CASL graduate Fatme Hourani discovers how her dedication to mathematics can create positive returns for others

4/22/2019

Hourani heads to Columbia University for graduate school, where she’ll study financial engineering and gain insight from Wall Street professionals.

Outside of a College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters classroom, you can hear the sounds of success: Excited talking, high-fives and clapping. Looking inside, the board is covered with equations.

After working for a long period of time, math students — led by Fatme Hourani — have found a solution.

“It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” said Hourani, who’s working electively with fellow students; the work isn’t tied to a course or assignment. “My friends who aren’t into math don’t understand how we can work on one problem for hours. But that feeling of accomplishment when you finally figure it out makes everything worth it.”

Hourani, who will graduate this Sunday, takes this mathematics dedication to an Ivy League school this fall.

Through the Master of Science in Financial Engineering program at Columbia University, she’ll study in their classrooms and learn from professionals on Wall Street. That professional insight is key for Hourani, a mathematics major with a goal of working as a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

“When I say Wall Street, people think money. But Wall Street is so much more than that,” she said. “It’s on-your-feet problem solving that involves all these always-moving parts, which are affected by actions happening all around the world. To me, that’s exciting.”

Hourani, the 2019 CASL Honors Scholar in mathematics and four-year Math Learning Center student employee, said the close relationships with campus colleagues, staff and faculty helped her navigate the broad field of  mathematics.

Associate Professor Warren Anderson introduced Hourani to the field of financial mathematics through a Money and Banking course.

“Professor Anderson’s economics class showed me how I could take a subject I loved and apply it in a way that promotes strategic thinking. Math goes beyond the classroom or a spreadsheet. There’s a societal impact too.”

In addition, Associate Professor Mahesh Agarwal promoted Coursera [U-M is a partner in this online learning platform] to Hourani, which familiarized her with financial courses at Columbia University. And Associate Professor Yunus Zeytuncu encouraged her to learn more about math application in research through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Hourani participated in two REUs — with Ohio State University in 2017 and at UM-Dearborn in 2018.

With her strong connection to faculty, Hourani sought the advice of many of her math professors as she weighed her top graduate school choices after receiving acceptance letters from University of Michigan, New York University and Columbia University.

“There are have been many wonderful memories from my undergraduate years, but the people in the math department are the highlight. They have been my educators, mentors, advisers and advocates,” she said. “They let me know the paths I could take in a subject I love. And when I saw where I wanted to go with math academically and professionally, they helped me get there.”

Hourani said “math is a universal language” that touches nearly everything around us — business, society, physics, chemistry, education. She’s looking forward to exercising her fluency in New York City.

“In so many areas of our lives, knowing math can open doors. Once I’m experienced in growing money, I can help people anywhere reach their financial goals. There’s a personal satisfaction to knowing that what I enjoy doing can be a benefit to others.”

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