By Raquel Leifer, Features Editor
Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight a YU faculty member. For the March 2022 edition, the YU Observer is highlighting Dr. Gabriela Coiculescu, PhD.
Raquel Leifer (RL): Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Dr. Gabriela Coiculescu (GC): Hi! I am an Assistant Professor of Finance at Sy Syms School of Business. I am Romanian- I was born, grew up, and went to college in Romania. My educational background includes my PhD from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business in 2014, my MSc from BI Norwegian School of Management in 2007, and my BBA from Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies in 2005.
RL: How long have you worked at YU?
GC: I started at YU in 2013 as a visiting assistant professor of finance. At the time, I was still working on my dissertation, which I defended one year later, in 2014. So I have been at YU for almost nine years. I can’t believe that so many years have passed since I joined YU because I have had such a great experience here.
RL: What do you like most about working at YU?
GC: I really like my students and my colleagues. When I teach, I feel that I am providing service. It’s more than the factual knowledge I convey. Teaching and interacting with students is very rewarding for me. My colleagues and I are really like a family in Sy Syms. We are a small business school compared to other business schools, and we are very collegial; we get along very well.
RL: What made you passionate about your field?
GC: The passion itself is more about learning. I grew up in Romania. I was very passionate about literature and foreign languages in high school, which seems to be completely different from what I do right now. (As a child, I also liked to watch soccer, so my parents thought I would become a sports commentator!). When I went to college, I decided to study something more practical, and I went to business school for my undergraduate degree. But I also wanted to pursue my passion for languages, so I chose to study business administration in French. I liked learning, and I continued learning business and finance. I realized that I could also convey the knowledge I have learned to my students.
RL: Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in your field?
GC: If a student thinks that they might be interested in finance, my advice is to take one or two finance courses and to do an internship before deciding whether to continue in finance. We have a career center that provides support for students looking for jobs and internships. Every student has their path, so a career in finance is not necessarily the right path for everyone. At Sy Syms, students are required to take introductory courses in all fields of business, and they can then decide which field or fields they want to major in. In addition, combining a finance major or minor with a major or minor in another area, such as Mathematics, Economics, Accounting, Computer Science, or Business Intelligence and Marketing Analytics, can open up more career opportunities for students interested in finance.
My advice for all students is to have courage and to be open-minded. Some students want to go into Investment Banking, for example, and they think that it’s a failure if they don’t get into Investment Banking. There is a path for everyone. Don’t be discouraged when you get rejected. You have to be persistent. Finance is not a field for a small elite group of people. Everyone can learn finance, and everyone can succeed in their own way.
And, last but not least, whether or not one decides to pursue a career in finance, I believe that what really matters is not so much what field we are in or what we do, but how we approach what we do. In any profession, one can do good because every field, finance included, is designed to fulfill a positive role in society. The flip side is that in every profession, one faces the risk of deviating, intentionally or unintentionally, from the goal of doing good. Going into finance to make a lot of money is not the best mindset for the long run, but choosing the career in which we feel that we can contribute the most will make it easier to overcome obstacles later on and lead to more success.
RL: What makes your field special?
GC: Finance is, in fact, a field of Economics. Economics studies how people use scarce resources at both individual and societal levels. Because the resources are scarce, people face tradeoffs, and Economics is, in some sense, the study of these tradeoffs. As an applied field, finance focuses on the management of money, and it deals with tradeoffs such as the tradeoff between money today and money in the future or the tradeoff between risk and return. The financial market allows people to transfer money across time by borrowing and saving and to manage risk. In principle, this process ensures that capital is allocated to its best use.
As an academic field, finance is relatively young; the theories we teach were developed in the last 60-70 years. In addition, although finance sometimes uses the language of mathematics, especially at the graduate level, it is not an exact science. In finance, we teach stylized models about the real world, but so many factors determine the outcomes. Many unknowns may not be apparent in good times but can become important, especially during financial crises. Finance, and economics in general, is a social science because financial outcomes ultimately depend on human behavior – and human behavior is not always rational. In finance courses, students learn essential principles and a set of practical tools that they can use to apply these principles in real life, both in their personal lives and in Business. But we must be aware that financial theories are subject to limitations; they often rely on assumptions that may not hold all the time in real life.
RL: If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or deceased, who would it be, and what would he/she speak about?
GC: Since finance is a relatively young academic discipline, many of the scholars who developed the theories I teach in my courses are still active, or their lectures are available online. Instead of choosing a finance scholar, I would like to use your question as an opportunity to introduce to our readers a few persons whom I would have liked to meet, although they are not in finance. One of them is Mother Gavrilia Papayannis- she was a nun who devoted her life to helping the poor and the sick in India, Africa, and other places, much like Mother Teresa (I would have loved to meet Mother Teresa too, but she is already very well known worldwide). Mother Gabriela lived through almost the entire 20th century and passed away in 1992. Another remarkable personality that I would have liked to meet is Mother Maria Skobtsova, who also happened to be a nun. She is known as the “saint of the open door” or the “trash can saint” and did most of her work in Paris in the first half of the 20th century.
However, it is not necessary to go far away, in place or time, to find role models because there is so much we can learn on a daily basis from the people around us. For example, professor Joshua Krausz, one of my colleagues at Sy Syms, recently told me about Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz, a Rabbi who taught at YU until he was 104! When Rabbi Yankelewitz was 99, he was still taking the bus from the Bronx to YU every day (until President Joel found out about this and arranged for a taxi to always drive him to and from school, without the Rabbi asking for it, of course). I think that Rabbi Yankelewitz’s dedication is an inspiration for all of us; students and faculty alike.
RL: What is one thing you want students to know about you?
GC: I would like the students to know that they can always reach out to me, the other faculty members, or the academic advisors if they need help. Even if we don’t have the answers to all questions, and solutions to all problems, we are here for them. So if I forget to answer an email, don’t give up, email me again, or just drop by! 🙂