Our Stories

Finding Community in a Faculty-Run Irish Pub

Qi Chen cherishes strong connections with classmates and profs

Qi Chen
Analyst, New York Family Office

Vanderbilt University MS Finance 2017

Looking back, Qi Chen’s favorite memory of his year in the Vanderbilt MSF program had nothing to do with finance. In March of 2017, he recalls, the entire class was invited to a house party hosted by Professor Bob Whaley (famous for inventing the VIX “Fear Index”). “Professor Whaley transformed the entire lower level of his home into a 1,500-square foot Irish pub called Whaley Tavern,” says Qi. “Great food, great beer, and an absolutely amazing experience!”

For Qi, who grew up in one of China’s biggest industrial cities (and went to college in America’s largest city), the experience illustrated one of the reasons he had chosen Vanderbilt. “The small size of the class compared to other programs means we have stronger connections with our classmates and professors,” he says.  

The program’s small size in turn facilitates teamwork that helps students learn from each other as well as from their professors. “Most if not all of the classes I’ve taken at Owen involve group work with real-world cases,” Qi says. “This (along with interactions with MBA students) was very helpful as our class has diverse backgrounds in terms of undergraduate majors, experiences and cultures.”

And, Qi notes, the size is a factor in the connectedness of the school’s alumni. “Owen has an extremely strong alumni network in every job function in finance,” he says. “This not only allows me to build up relationships but helps me figure out the exact direction I’d like to pursue.”

For someone from China to feel so easily at home at a St. Patrick’s Day party typifies the Owen experience in another way, too. “As an international student, my experience has been amazing,” Qi says. “Owen offers a strong sense of inclusiveness, and there’s a great deal of international representation in the MSF program. It’s always great to learn from and hang out with people from very different backgrounds.”

Fun Fact: A fan of tennis and traveling, Qi visited 10 countries in the five years before he began the MSF program.

“As an international student, my experience has been amazing.”