Meet Sam Kreft, a 2020 graduate of the Master of Science in Economics program at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. Kreft moved to Chicago from England six years ago. Today, she works at Ankura Consulting, a global consulting firm, as an economic litigation consultant. We sat down with Kreft and asked her about her experiences as an international student at Kellstadt, how her studies prepared her for her career, and what advice she has for others considering leaving their home country to study at DePaul.
Where is home for you?
I spent most of my life in a small town in England, but when someone asks me today where home is, the answer isn’t so simple. I moved to Chicago six years ago with my son to live with my now husband. It was a big adjustment and I wasn’t sure how much I would like city living.
Now I can’t imagine a home outside of Chicago. DePaul has been a big part of that. Having classes on both the Loop and Lincoln Park campuses really allowed me to explore different parts of the city.
What was it like for you coming to DePaul as an international student?
Coming in as an international student was intimidating. Degrees in the U.S. are structured completely differently from those back in the U.K., so I wasn’t sure how I was going to navigate selecting classes. Thankfully, DePaul had advising sessions before the quarter started and the advisors were extremely helpful. They showed me how to navigate the various online resources and helped me build a plan. Also, I absolutely adored the online interface where you search and register for classes. It made everything so much easier.
What are some challenges you faced and how did DePaul support you?
Going back into the classroom as a mature student was a bit intimidating for me. DePaul’s small class sizes helped make my transition easier because they created better opportunities for collaborating with peers and really getting to know everyone. I also liked the location of the Loop campus. I knew I wouldn’t be living downtown so it was a good opportunity to get to know the area I would hopefully be working in after graduation.
Another struggle I faced as an international student was finding internships. Many companies are looking for someone who is a potential hire when they graduate and they do not sponsor individuals for visas. DePaul was instrumental in keeping me motivated when I wasn’t hearing back from employers and giving me the skills to present myself. The DePaul Career Center was an excellent resource for résumé and cover letter preparation, career fair opportunities and interview practice.
I also had professors that took time out of their day to do mock interviews with me and many of the classes I took would emphasize the need to network. That’s what ultimately got me my first interview! I had to interview a professional for an assignment. Instead of choosing an easy route, I decided to reach out to management in a company that particularly interested me, and they agreed to meet. We kept in touch, and they offered me an internship the following summer.
What did you choose to study business?
When I started at DePaul, I was planning on going to law school after and knew that business was an excellent precursor to that. I didn’t decide on my major until I took the course, Principles of Microeconomics. It absolutely fascinated me. I enjoyed the way it taught me to think outside the box and challenged my thought processes. I am glad that being part of the business school at DePaul enables you to experience so many different classes, or I never would have even contemplated a master’s in economics.
What did you enjoy most about your DePaul experience?
DePaul was such a happy time in my life. I loved the community and wealth of opportunities. Specifically in the Economics department, I attended fortnightly seminars by visiting professionals discussing their current research, participated in the Economics student conference, where we had the opportunity to share our own research and hear other students present theirs, and I was fortunate to become a graduate assistant to professors in my final year, assisting with tutoring for econ classes and grading assignments. All of this enabled me to build a network and build different skills.
Tell us about your current job.
I graduated in June 2020, which was a tough year to graduate. I was extremely fortunate that I had been proactive with applying and interviewing for positions the prior year and got an offer from Ankura Consulting in February 2020 to be an economic litigation consultant. Most of my work involves analyzing data for various legal actions, from overdraft fee litigation to healthcare disputes.
How did your Kellstadt experience prepare you for your career?
Many of the technical skills I use on a daily basis were completely new to me when I started at Ankura, but my foundation for learning those skills came from my various classes at Kellstadt. I was able to pick up different coding languages easily because I knew how to approach the puzzle. I feel like there is a lot of emphasis on having experience with certain software programs, when in reality, the more critical skill is the ability to dissect a problem and formulate a plan to create a solution.
Beyond that, Kellstadt taught me the importance of networking, which has helped me to build a lot of relationships outside of my team at work. This has given me the chance to work on different kinds of projects.
What advice do you have for international students interested in studying business at DePaul?
Make good use of the DePaul Career Center and the Kellstadt Career Management Center; go to their career fairs, make connections there, and utilize Handshake, which is an online job site where you can search for open positions. Additionally, do your research on the different visa options for when you graduate and for internships. I did not look into this enough and it made things more difficult for me.
Last but not least, build your network from day one! I cannot count the number of opportunities I had from going to alumni events, building friendships with peers and professors and going to the multitude of extracurricular events that DePaul organizes.