A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Student Phillip

Nov 19, 2021

This is part of a series of profiles introducing Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) students from the Class of 2023. If you would like to learn more about the MDA program, please visit minerva.edu/graduate-programs.



Phillip Kuck began his professional career at DEG, a German development bank, while he was a student at Witten/Herdecke University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Today, he is a Senior Analyst at DEG, where he works with private sector companies in emerging markets to foster sustainable development, such as financing projects with a purpose, creating skilled jobs, generating local income, and implementing international labor and environmental standards.

“To lift living standards in developing countries sounds great in theory, but only becomes powerful when you see it come to life. I was able to work with the German company, WEIG, in Paraguay to increase the recycling quota for paper. Standing at the production site in Paraguay and seeing the tons of paper being collected and recycled every day, via the project we helped finance, was truly meaningful to me,” Phillip shares.

Attending graduate school was never a given for Phillip. After five years of professional experience in development finance, he only considered programs that offered substantial value. He reflected on his favorite aspects of his undergraduate degree — namely the active learning format and the opportunity to combine academics with work experience — and looked for graduate programs that could provide similar opportunities. He heard about Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) program from a friend, and his first thought was, “This is so cool. I have to do this.”

Curious to learn more, Phillip researched more about Minerva and began to read Building the Intentional University, a book written by Minerva leadership, outlining the ideas and choices behind its educational model. Impressed by the international student body, intentional curriculum design, and innovative approach to learning compared to traditional higher education institutions, Phillip was convinced to apply.

Now, as a current student, Phillip believes his courses at Minerva have brought more intentionality to his life. Likening the program to a hybrid of business, data science, and analytics elements, he believes that the MDA helps him ask better questions and infer more meaning from data. In his undergraduate degree, Phillip realized that “questions can be way more powerful than answers” but often wondered whether he was asking the right questions. At Minerva, he has learned how to develop a new way to think through challenges using the habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs) — competencies to help students master critical and creative thinking and effective communication and interaction. For example, his current position requires him to craft investment analyses, highlighting key risks, potential mitigants, and essential drivers for success. Using his HCs, Phillip looks for the specific problem presented in new projects and supports his solutions with thorough evidence. “A risk analysis can only be as good as the questions you ask. The MDA program helps me shed light on potential blind spots I had not considered in my analysis before”, he concludes.

In addition to the course material and class instruction, Phillip is glad to be a part of a cohort from different countries and different professional industries as they each bring a unique perspective to the classroom. Hearing their career examples from their years of experience during discussions has provided great real-world examples of how to approach and solve a wide array of professional challenges. He looks forward to continuing to grow alongside his classmates and further strengthening his skills in order to build a more sustainable future.

“Minerva helps you to ask the big questions and dive deeper. You need to figure out where to start; Minerva can help to find an effective approach to get there by asking the right questions.”