Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Student Spotlight: Lisa Frumin

For this Student Spotlight, we’ve interviewed Lisa Frumin, a second-year M.A. student concentrating in Latin America Studies. Lisa received her B.A. in International Relations and Economics from Boston University in 2008, and prior to attending SAIS worked as a legislative assistant for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.  Lisa is the recipient of the Priscila Mason Fellowship, and more recently received the 2013 William C. Foster Award in recognition of her contributions and distinguished service to the SAIS community.
Congratulations on winning the Foster award!  Can you tell us about some of the activities you’ve been involved with here at SAIS?
I started SAIS feeling extremely overwhelmed. One great thing about SAIS is that there are so many clubs, activities and events going on, but at the same time, it’s easy to get lost. In my first year, I participated in activities held by SAIS Corps (the volunteer service club), the Latin American Studies Club and the Finance Club to name a few. I quickly found my passion in SAIS Corps and planned service opportunities for SAISers through it. I became the co-leader in my second semester at SAIS and in this position, I got to know the SGA Treasurer, who asked me to consider running to succeed him in the 2012-2013 academic year. As a result, this year, I again was overwhelmed with the opportunities at SAIS but chose to focus my attention on (1) being the SGA Treasurer and helping other club leaders achieve their goals and (2) helping SAIS Corps run its international service trips as well as other SAIS Corps events that are particularly near and dear to my heart.
We understand you’ve planned a few SAIS Corps trips during your time at SAIS.  How have these trips enhanced your student experience, and the experience of other students?
SAIS Corps leads two international service trips, the first to Honduras in January of each year and the second to Panama in March. I went as a team member on the SAIS Corps Panama trip in March 2012. During this trip, I realized the value of seeing international development at its grassroots level while studying about it at a more macro level in SAIS classrooms. I found this experience so rewarding that I knew I wanted to lead the Panama trip the next year. Simultaneously, I was lucky enough that my wonderful friend at SAIS asked me to participate in organizing the SAIS Corps Honduras trip that took place in January 2013. All three have given me an appreciation for what international development is and the controversial questions surrounding it. Moreover, I got to share this experience with fellow classmates who were similarly attempting to answer these questions. I have said this many times while on these trips: SAIS has many amazing educational travel opportunities in which SAISers learn about international affairs, but there are few opportunities at SAIS in which students get to travel abroad and apply ideas from the classroom in the actual environment while getting dirty. SAIS Corps provides two of these and I have been dedicated to providing them.
Graduation is only a few weeks away.  What will you be doing after graduation?
As the Priscilla Mason Fellow for 2013, I am dedicated to a career in public service. I, along with four of my other classmates, will be joining the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a Bank Examiner in mid-July 2013. For me, this job opportunity is just the one I was hoping to get as a result of my SAIS education. I managed to find the nexus between finance and the public sector at a very crucial time in financial reform and I look forward to applying my quantitative and analytical skills that I enhanced at SAIS while at the Bank.
What are some of the key skills you’ve learned at SAIS, that you will be applying directly to your work/career?
I can’t say enough about the economics department at SAIS. Though I took statistics and econometrics in college, I really needed to re-learn (or frankly learn) the material from scratch. These two classes combined with corporate finance, international trade and monetary theory and then some elective coursework really gave me the edge I needed to be competitive in the public sector world dealing with finance. I will never forget how my interviewer at the Fed asked me if I ever worked with large data sets to which I responded that I had written a paper for my Quantitative Global Economics class that required several data sets, sensitivity analysis and ultimately required me to put my quantitative results into written word. The interviewer simply responded: “Wow, that’s exactly what we do at the Fed. I’m so glad I asked that question.” It was that moment that I knew that my SAIS degree and the skills I learned at SAIS had paid off.
Do you have any advice for incoming students or those thinking about IR grad school?
Work experience before attending any graduate program is crucial. I appreciate my graduate degree so much more than I could ever appreciate my bachelors because I came to SAIS with purpose. I knew what I wanted out of the program and I got everything I was looking for in terms of skills, knowledge and colleagues. This leads me to my second piece of advice: come to graduate school not only looking for your professional network (which you will surely develop), but come with the intention of meeting some of the most wonderful friends you will ever have. I knew I was going to make friends, but I did not expect to leave graduate school wishing that I could have another year just to be with the amazing individuals that attend SAIS. They are some of the most talented, enriching people I have ever met and without them, my two years at SAIS would not have nearly been as wonderful.
To learn more about Lisa’s experiences in Honduras and Panama, you can read two guest blog posts she wrote here and here.
Thanks for reading!
— Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions
To read previous entries in our Student Spotlight series, please click here.