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Thursday, June 02, 2011 - New alumnus leverages hard work, SBA experience and network to launch career

When alumni return to OU's School of Business Administration to recruit employees, it sends two clear messages: they believe in the education they received, and they believe in OU SBA graduates.


Throughout his career (full story), Robert Manilla, SBA (Finance) '85, vice president and chief investment officer, Kresge Foundation, has been involved in recruiting new talent. Knowing the valuable skills he gained at OU's SBA and the school's success in graduating students with knowledge, skills and ethics that make for good employees, he has returned to campus to search for employees.


On one of these visits, Manilla met and hired triple major Elena Popova, SBA/CAS '11 (Finance, Economics, Math), as an investment analyst to work closely with Kresge's investment team in all phases of the investment process, from sourcing to final close, with a special focus on quantitative data analysis.  


Thanks to her credentials and his vote of confidence, Popova joined the professional working world at The Kresge Foundation mere weeks following graduation.


"I was immediately attracted to Kresge," Popova says. "The group has a strong, clear vision with a long history of adhering to it. They are a national foundation dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations and improving the quality of life. They do this by investing their funds across a wide variety of asset classes. For me, this is an unparalleled opportunity to learn about every aspect of the financial industry."


Popova also admires the Kresge culture. "Kresge encourages innovation with respect to both its investment strategies and its people," she says. "Everyone is very friendly, talented, intelligent, and experienced, and I look forward to learning from them."


A stellar student who earned OU's Presidential Scholarship, Popova also gained valuable experience through her extensive involvement in extracurricular activities. Her extraordinary ability to successfully juggle her academic course load, her leadership positions in various student organizations and her involvement in other community activities added a depth to her professional resume long before graduation.


Her activities all supported her professional development and interests: President of the Women's Economic Society; President of the SBA's Scholars; Chair of the SBA Dean's Scholar Board; Financial Reporter for the SBA's new Society for Applied Investing and Financial Education; member of the Financial Management Association; student representative for the Executive Committee of the SBA Faculty Assembly and the Judicial Conduct Committee for the Dean of Students.


Her activities outside OU include the Detroit Association of Business Economists, the Detroit Economic Club and Omicron Delta Epsilon. 


The recognition she received is further testament to how successfully she leveraged the opportunities available to her. She received the Detroit Chapter Financial Executives International Award, the Detroit Free Press Writing Award, the SBA Undergraduate Leadership Scholarship and the OU Talented Scholar Scholarship. And, she was an SBA Dean's Scholar each of the four years she was at OU.


"All of this is to testify how incredible of an experience Oakland University can be," says Popova. "OU has given me leadership opportunities that would not have been possible anywhere else. My professors have always been knowledgeable, dedicated and willing to help. SBA Dean Tanniru is easy to reach and constantly developing new ways to connect SBA students with the real business world and grow our programs."


She also appreciates the numerous opportunities she had to network with professors, classmates, business professionals and job recruiters. It's taking advantage of these opportunities that led directly to her new position.


"At OU, I not only got the book smarts necessary to prepare me for my new job, but the business sense to navigate my way with confidence through networking events, interviews and internships," she says.


With a solid plan in place to build on her credentials with her professional experience and to pursue an advanced degree, Popova will become a powerful link in the already strong SBA alumni network.

By Dawn Pauli