Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Academics: Learning to excel

To help prepare students for the global job market, SAIS offers professional development skills courses that supplement the core academic curriculum. The courses range from practical negotiating to financial accounting. Below, Ann Dailey writes about a skills course that leveraged the expertise of her fellow SAIS Bologna students.

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in Bologna, and the computer lab is filled with students participating in a three-hour seminar to learn advanced Microsoft Excel skills.

All year long, the Career Services office has provided free Excel Skills courses, and more than 120 students have participated in one of the 10 courses (five Beginner, five Intermediate).

The Beginner course took students all of the way from finding cell A1 to sorting, graphing, and using logic and financial functions that would help them with their SAIS coursework.

After a quick review of the basics, the Intermediate course teaches more advanced logic and statistical functions as well as advanced formatting and graphing skills to help students prepare professional quality graphs and charts.

Career Services responded to students’ demand for more training by developing Excel Day. Rather than a structured course, Excel Day is a three-hour session where students work on career-focused Excel projects developed by fellow students.

Head Excel instructor Kayoko Lyons, who worked as a financial analyst for JPMorgan Chase, organized the day and helped four student instructors develop the projects.

The finance projects, developed by Brian Ku (who worked for KPMG) and Matt Conn (who worked for Luxor Capital Group) included capital structure, personal portfolio, XIRR and Collateralized Debt Obligation projects.

Ian Muir, who worked for PFC Energy, developed a project that exposed students to a range of exercises one would face in the world of energy and climate change consulting. Finally, Monica Wojcik, who worked for FTI Consulting, built a project that guided students through the creation of a trade profile for Chile by cleaning up and analyzing large datasets.

Max Cohen, who attended Excel Day, said "=if("Max learns a lot","awesome","a shame.")."

Ann Dailey (BC13/DC14)

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