July 16, 2012
Recent Knox College graduate Sara Jane Ahmed '12 wants to help make the world a better place, and she's set her sights on how to accomplish that.
Part of her plan involves earning a master's degree in finance from the University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business, consistently ranked as among the top business schools. The Simon School has a partnership with Knox College that allows Knox students with strong academic potential, regardless of major, to gain early admission to the Simon School MBA program.
In August, Ahmed will begin classes at the Simon School as a recipient of the highly selective Simon Early Leaders Award. Early Leaders receive a guaranteed annual scholarship and are eligible for merit-based awards.
"I see business as being a steppingstone for economic development and environmental sustainability," said Ahmed, who is from Manila, the Philippines, and graduated magna cum laude with a double major, one in economics and the other a self-designed major in development finance and energy. "My goal is the acquisition of the skill sets necessary to manage, operate, and design opportunities in emerging markets."
"The opportunities for the private sector in the developing world are immense, but navigating this terrain requires financial intelligence, creative innovation, superior leadership, and diverse perspectives -- all of which I know I will be able to attain through the (Simon School) program," she added. Ahmed also hopes eventually to earn a law degree and pursue a career in private equity and mergers and acquisitions, preferably with a focus on the emerging markets.
Ahmed said she aspires "to reform injustice to more just standards" through education and training that will enable "the poorest of people" to participate in -- and prosper from -- public-private entrepreneurial activities and partnerships.
As co-founder of two international development organizations, she already has substantial experience with providing opportunities for people who otherwise might not get them.
One of those organizations, the Philippines-based Future Faces Manila Foundation, aims to support children who cannot afford to go to college by offering financial aid and social support. The other, Study Action for Rural Advancement and Security, was created to provide impoverished people "with freedom, capabilities, and opportunities," enabling them to better provide for their families and respective communities, according to Ahmed.
She first became intrigued with finance in summer 2011, when she attended a general management institute at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her interest in finance "grew exponentially" as she took an international financial management class while studying abroad in Denmark -- where she also studied sustainability and renewable energy -- and a managerial finance class in spring 2012 with Knox faculty member John Spittell. (Photo at top of page: Ahmed, while based at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, toured Hamburg, Germany. Photo at right: Ahmed with Knox faculty member John Spittell after the 2012 Commencement ceremony.)
Spittell, Professor of Business and Management and Executive-in-Residence at Knox, mentioned to Ahmed that the Simon School was "one of the top schools for finance," she said. She subsequently decided she wanted to enroll there, and Spittell nominated her for the Early Leaders Award.
"After handing in the necessary information, I received the award within a week," Ahmed said. "I intended to apply for the (master's in finance) program next year because it was fairly late in the process, (and) with 7,000 applicants and only 200 offers (to admit students), I thought my chances were bleak. John gave me the confidence to apply."
While at Knox, Ahmed received a Ford Fellowship grant and two Richter Scholarships to support her research on poverty and renewable energy, microfinance, and economic development and poverty reduction in the Philippines. She also participated in several extracurricular activities, including serving as Student Senate treasurer and as president of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the International Economics Honor Society, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
Earlier this year, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to serve as "international presenter" at the 20th anniversary symposium of Kids Voting USA, an association that promotes civic education for young students. She spoke about the two organizations she has co-founded.
"My time at Knox College was one of the most stimulating, enriching, and exciting periods of my life," Ahmed said.
She credited Knox faculty, staff, alumni, and students with molding her "into a dreamer, a doer, a thinker, a team player, and a compassionate leader." President Teresa Amott and faculty members Spittell; Jonathan Powers, assistant professor of economics; and Roy Andersen, Charles W. and Arvilla S. Timme Professor of Economics, "have helped me both inside and outside the classroom through their continuous support and encouragement," she said.
"Knox is truly unique and remarkable because of its tight-knit community, its rigorous academics, and its focus on personal growth. What made the Knox experience very special for me was the one-on-one attention I got from my professors."