Student Spotlight: Abe Berkley-Vigil, MBA Candidate 2014

Abe Berkley-Vigil

Full-time MBA Candidate 2014

Concentration:  Finance

Undergraduate degree: Economics, History

Undergraduate School: University of Wisconsin

Career Goal: Doing what I love

Organizations involved with: GFIN



Tell us about your personal and professional background.

I am a second year MBA student with a concentration in Finance. I have worked in the restaurant industry as a server, and also worked at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group as a runner for a summer. This past summer I completed an internship with Bronner Group, a public sector consulting firm. I am from Highland Park, IL and studied at the University of Wisconsin. I earned degrees in History and Economics. The areas of study I enjoyed were the economics of growth, and American History.

What prompted you to return to school to achieve your master’s degree?

I was very interested in opening a restaurant chain prior to coming to business school. I always loved cooking and wanted to run restaurants where I could provide the vision for the menu and restaurant. I wanted to develop the business acumen so I could succeed in one of most notoriously difficult industries. I knew getting an MBA would give me all the tools I needed, such as how to market my restaurant, how to finance it, how to keep the books, and how to manage personnel. Although I knew I wouldn't be doing all these tasks by myself, I wanted to understand all the facets of the business so I could oversee them. During my time here I developed a strong passion for finance and believe that to be my current career path, but hopefully, down the line if all goes well in finance, I can still open a restaurant afterwards. But for now, I am really excited about what a future in finance holds for me, and look forward to pursuing this career path.

What factor(s) did you consider when choosing a master’s program and why did you choose UIC Liautaud for your graduate study?

I chose UIC because it was in the heart of Chicago. I knew I wanted a career in Chicago, and thus, unlike undergrad, I believed that grad school was more about studying in the city you want to pursue your career in, rather than going off and getting new experiences. Also, since I was initially interested in starting my own business, I knew UIC had a good entrepreneurship program that I believed would help facilitate my goals.

We all know that people pursue graduate school to increase their business knowledge, but since you have started the program, what has been the most unexpected gain the program has given you?

The most unexpected gain has been people I have met at this program. Between friends and Professors, I feel much richer as a result of attending UIC in terms of knowledge and personal capital. Additionally, the strength of the finance program was an unexpected benefit. The passion of the Professors has been passed on to me, which surprised me since finance was not at all what I was interested in when I began graduate school.

Which class/professor has been your favorite thus far and why?

It is hard to pinpoint one class, and better to highlight the entire finance program. I am constantly learning new things that cover wide swaths of finance. I look forward to every class I attend, and regret if we ever don’t have a chance to cover all the material.

UIC Liautaud professors are continuously involved in researching new business trends and innovations. How have you felt the professors have been able to integrate their theoretical knowledge into practical applications? Do you have any examples?

One class that has really provided a strong foundation for putting theoretical knowledge into practical applications is FIN 455, Asset Management with Professor Oleg Bondarenko. That class taught me many advanced financial models that are used in the real world to construct optimal portfolios provided given certain objectives. I can now go into interviews and comfortably speak about models like Black Litterman, GARCH, Factor Models, and others as a result of this class. I can now show that from day one I will have valuable and practical knowledge that can be applied to a career in finance.

What is your favorite aspect of the UIC campus and why?

I really like how close the UIC campus is. At the University of Wisconsin, it was a big deal to see your Professor, and if you did, it usually meant you were in some sort of trouble. Here Professors greet you with open arms. They are so knowledgeable and passionate about their work that you can even discuss topics beyond the scope of their courses, and they won’t give you a hard time about how busy they are. Additionally, you have class with a lot of the same people so you can lean on your peers to help you through your courses. My peers really helped me a lot, and I wouldn't have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish without them.

What advice would you provide to incoming UIC Liautaud students?

I would recommend to not be afraid to take a course because it seems hard. Graduate school is about hard work, but it’s also about reaping the fruits of that hard work. If a class seems interesting, but you’re concerned you might struggle through it, take it because professors are patient and willing to help. If you find classes that are interesting and will benefit your career, you probably need those courses under your belt to achieve your desired level of success. Things will only be harder in the real world, whereas if a class is difficult in graduate school, you can always lean on the assistance of the professor to guide you through.  Don’t be intimidated, because in the end, you are only limiting your dreams.

Tell us about your internship experience?

This summer I worked at a public sector consulting company called Bronner Group. I was able to work on multiple audits, work with Federal departments, and provide recommendations on different issues. The experience boosted my confidence and taught me a lot about the consulting industry.

What is the best part about your UIC Liautaud experience?

The best part of the UIC experience has been the classes. The classes have allowed me to form new, long lasting friendships. Additionally, the professors helped me realize what I would be passionate about. I can rattle off a long list of great finance professors that will really impart a great deal of knowledge on students. I feel great that I can leave this program confident in the skills I gained from this program, and see how the work I put in, will directly translate to success in the future. UIC has also exposed me to people from a variety of different backgrounds, and really broadened my perspective on the world. 

Is there anything you wish we would have asked you, that we did not and you wish to share with students?

I first want to thank all my professors in this program. Every class has provided me value to the point where when I look back on any class, I can say “This is what I learned and this is how it can help my career.” I also want to thank my classmates for making every day of school one that I looked forward to. Finally, I want to thank admissions for accepting me into the program and giving me the confidence that I could one day attain the level of success I hoped for myself.