On several occasions since his 2013 graduation from UNCG’s Master’s in Applied Economics program, John Buffalini has been grateful for an unfortunate situation—at least, that’s how he would have described it at the time. “In my Applied Methods of Public Policy course, I was in a group of three,” he says. “On the day of our presentation, two of my groupmates were sick, and I was responsible for covering a large chunk of the presentation. I had to think on the fly and talk about something I really had no idea about.”
Buffalini was nervous, but he seized the opportunity and pulled it off—and that lesson has paid off in droves. “In the real world, you have to be able to jump in on projects you don’t know everything about. Since then, when I get in these situations, I’m able to embrace the content, draw on my experience, and speak confidently,” he says.
In the past four years, Buffalini has progressed from his first job as an analyst at a small consultancy to his current job as a quantitative analyst for a major financial services institution.
That ability to speak to a wide range of topics has become all the more important. “At first my work was very technical—creating and analyzing reports by working with data from a variety of sources,” he says. “Today, I do a lot more project management, which requires being able to talk about and defend my work.”
Buffalini appreciates the breadth of his education at the Bryan School. “When I was researching graduate programs, I realized that UNCG’s masters of applied economics challenged its students in a lot more areas than other programs,” he says. “Whether it was being able to read somebody else’s research, figure out what they were going for, and defend it as if it were our own, or learn econometrics and apply it to public policy, we got a rich research background that was a true asset on the job floor.”
He credits the faculty’s diverse background for their graduates’ well-rounded education. “If there’s something you’re interested in, you can tap into their experience to learn more about it,” Buffalini says. “They come from great programs, such as the University of Chicago, Yale, the University of Virginia. And within the program, you’re not just one of 200 in an auditorium listening to lectures. If you do your part, they will actively engage in your education and challenge you.”