Alana D. Visconti, a current student in the Baruch College Weissman MA in Corporate Communication program, has been recognized as one of Ragan Communications and PR Daily’s Top Women In Marketing for the Class of 2023. This honor underscores the strategic acumen and innovative spirit that Visconti embodies, traits that have always distinguished her among her peers in a competitive industry.
Attributing her success to the robust foundation laid by the Corp Comm program, she is especially thankful to Professor and Program Director Caryn Medved for the nomination that has led to this recognition.
I write to welcome back returning faculty and to welcome, for the first time, 40 new full-time faculty—the largest cohort of new faculty ever to join the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences at one time. Their expertise in a wide array of research disciplines and teaching will deepen and broaden our ability to advance our mission.
On Friday we also welcomed approximately 2600 first-year students and 1500 transfer students. Many Weissman faculty attended orientation meetings with these students and their peer mentors—their excitement in starting their Baruch careers is palpable!
I want to share with you some exciting updates involving Weissman: the Mathematics Department has won a National Science Foundation S-Stem grant of nearly $1 million. This grant will offer meaningful financial and academic support to a cohort of new majors each year for its duration and further solidify Weissman’s reputation as a math destination.
Congratulations to Professors Pablo Sobreron-Bravo, Guy Moshkovitz, and Tim Ridenour for this fabulous win!
I also want to congratulate Professor Lisa Blankenship (English) on her new role as Interim Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). A growing area of interest for the CTL is the use of AI and its potential role in the classroom. Keep an eye out for its upcoming series of workshops about incorporating and responding to AI in the classroom.
In the coming weeks and months, the College will be sharing our new Strategic Plan. In Weissman, we will use the launch of the College’s Strategic Plan to kick off our own WSAS Strategic Planning process. I look forward to collaborating with faculty, staff, and students as we gather input on our collective priorities for the next five years.
This is truly a time of change and transformation in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences and in higher education. I feel so fortunate to be part of a community known for its productivity, generosity, and dedication. I look forward to the year ahead.
With my very best wishes for every success,
Jessica Lang, Dean Weissman School of Arts and Sciences Baruch College, CUNY
The echoes of war reverberate long after the final shots are fired, and for the more than 450,000 Cubans who participated in the generation-long Angolan Civil War from 1975 to 1991, some are just now being heard. Recognizing the significance of the many untold personal narratives from this conflict, Katrin Hansing, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Baruch College, and her colleague Maria de los Angeles Torres of the University of Illinois, have embarked on an unprecedented undertaking: the process of collecting and disseminating them. With the generous support of a prestigious and highly competitive grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, they will be able conclude their research project and manuscript, “Democratizing the Past: Cubans Remember the Angolan Civil War.”
“Our project delves into memory at the individual level, countering the state’s dominant racialized and heroic war narratives with grassroots testimonies gathered both in Cuba and its diaspora. These accounts will offer a more intricate and contradictory understanding of the war and its remembrances,” Hansing said.
The Cuban state’s official narrative proudly recounts a tale of heroism and sacrifice to settle the debt of slavery and assist in ending apartheid in South Africa. But Hansing, a South African who has extensively researched Cuba over the past 25 years, often encountered anecdotal fragments from Cubans during her visits to the island that challenged this tidy historical saga. And it astonished her that despite the involvement of nearly half a million Cubans – an impact on almost every other Cuban family – an eerie silence still broods over the topic on the island and abroad.
“As someone from a country with a violent and complex history, I firmly believe that confronting and understanding our personal, familial, societal, and national memories is crucial to prevent history from repeating itself,” Hansing emphasized.
With the grant’s assistance, Hansing and Torres will travel on a final journey to Angola to complete additional interviews, followed by the development of an academic book, organizing exhibitions, and conducting workshops and talks. The project aims not just to shed light on a suppressed chapter of Cuban history but to initiate broader conversations about war, trauma, memory, and their impacts on society.
“Look at the war in Ukraine,” Hansing said considering the project’s timely resonances. “We have a war raging right now in the middle of Europe. In the end, Nations win or lose, but the people on the ground are the ones who experience a lifetime of collateral damage. And not just the generation that went through it. It’s still there for the second, the third, and beyond.”
For many Cuban war veterans, this project may provide a long-awaited platform to give voice to their experiences, replacing the authority of a singular war narrative with a rich tapestry of personal accounts. As Hansing says, “It’s about time these stories are heard. Especially now, before they disappear forever.”
This award-winning scientist’s new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History opens new horizons for understanding mammalian morphology.
Photo by Paige Ehrl
In an exciting development in the ever-changing field of evolutionary biology, Assistant Professor Zachary Calamari of Baruch College’s Department of Natural Sciences has unveiled a captivating exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Titled “Mammals with Headgear,” the exhibit explores the appearance of horns and antlers in hoofed mammals and delves into the mysterious evolutionary origins of these cranial ornaments. Professor Calamari’s cutting-edge research in this area has also been recognized with the prestigious Beckman Young Investigator award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, providing $600,000 over four years to support his studies.
Horns and antlers, particularly in ruminant hoofed mammals, constitute the primary focus of Professor Calamari’s investigations, the appearance of which can be traced back 15 million years. One challenge in understanding their evolutionary origins is the lack of ancestral structures in the fossil record. “There’s no sort of nice, rudimentary, ancestral-looking thing that has a little bone bump,” Professor Calamari said. “There’s no halfway point between horns and no horns. Maybe it’s out there somewhere, but the fossil record doesn’t always give us what we want.” This absence has sparked a century-long debate in the scientific community about whether horns and antlers emerged independently on multiple occasions or whether they have a single origin.
To shed light on this evolutionary riddle, Professor Calamari’s research employs a combination of genomics, shape analysis, and modeling techniques. As fossil RNA is not viable for sequencing, he uses modern genomics to examine gene expression in living hoofed mammals and correlates it with the shapes and patterns of horns and antlers observed in extinct species. This research aims to uncover the genes that allow the development of these cranial ornaments and understand precisely how they influence the diverse forms now on display throughout the natural world.
The “Mammals with Headgear” exhibit, part of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Collections Core, showcases this research and provides visitors with an interactive experience. The exhibit features information on the distinguishing characteristics of horns versus antlers and allows visitors to explore 3D models, view photos of RNA extraction from tissue samples, and gain insight into the pathbreaking techniques employed in Calamari’s research.
Beyond the exhibit, the Beckman Young Investigator award will allow Professor Calamari to expand his research further. His project involves three key components: single-cell sequencing, RNA sequencing coupled with epigenetic analysis, and the application of machine learning to map gene expression data onto 3D morphology. These techniques could potentially lead to advancements beyond the world of evolutionary morphology and aid in our understanding of diseases like bone cancer. Additionally, unraveling the genetic underpinnings of horn development in livestock may lead to improved breeding practices and animal welfare by minimizing the need for physical horn removal, a procedure that currently causes pain and stress to the animals.
Perhaps most exciting, the grant also supports paid summer research experiences for Baruch College students, offering valuable hands-on training in scientific inquiry, and equipping them with essential experience in science writing and data collection. Professor Calamari reflected on the transformative role that such paid research experiences have had on his own life. “I was a first-generation college student. I didn’t really know what I was doing getting into academia, and one of the things that really made pursuing lab research feasible is that I got paid to do it. This grant is going to make that possible for the next generation of Baruch students.”
Amid the festivity and flying confetti of Tuesday’s Commencement Ceremony at the Barclays Center, one of 2023’s more accomplished graduates was conspicuously missing. Rather than passing the tassel across her mortarboard, Lelani Pacific-Jack, a political science major with a minor in Japanese, was crossing the Pacific. This spring she was awarded the prestigious Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) grant, which has given her the opportunity to travel to Washington DC, then onto Japan, for the very first time. Pacific-Jack’s journey is a testament to her passion for Japanese culture, her burgeoning interest in international relations, and her estimable dedication to learning the language.
A Brooklyn native and first-generation college student who grew up helping support a single mom and five younger sisters, Pacific-Jack’s interest in Japanese culture started when she discovered Japanese comic books, referred to as manga, after being brought to a bookstore in her neighborhood. She would soon find herself spending hours reading and exploring, inaugurating a lifelong obsession with the world of Japanese storytelling.
“Those adventures and those distinct cultural differences that I read about affected my imagination really deeply,” she said. “I guess I started to realize how much I liked reading about people different from me. I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of diversity when I was really young. For me, It was so interesting to read this combination of fantasy and reality and not be able to tell the difference between the two. I just went completely down the rabbit hole.”
In high school, Pacific-Jack studied French for four years. However, it was in Baruch College’s growing Japanese Program, housed by the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, that she finally had the opportunity to learn Japanese. Pacific-Jack describes learning the language as the hardest thing she has ever done, but despite the difficulties her all-out enthusiasm for the culture has allowed to persevere. In her final semester at Baruch, she completed her fourth Japanese class and is well on her way to advanced proficiency.
A journey to Japan has always been a dream of hers, but the obstacles sometimes seemed insurmountable for someone from her background. “The financial burden and the time commitment required to go to Japan are pretty intense,” she said. However, thanks to the support and guidance of her Professors Shige (CJ) Suzuki and Yukie Yamaguchi-Callahan, whom she refers to as her “sensei,” and Sandy Kupprat of the Starr Career Center, she discovered the JUSFC Summer Institute program, which unites her interests in international relations and her love for Japan. “I applied. I never thought I’d get it. But, I got it.”
The JUSFC Summer Institute, an organization that supports scholarly, cultural, and artistic activities between Japan and the United States, covers all expenses for Pacific-Jack’s trip, including flights, accommodation, and provides a daily stipend. As part of the program, she will have the opportunity to meet experts in Japanese studies and international relations, such as Professor Ian J. Miller, a historian of Japan from Harvard University, and Sheila A. Smith, Japanese policy expert from the Council on Foreign Relations.
But, for Pacific-Jack, this journey to Japan is not just about personal growth and cultural exploration, it’s also about representation and creating opportunities for others. One of the few Black women studying Japanese in her classes, Pacific-Jack is passionate about promoting diversity and inclusivity within the Japanese community.
“I’ve always been the only Black girl in all of my Japanese classes. I do think that promoting diversity is really important, creating that space for other people to appreciate Japanese culture,” she reflected.
“When I started meeting with all the other students who got in I saw that there were a lot of Black women there. And I tell my mom, ‘I don’t know what to say. What do I say?’ Because I’m just so used to being the only one. It’s like, wow, there are other people just like me who are interested in the same thing as me and studying the same exact thing as I am. It was kind of a surreal moment for me. I thought, maybe things can change.”
When asked about her plans after graduation, Pacific-Jack says, “Japan. Just Japan. Going to Japan. That’s always been the end goal. I haven’t even gone yet and I’m already thinking about how I can get back there.”
In a move towards further uniting Baruch College’s two largest schools, and in keeping with President S. David Wu’s recent reflection on the vital importance of the arts and sciences for every educational trajectory, Baruch students who major in a discipline housed by the Zicklin School of Business—whether it be finance, marketing, or real estate—can now complete a liberal arts or sciences concentration at the Weissman School.
This new path for students represents a timely opportunity for them to bring tailor-made combinations of skills onto their resumes and into the workplace.
One such student is Cindy Espinoza Garcia. A native of Ecuador, Garcia is a first-generation college student who intends to become a Marketing major at Zicklin with a concentration in Graphic Communications in Weissman’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts. “In my senior year of high school, all my friends were applying to college except me; I felt confused and without a purpose,” she said. “I didn’t know what career to study or what to do for the rest of my life. I remember telling my family: ‘I just want to do something that would allow me to help people, do my best, and leave a unique mark on the world.’ By putting these two disciplines together, Garcia feels that she will now be equipped with the skills to bring her purpose to fruition.
With a family background in party planning, Garcia has recently started her own business, Soul and Balloons, which offers bespoke balloon design for events in New York City and the surrounding area. “When I started my business, I knew I needed a good understanding of the principles of marketing, but I also knew I needed to learn more about design from design experts. I got really excited when I heard about the new concentration option. Putting all these different ideas together is really going to help me create a business that feels like mine,” Garcia said.
Strictly speaking, Baruch has never encouraged its students to focus solely on the humanities or business education. The College’s curriculum has long recognized that for the business innovators of the future, as well its creatives and communicators, leaders that the College is now famous for producing, training in the arts and sciences provides the very bedrock from which they spring. Because of this, every student at Baruch, regardless of their eventual major is educated in Weissman classrooms.
Now with an official option for Zicklin students to add a Weissman Concentration, the College takes a more forward-facing stance, preparing students to think critically, creatively, and readying them to seize ahold of newly emerging career paths—many of which they themselves will create.
When Aissata M. B. Camara (’11) came to New York City from the Republic of Guinea, West Africa, it was supposed to be a temporary thing. She was 13 years old, undocumented, and didn’t speak a word of English. Over the course of the next 22 years, she would become a vital part of the fabric of New York City political life.
She began to learn the language, culling a few phrases from children’s shows like Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, and eventually earned her U.S. citizenship and two college degrees. She has since gone on to become the deputy commissioner for policy and strategic initiatives in the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs—making her one of the youngest deputy commissioners in the city’s history and the first Black African woman to hold that position in the office.
Camara cites her experience as an undergraduate at Baruch’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences as a crucial moment in her development.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the professors and advisors who poured their love and support into me,” she says.
Like many students who attend Baruch, Camara was initially attracted to the College’s reputation in the financial sector. But the economic recession of 2008 made her consider other directions.
She quickly pivoted to assembling an ad-hoc major within the Weissman School, combining coursework in Psychology, English, and International Affairs. During her time there she founded a nonprofit, the There Is No Limit Foundation, which strives to empower people living in extreme poverty especially women and girls, and people with disabilities.
After completing a Master’s degree at New York University, she happened upon a job opening in the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. Having worked on global issues for most of her career, Camara was intrigued by the fact that the office sat at the nexus of global and local issues. At the urging of a mentor who encouraged Camara to apply her expertise to the challenges facing New York City, she applied and landed the job.
Within the first three weeks of her tenure, she had already launched a new program, NYC Junior Ambassadors, which brings students from across all five boroughs to the United Nations and connects them to global issues through in-depth tours, talks, and classes. This award-winning program has impacted more than 4,000 young people and educators in NYC. She soon found herself promoted to deputy commissioner of her department—which she refers to as being “kind of like the State Department of NYC”—and has since been named chief of staff as well.
When asked why she is so passionate about helping young people, her thoughts turn towards Dr. Wendy Heyman, a psychologist in Baruch’s Starr Career Development Center for over 40 years, who passed away in 2018. Camara remembers that Dr. Heyman always took her dreams and goals seriously and was one of the first who encouraged her to seriously pursue politics.
Years later, Dr. Heyman attended an event that Camara hosted at the United Nations.
“I looked over and saw that, all these years later, she was watching me work alongside the mayor,” Camara says. “I’ll never forget it. She said she couldn’t have been prouder of me. “
Three students representing Baruch’s Heat Island Resiliency Project were awarded $10,000 by the Colgate-Palmolive Company in order to present their original research at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) on April 5th and 6th at the University of Warwick, in Coventry, England. There, at a gathering that included over 70 colleges from around the globe, they brought data, both quantitative and qualitative, that offers a close look at New York City’s most vulnerable—those in neighborhoods most affected by a phenomenon known as the Urban Heat Island Effect—to the world’s stage.
Over the past two years, Jenny Ho, Nikala D’Aguiar, and Samia Alam (L to R), under the stewardship of Associate Professor Mindy Engle-Friedman of the Psychology Department, collected and collated data from several low-income neighborhoods including, Kingsbridge Heights in the Bronx and East Flatbush in Brooklyn. After analyzing several years’ worth of statistics, they created a detailed report that provides a real-time snapshot of these New York City communities, profiling in stark relief the ways that climate change is taking its toll. Taken together, their research shows that metropolitan areas, and particularly those occupied by people of color, are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas because of the wide use of asphalt, concrete, and buildings that are heat absorbent and a scarcity of trees; the absence of green spaces and cooling centers; and the need to improve local communication networks that provide information and enable residents to work together.
“Once you’re in areas where there’s asphalt, concrete, and buildings that are heat absorbent with very few trees, that is, once you’re in a highly urbanized setting,” said Professor Engle-Friedman, “you’re in a place where you are really vulnerable to being baked.” The research that these students have done shows as much, and aims to get a handle on local communication networks with hopes to develop tools that will help keep the families that people these communities safe.
With the Colgate brand found in more homes than any other in the world, and, as a leader in corporate sustainability strategies and support, the company began their relationship with Baruch’s climate change community in the fall of 2022, sending three of their executives to address the Heat Island Resiliency Team. Together, Sukhdev Saini, Global Toothbrush Packaging Lead Manager, Cecilia Coates, Lead of Global Sustainability, Climate, and Water, and DJ D’Agostino, Global Environment, Health, Safety, and Sustainability Manager, gave these students a unique glimpse of both the opportunities and the challenges presented by the prospect of integrating sustainability practices into all aspects of a business on a global scale. As a sign of Colgate’s continued commitment, Baruch’s inaugural “Conference on Climate Research, Teaching, and Collaboration” held on March 10, featured Sonay Aykan, Associate Director ESG & Sustainability at Colgate-Palmolive, as one of its esteemed final session panelists.
“This team of students has been doing such amazing work for so long,” said Professor Engle-Friedman, “and this is really a story of the kindness and collegiality of so many unsung people at Baruch that helped us get here.” The initial connection between the students and Colgate-Palmolive was made by Starr Career Center, and the Heat Island Resiliency Team was first given the opportunity to present their research, developing a poster session and an accompanying oral presentation, at the 2022 International Conference of Undergraduate Research after receiving funding from the Office of the Provost. It is this same evolving presentation that the students will now bring to the University of Warwick thanks to Colgate-Palmolive.
“Two of the three students have never even been on an airplane,” said Professor Engle-Friedman. “So, this partnership with Colgate Palmolive is making a huge difference in their lives.” But, as with much of the climate conversation at CUNY, the impacts stretch beyond the individual students and to the disadvantaged communities from which they come.
“CUNY students are much more likely than other New York City college students to stay in the city and become its leaders of tomorrow. For Colgate-Palmolive to help them is a real contribution to these communities,” said Professor Engle-Friedman. “Our students have that feeling of investment that you can’t manufacture.” Though Baruch’s Heat Island Resiliency Project is Britain bound, in a way, they’re always on their way back home.
Baruch College has been awarded a $150,000 Mellon Foundation grant for the expansion of the Black and Latino Studies Department under the leadership of Shelly Eversley, Interim Chair and Professor of English. Though the Black and Latino Studies (BLS) program has been a part of the intellectual community at Baruch College since 1970, it only became an official major this past Fall. This remarkable show of support will allow the nascent program to grow and thrive. A partnership between the Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities, and Baruch College is especially pertinent given both institutions’ ardent belief in the access that everyone should have to the arts and humanities. This is the first time the College has received funding from the Mellon Foundation.
“Ever since we started drafting the new BLS major, earning the support of Mellon was a goal,” Professor Eversley said. “The Mellon Foundation has played a critical role in supporting the humanities across all kinds of institutions, and its unequivocal commitment to the role of the humanities in supporting racial and social justice reflects the values of our program.”
The grant, entitled “Black and Latinx Publics,” will go to support a singular component of the new BLS major: community-engaged teaching and research. “The funds will be used to train faculty in community-engaged pedagogy and learning technologies so that they and their students can design and build research projects that make explicit connections between the classroom and the communities we serve,” Professor Eversley said. This is one of many ways that the program seeks to empower students through Black and Latino studies with a full range of tools they need to build the futures they desire. The grant will also help support faculty whose scholarly work speaks directly to racial and social justice issues. “In this, we will launch seminars on all kinds of publishing to demonstrate exactly how a committed teacher can also build a successful scholarly career.” Under Eversley’s stewardship, a hallmark of BLS’ critical orientation is rethinking skill sets that are typically seen as separate, instead proposing a more holistic view of education, professionalization, and scholarship.
The generous support of the Mellon Foundation is not only a huge asset for a department so early in its trajectory as an official major, but also for Black and Latino Studies’ larger mission. “It is so important to us,” Professor Eversley said, “not only because this Mellon Officer grant recognizes the value of Black and Latino Studies in higher education, but also because our present moment demands it. Public universities like ours have a critical role in sustaining equitable futures that must include us all.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.
Baruch’s Master’s of Financial Engineering (MFE) program, housed in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences’ graduate programs, is on something of a winning streak. For the third year in a row, QuantNet, whose MFE program rankings are eagerly awaited by the quantitative finance community at large, has rated Baruch’s MFE No. 1 in the United States. The College, which charges in-state students only around $29,000 for the entire program, regularly beats out schools like Princeton, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon, which typically charge twice as much. Alums of Baruch’s program report the highest compensation among the Top 10 programs, after having paid the lowest tuition. It doesn’t take the kinds of mathematical models that MFE students study to understand the value proposition.
The innovative leadership of Dan Stefanica and Warren B. Gordon have been instrumental in achieving this unprecedented run, but the MFE’s real secret weapon is its Curriculum Coordinator: Andrew Lesniewski.
“A lot of people wouldn’t understand the complex models of probability that we work with,” Lesniewski says “but the whole economy, the fate of finance, countless jobs, all rest on mathematics.” Lesniewski’s grasp of such models and his ability to explain them to a layman like me shows nothing short of mastery, but this pioneering mathematician who spent sixteen years in the financial industry, formulating a number of innovative methodologies for valuation and risk management widely used by investment banks and hedge funds the world over, can speak just as fluently about literature, opera, and philosophy. Our conversation veered towards the poems of T. S. Eliot, the relationship between Martin Heidegger’s philosophy and his Nazism, and whether those widely debated crypto currencies will turn out to be financial market game-changers or the future of an illusion. For the record, he’s still 50-50 on that one.
Leaving his native Poland early in life, Lesniewski found his way to Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. “It’s a famous school in Europe. Einstein went there, you know, so everybody knows about it. It’s quite unique,” he says. “It’s funny. Zurich is no New York City. It’s a very boring place, but not far from the Institute there’s a plaque saying that James Joyce wrote Ulysses here, and Wagner composed all his major operas over there, and quantum mechanics was developed in Zurich of all places.” Lesniewski left his own small mark on Zurich, earning a PhD in Mathematics and amassing a dossier of influential work on quantum field theory.
After spending ten years on the faculty at Harvard University, Lesniewski moved to New York and transitioned into the financial industry. Over the course of his career in finance, he headed up quantitative research at the investment bank BNP Paribas, Ellington Management Group, a multibillion-dollar hedge fund, and the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, the world’s largest clearing house. So, after all this success, why the switch back to full-time teaching? And why Baruch?
“I started my career as a university professor, and the whole time I worked in the private sector I also taught as an adjunct at NYU, so I never really gave it up,” Lesniewski admits. “And, you know, at the end of the day I thought to myself: a PhD degree in math, what is it worth, you know? It just provides you with just so many variable skills. I wanted to share that. And, of course, all my education was earned in public schools. I never went to any private institution.” He estimates his tuition at about 250 Swiss Francs per year. “And that was waived,” he laughs.
For these reasons, he felt an immediate affinity for Baruch and its mission. “In our program, we have students from four continents: Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. It’s a good mix, you know, because you just get those different characters in there, different ways of thinking, very smart people. It feels like something that’s also good for the country as a whole, you know? Absolutely.”
Lesniewski’s broad range of experience in the private sector led him to suggest broadening Baruch’s MFE curriculum. “I took the approach that we should really be able to present our graduates to the entire industry, not just one sector,” he says. The financial industry can be roughly broken into two parts, the buy side, and the sell side. The buy side refers to entities such as investment managers, pension funds, college endowments, insurance companies, and hedge funds. The sell side is comprised of firms such as investment banks and market makers that provide brokerage services to the buy side. Both sides need people with advanced mathematics skills to work out the complex probabilities involved. “Most programs, including the one at Baruch, which was already very well established when I got here, are really more oriented to the sell side. After working in the industry, I had a feeling that it was really a little bit too oriented towards the sell side, catering to the banks and so on. That began a long discussion of how to begin to move the curriculum – tilt it a little bit towards the buy side.” It is partially this holistic view of the industry that distinguishes Baruch’s MFE program and makes it the best in the nation.
“So, we’re giving them more than just one set of skills,” Lesniewski says. “I had a recent discussion with the director of another well know MFE program, and they still believe that you have to base the entire curriculum on only stochastic calculus to set students up to get jobs on the sell side. Of course, we do stochastic calculus too, but the skills that we give them are much more transferable. They might decide to move to a different industry, and they’ll have the skill set to make that move. Because ultimately, what is our job here? To give our students marketable skills so that they can get themselves a good life, right?”
Now in his tenth year at Baruch, Lesniewski says he still feels new to the job, and is still surprised by the quality of the students. And he loves Baruch’s location. “I mean, come on,” he smiles, “you can’t have a location like this anywhere else in the word.” He looks like he’s about to share a secret. “You know, I never in my life applied for a job at Columbia,” he says in a low voice. Andrew Lesniewski, it seems, still feels more at home downtown.