2019 MBAs To Watch: Faina Rozental, MIT (Sloan)

Faina Rozental

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Open-minded. Curious. Life-loving. Building bridges through empathy and inquiry.”

Hometown: L’viv, Ukraine to Brookline, Massachusetts

Fun fact about yourself: Ten years after falling in love with salsa dancing on a high school biology trip to Costa Rica, I went out on a limb and joined a salsa performance team in Boston called Gusto.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Masters in Economics, Boston University, 2011

Bachelors in Economics and International Relations, Boston University, 2011

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior Associate for Social Due Diligence, Root Capital

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Investment Management Division, Goldman Sachs, Boston

Where will you be working after graduation? Work in progress!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • McGowan Fellow (2018-2019): Awarded full scholarship for academic achievement and ethical business leadership
  • Co-President, MIT Impact Investing Initiative
  • Vice President, MIT Sloan Food & Agriculture Club
  • Teaching Assistant, Communication for Leaders (Fall 2018)
  • Pilot (Mentor) for First-Year MBA Students (Fall 2018)
  • MIT Climate Resiliency Fellow (2017-2018): Shaped campus climate resilience strategy through research and planning
  • Sloan Ambassador to Prospective and Admitted Students (2017-2018)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work that my team did with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) through MIT Sloan’s Action Learning class called Sustainability Lab, or S-Lab. Our goal was to analyze how EDF could establish itself as an influential partner in mobilizing financing to rebuild Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure. We engaged deeply with experts on finance, energy, and Puerto Rican politics to shape actionable recommendations for EDF. A highlight was running a full-day workshop at the EDF office: we spent hours with our project sponsor going deep to understand the feasibility and impact of our recommendations. I was proud of the collaborative approach we took to create a meaningful course of action.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Before Sloan, I worked at Root Capital, a nonprofit impact investment fund that lends to Latin American and African agricultural businesses. I led this multicultural organization in redesigning its social due diligence platform to strengthen its leadership role in responsible lending; this involved implementing a new global policy suited to local contexts by consulting with regional senior leadership and client-facing staff through in-person workshops in Africa and Latin America and regular virtual meetings. Extending the project further, I developed social and environmental lending principles for the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance. Formed in 2012 to promote best practices in agricultural finance, the Council entrusted me to formulate a shared set of standards for jointly managing $600 million toward social impact. I was so proud to contribute to strengthening both my organization and the industry in which it sits.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Adrian Verdelhan, who teaches two very different classes: An advanced finance class for Ph.D. students and Sloan’s equivalent of Finance 101 for MBAs (that’s the one I took). Why does he teach the latter? Because he wants to make finance accessible to those who thought they’d never get it. He cracked us up in class with his stories and then pushed us hard to do the math behind the entertaining stories. Adrian helped me build confidence through the ideal balance of nurture and discipline.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite MBA course was Sustainability Lab, or S-Lab, which is an action learning course at MIT Sloan. We formed teams, which consulted companies and organizations on sustainability-related challenges. My team worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on financing a more resilient Puerto Rico. The work was both messy and timely in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. One of the biggest insights I gained about business was that there is no substitute for hearing the customer voice when designing a business-led solution to a complex social or environmental challenge; people on the ground know better than anyone what solution would be most helpful to them.

Why did you choose this business school? MIT Sloan was my top choice for business school because I knew it would allow me to bridge my interests in finance and sustainability. Sloan is unique in allowing students to custom-tailor their academic experience starting in their first year. I wanted to hone my financial analysis skills while deepening my commitment to leveraging finance as a tool for generating positive social and environmental impact. I have been able to do both – both in an academic setting, but also in the community. The synergies between the two communities make for a dynamic, exciting cross-disciplinary journey through business school.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? MIT’s motto is Mens et Manus, or “Mind and Hand”. At Sloan, we strive to live by this motto every day. As an applicant, you have an opportunity to show Sloan how you have applied your knowledge or expertise to actually going out into the world and having a positive impact. What have you created with your own hands?

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known how important it is to carve out time for mental and physical health. The quintessential “drinking from the firehose” MBA experience is impossible to escape. You tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll make time to go to the gym or to decompress,” but MBA life takes over without you realizing it. I wish I had blocked off non-negotiable self-care time early. While the MBA program flies by, it is still more of a marathon than a sprint.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? While imposter syndrome is seemingly impossible to shake, especially as an aspiring female leader in a male-dominated field, I have more confidence in my ability to be successful than ever before. This newfound confidence – or optimism, really – stems from rigorous academic training, dedicated mentorship from faculty and peers, and experiences that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I know the path to a fulfilling career will be bumpy and winding, and that’s okay. My experience at Sloan has helped me come to terms with that.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Andrew Mairena is the MBA classmate I admire most. He represents everything I love about Sloan. Andrew builds community through amazing events, promotes diversity and inclusion on campus, works at a start-up part-time, reads for personal learning every day, AND still manages to make it to every special occasion, from birthday parties to weddings. He does all of this with a smile and an open heart. And you will never hear him complain or draw attention to himself – he just gets it all done. He has his morals straight and is always up for a heated and informed debate about the purpose of business. On top of that, he is just a good friend who is always there to lend an ear.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents influenced me the most in my decision to pursue a degree in business. They did this by challenging my hypothesis that I needed a business degree to be successful. Could I achieve my goals without an MBA? What skills or connections did I need to be successful? Instead of blindly supporting my desire to study business, they forced me to evaluate alternatives and hear different perspectives. When I ultimately submitted my application to Sloan, I felt confident that business school was the best next step in my career.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? I don’t know if it’s the goofiest, but my favorite acronym is BAUFS. Try saying it out loud, it’s kind of fun! Business Analysis Using Financial Statements, affectionately known as BAUFS, is an accounting class taught by Dr. Christopher Noe (aka “Dr. No”). Who knew analyzing financial statements could be so thrilling!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…finding another way to learn the skills I have learned, whether through the CFA program or on the job. I knew what I wanted to get out of business school going into it. After careful consideration, I felt confident that it was the right next step. However, I knew that if I didn’t learn what I wanted to learn in business school, I would be committed to learning it elsewhere.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I can’t say precisely what the dollar value would be – I’d like to avoid false precision here! However, I firmly believe that the connections we’ve made in business school will continue to add value to everyone in my class for years to come. My hope is that we will continue to grow our industries, generating professional opportunities both for ourselves and for others as a result. So, yes, the value of my MBA education is worth well more than the price I paid for it.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? The top two items on my bucket list are to spend at least a month living and working on a farm, and to go skydiving!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my peers to remember me as a trusting friend and a fierce fighter for a better world.

Hobbies? I help run a small community garden in my neighborhood. I love growing my own food and sharing it with family and friends. I am also a salsera – a great lover of salsa dancing, and an insatiable student of new languages.

What made Faina such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“As a Lecturer and Senior Associate Director at the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan, I meet a lot of amazing future leaders. Every year, however, one or two stand out from the crowd. Faina Rozental is one of those students.

I first met Faina at the MIT Sustainability Summit in April 2017. She had just received news that she was waitlisted for a spot at MIT Sloan, her dream school. Determined still, she attended the summit with grace and curiosity and endeared herself to me immediately. I knew she would make great contributions because she was resilient and open-minded, and willing to work hard to show she could be a valuable addition to our community. I was thrilled when she was accepted off the waitlist, and I made it my job to throw her into as many opportunities as possible to ensure her two years here were a success. As we got to know each other over the summer and fall, I came to look forward to our mentorship conversations ranging from sustainable finance to spiritual upbringing and always found Faina to be calm, kind and intelligent. A perfect example of what we hope to find in all MIT Sloan students.

As a student, Faina has continued to impress. She created and reinforced links that brought together departments and offices in new ways. In her first year, she worked as a Sustainability Fellow at the MIT Office of Sustainability. There, she applied what she learned in her Organizational Processes class at Sloan to how MIT researchers and administrators could better work together to make MIT’s campus more resilient to climate change. She leads the MIT Impact Investing Initiative, a group that offers students a year-long extra-curricular program in impact investing, she is exploring an independent study digging into the more fundamental questions about financial capitalism, and has co-hosted scores of events with the Sustainability Initiative year drawing crowds of over 80 students from across a wide range of MIT masters programs. She also connects the dots on academic and recruiting opportunities for students interested in impact investing careers. She does all of this with humility, care, and love for her community.

Perhaps most inspiring are Faina’s efforts to bring the finance and sustainability communities together.  She aims to make MIT Sloan the go-to school for impact and sustainable investment. In a time where ethics and responsibility are becoming more central to our investment community, as well as a growing interest of incoming students, Faina is providing learning pathways for her classmates that bridge the gap in traditional management education.

I have had the pleasure of working with Faina on many of the interests and initiatives she has explored during her time here and have always found her attentive, empathetic, considerate, and ready to get her hands dirty. That is why, when she was nominated for the McGowan Fellowship, a prestigious honor celebrating principled leaders committed to the betterment of society, there was no doubt in my mind that she would be the best to represent MIT Sloan. It is also why I know she will excel in anything she chooses to do in her future career.”

Bethany Patten

Lecturer & Sr. Associate Director

Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan

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