A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Student Saori

Sep 10, 2020

This is part of a series of profiles introducing Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) students from the Class of 2022. If you would like to learn more about the MDA program, please visit minerva.edu/graduate-programs.



Born in a rural area north of the Kanto region in Japan, Saori Kimura has spent the past three years working in New York City.

To advance her skills further and rise in the financial industry, recently Saori had been looking for a Master of Business Administration or data analysis program but struggled to find one that was part-time in order to fit her schedule. Saori wanted to keep her job while studying, so she would be able to afford tuition and living costs. That is when she learned about Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) program.

“Among the Japanese, Minerva is actually getting quite famous. I had found a book written by a Japanese author who used to do marketing for Minerva and [read] about his experience. In the book, he explained how Minerva was very unique — [he talked] about the online platform and active learning, and how undergraduate students live in seven different countries.”

According to Saori, data skills are increasingly popular in the financial world, as they needed to analyze the market in order to gain critical insights. Because some companies, such as Goldman Sachs, even require their employees to have data analytic skills, Saori was inspired to look for a program where she could develop her own experience.

“It’s my hobby — making investments in the market. I also like learning new things. I like challenges. I enjoy going overseas and learning about different cultures and history.”

Saori is driven to create a world where anyone could follow a career path of their choosing, without a concern for their financial situation. She wants people to not have to give up their dreams or goals in return for financial stability, so she is seeking ways to work towards achieving such a world — by disseminating or explaining information about markets and investment explicitly for vulnerable populations

“When I was in college for my undergraduate, I studied pharmacy but I didn’t have anyone in my network who could give me advice on entering the financial industry or more specific aspects of it.”

Saori resolved this lack of knowledge by putting in the work and enthusiasm to find information and connections. She attended a number of seminars organized by finance companies in Japan, then she reached out to Human Resources representatives in these companies for introductions to people who could give her more advice about the field. This experience not only opened the door to her current position but also made her realize that the lack of a formal background in a field should not be a limiting factor in pursuing a new career. Instead, if someone has the enthusiasm, love for the field, and an eagerness to learn, it is possible.

Saori has observed that it is common for Japanese leaders to avoid conflict or be too ambiguous in their public addresses, rather than clearly explaining the situation. She expects this may be because Japanese culture emphasizes cooperation with others.

She admires the approach US leaders tend to use, with a culture of increasing emphasis on clear communication and the use of data to back up arguments. She believes that is particularly important because the US population is so diverse, comprising people from all over the world, where a clear line of communication can bridge cultural differences.

“I think through class discussions, I’ll be able to find new ways to solve problems, as well as gain new perspectives and insight from other students. So I think through these discussions and through active learning Minerva will help me to develop my own way of thinking.”

As the Japanese educational system and Minerva’s model are vastly different, as the former prioritizes memorization and teaching to the test, Saori is excited to join the MDA program to learn skills that will enable her to better apply knowledge to the world around her.