Driven By Data: Q+A with Olenka Besaga '23, '24

Antonia Gentile
July 25, 2023
Pace University Economics student Olenka Besaga

Olenka Besaga

Class of 2023, 2024

Economics, BA
Political Science, BA
Applied Quantitative Economic Analysis and Policy, MS

How did you become interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in both Economics and Political Science? What attracted you to the master’s in Applied Quantitative Economic Analysis and Policy (AQEAP) as part of a combined degree program?

I became interested in studying both economics and political science because I wanted to learn more about how economic and political theory and decisions interact with one another and affect society. Political choices made at the national and international levels have significant impact on economic policy, international trade, and financial institutions. By combining the two fields of study, I received a better understanding of global politics and its challenges.

I was attracted to the AQEAP program because I was excited to get a deeper understanding in economics and guidance in my potential future career, and what I am most interested in, which is data analysis and research. So far, I have learned so much and applied so many skills and the knowledge of economics to my day-to-day life, as well as impressed many people on my internship interviews, especially when I mention the projects I’ve worked on as a student.

What internships have you had as a student?

I have worked for an international trading company as a financial analyst and the Nassau County Department of Assessment as a data analyst. This summer of 2023, I was fortunate enough to work for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as an asset management intern. Throughout my time at Pace, I have also worked as a teaching assistant for University 101 so that I may motivate young, future economists.

What activities and organizations have you been involved with as a student?

I have been involved in a number of activities and organizations at Pace. One is the Political Science Society (PSS), which I joined when I was a freshman in 2020. I was difficult at first because everything at the time was on Zoom, but I was motivated to meet new people who shared similar interests. I so enjoyed being a part of PSS that I served as president until I became a full-time graduate student. That role helped me learn what it takes to be a leader and work and cooperate with other people. I also was part of the Economics Society and Women in Economics. I really loved these experiences, as I developed a positive community with my classmates who share the same passions and goals.

“I have learned so much and applied so many skills and the knowledge of economics to my day-to-day life, as well as impressed many people on my internship interviews, especially when I mention the projects I’ve worked on as a student.”

What challenges have you overcome and are proud of? What inspires you?

I'm proud of putting myself out there in regard to opportunities, including networking, that, as a freshman, was outside of my comfort zone. One of my proudest moments was when I represented England at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research at Warwick University in April 2023. This opportunity taught me to be confident in who I am and in my knowledge and skills, and to never underestimate or compare myself to others. I also overcame my fear of public speaking, knowing that this would benefit me in the long run. I am very grateful for that opportunity, and my economics professors who believed in me.

As a first-generation college student (my parents immigrated from Ukraine over 25 years ago), I’m inspired by my family, who have motivated me to work hard. They have always been there and sacrificed so much; as a way to thank them, everything I do is for them. I am also inspired and empowered to work hard to represent Ukraine, my second home, and for my family there.

How were Dyson or other faculty instrumental in your personal and/or professional journey?

The entire Economics department faculty impacted me the most in my experiences as a student because they treated me like family and were always there for me when I needed help with an economics question or a code in STATA, R or in Python. Even professors I have never taken courses with would be more than happy to help me. I really appreciate all that they do for me and my peers. I want to specifically thank Professor Anna Shostya, PhD, for guiding me since I was a first semester freshman and providing me with such amazing opportunities at Pace. She helped me challenge myself and she always believed in me.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I complete my master’s in Applied Quantitative Economic Analysis and Policy, I aim to work in data analysis and research in economics.

What advice would you give to students?

The most important advice I can give students is to connect with your professors and talk to them about career goals and plans. It is never too early to think ahead and start applying for internships that may interest you. The more experience you gain, the better opportunities you’ll receive in the future. Always network and meet new people!