By Carolyn Gray Anderson
If the audience that attended the UCLA Anderson Master of Financial Engineering commencement ceremony seemed small, it’s in part because the 64 graduates in the Class of 2016 represent 19 different countries —so, many of them are far away from the family, friends and colleagues forming their wider circle of support. To that end, the ceremony is webcast so people overseas can watch in real time.
Tad Rivelle (MBA ’90), TCW’s group managing director and chief investment officer – fixed income, was invited to address the Class of 2016. Finance, he said, is “a market-based coordinated effort” that serves as the “brains of capitalism.” He reminded the newly-minted quants that “markets are a reflection of ourselves, both rational and irrational,” and finance is “not a game you play with other people’s money.” Rivelle is among the most accomplished investment managers to graduate from UCLA Anderson.
He began his career as an aerospace engineer. He impressed upon the graduates how to put their skills into service for employers, emphasizing that when we make the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, we can maximize our own utility. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Rivelle, who spoke in aphorisms to the graduates (in this case quoting President Teddy Roosevelt). “No one is interested in models, per se. The client needs an answer from someone who takes ownership of the problem to solve it.” Engineers, he said, “excel at the specifications and details of a problem, but sometimes rigor and technical elegance get exalted above utility.”
As a result of the intensity of the 13-month program, MFE students form a very tight-knit group. They enjoy a 1:1 student-to-faculty ratio, with access to world-renowned leaders in financial engineering. Proud of the 8th graduating MFE class, Dean Judy Olian told them, “We’ll cheer you on and, frankly, ride your coattails as you progress.”
MFE faculty director Professor Mikhail Chernov introduced George Bonebright (MFE ’16), speaker for the 2016 graduates. Bonebright remarked the “impressive collective resume” of his fellow MFEs, saying, “The quantitative workspace is incredibly dynamic and requires that its constituents are, too.” He recalled settling in the previous fall, not aware of what was to come; by January, the students were slammed, as he put it, and back-to-back classes at the end of the week ensured that “MFEs wouldn’t be getting into any trouble on Friday nights.” Following what he called a “relentless search for internship opportunities” and a summer that flew by, by the next term, he said, “Many of us looked really hard for the light at the end of the tunnel — really hard.”
Class president Ruchi Gupta (MFE ’16) presented the 2016 teaching excellence award to Professor Levon Goukasian (who has now won the award four times), saying it was no easy feat to choose a favorite among the esteemed faculty — who in addition to imparting education and knowledge, “gave us a slice of their life’s experiences.” She said they “made sure we were equipped to handle the most convoluted interview questions.” Goukasian, who was unable to attend and sent his message of thanks in absentia, said the students’ dedication proved they are “most skillful and marketable.” He was aware of the demands his assignments induced and said the graduates proved via the award to him that their sleepless nights were worth it.
To the faculty, Bonebright joked in his turn, “Don’t be afraid to admit you like us better than your MBA students.”