFE graduates at Friday’s commencement for their humility, grit, kindness, and “setting a new standard” for the program during a turbulent year. 

“We are in awe of what you have accomplished and of your success. It’s been awesome leading you,” she said, before showing a tribute slideshow that captured festive moments during the academic year—including graduates dancing to Beyonce’s “Formation” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” carving Halloween pumpkins, cooking competitions, and preparing Thanksgiving meals.

six students dance on rooftop
Six MFE roommates dance to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

In opening remarks, Dean Ann Harrison thanked the spouses, partners, parents, and children of graduates as well as the MFE staff for going beyond themselves to help students get through “one of the most difficult years” they’ve ever experienced.

Harrison went on to commend graduates for mastering the rigorous financial engineering program—which consistently ranks #1—and for joining a community whose students and alumni embody Berkeley Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

“These principles certainly reflect who you have been as students, and I hope they will be among your most precious assets as you move through your careers, serving as anchors during times of turbulence and guideposts at the crossroads,” Harrison said. 

She also reminded members of the class of 2021 that they will be joining a vast alumni network and encouraged them to “stay connected, hire Haas, and give back.”

White male in white button shirt gives speech
Tomer Amit was the 2021 MFE program’s valedictorian.

Valedictorian Tomer Amit noted how quickly the year has gone by and talked about how professors, the MFE staff, and his culturally diverse classmates helped make a magical graduate experience, in spite of a global pandemic.

Amit advised his fellow classmates to “think big. Never compromise on your values, and things will turn out just fine.”

Jerry Qinghui Yu and Renee Reynolds, president and co-president of the Financial Engineering Student Association (FESA), also recognized MFE staff for going above and beyond to support students this year. Among those efforts included delivering care packages to students in-person and being available at all times.

Qinghui Yu quipped that not only does the Berkeley MFE program prepare students for financial engineering roles, but it also typically produces at least three couples every year. That includes his own relationship to fellow MFE graduate, Camilla Guo. 

He added that this year challenged him academically, socially, and professionally, but it was one of the most rewarding years of his life. “This year taught me a lot about resilience, and if there’s a takeaway for me, it’s that for every hardship, there’s an opportunity.”

Dr. Leda Braga, founder and CEO of Systematica, gave this year’s commencement speech.

Here are this year’s commencement award winners:

Salutatorian: Aman Dixit 

Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Prof. Nancy Wallace

Haas Graduate Student Instructor Awards: Maxine Sauzet and Nick Sanders

Question the Status Quo: Renee Reynolds and Manish Chalana

Confidence without Attitude: Paul Noel Digard and Camilla Hao Guo

Student Always: Shreya Vontela and Vishal Tripathi

Beyond Yourself: Loic Diridollou and Bandile Mbele

Embodiment of All Four Defining Principles: Tomer Amit and Veronica Ruobing Tang

Financial Engineering Certificate: Henry Keyton and Harrison Shaw

Alumni Award: Nicolas Corthorn and Elena Gorskaya

MFE graduates are moving on to jobs at Goldman Sachs, PIMCO, UBS, Citadel, Millennium Management, and many other firms.

After saying goodbye to the 96 graduates Friday, the MFE program welcomed a new class of 80 students on Monday. They hail from 14 countries, including China, Argentina, India, France, Mexico, and Morocco.

A video recording of Friday’s commencement can be viewed here.