Smith Inclusiveness- Yiyang

I am Yiyang Li and I am a first-year student in the Master of Quantitative Finance program. What I find most appealing at Smith is its inclusive environment where students have the opportunity to fully participate in class and express their own ideas.

In the past semester, I had the privilege of studying Valuation in Corporate Finance and Financial Econometrics under the guidance of Professor Liu Yang. Instead of delivering a straightforward lecture, she encouraged us to discuss and interact with her as well as other students in the class. Through discussions, Professor Yang pointed out and corrected our flaws and mistakes on certain subjects, and we asked her to talk more about or better explain certain ideas. The interactive classroom environment allowed me to hone my knowledge, because not only did my classroom experience become personalized but the discussions among other students could also make me aware of ideas that I may have neglected.

In Professor Yang’s class, we were required to make presentations in front of the entire class throughout the semester. As first-year students, we made mistakes, but I cherished the chances since it was safe to make mistakes in class—no one would laugh at me and the professor was always there to help me. I was picked to give a presentation in the very first class. At the time, standing at the center of the podium, I was so nervous that I didn’t know what to say. I spoke words from my powerpoint verbatim, made several mistakes, and failed to provide a solid answer when Professor Yang questioned certain approaches in my valuation method. I felt as if I made a complete fool of myself. But later that day, during office hours with Professor Yang, she told me, it was perfectly okay to be nervous for the first time giving presentations, but what’s most important was to practice, to jump out of the comfort zone, and to sharpen my skills in class so that I could avoid making mistakes later in interviews or at work. I followed her words, and as expected, I became much more experienced and more equipped with knowledge as the semester went. In the last class, it was my turn to give a presentation again. This time I was no longer afraid of speaking in front of a hundred people; the knowledge I gained in class enabled me to answer the questions fast and correctly. In the end, Professor Yang gave me the highest score for my presentation!

I am more than grateful to have the opportunity to be pushed to jump out of my comfort zone. I believe these skills, as well as such a mentality, will be a lifelong treasure for me.

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