Mind and hand: A fencer takes on MIT Sloan’s MSMS Program

Valentina Rizzati MSMS ’13


At the age of 18, Valentina Rizzati MSMS ’13 had to choose between fencing and economics.

An accomplished fencer from Ferrara, Italy, Rizzati won regional and inter-regional competitions and placed fifth at an international fencing competition. However, like most athletes, Rizzati realized she couldn’t keep up with a competitive sport forever. Writing an economics paper in high school sparked her interest in the subject, and it’s what eventually led her to the MIT Sloan School of Management.

She has a degree in economics from Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, has studied at Dartmouth College, and will earn a master’s degree in economics from HEC Paris and MIT Sloan next spring. She is thrilled to be at MIT Sloan and a member of the Master of Science in Management Studies (MSMS) Program.

“For my last year of my master’s, I wanted to attend a school with a diverse and unique curriculum and student body, and I knew that I would find that at MIT Sloan. I enjoyed my experience at Dartmouth because the academic framework and student life is so different in America. Students are more involved in group work here and exams do not constitute 100 percent of your grade as they do in Italy. In the U.S., class participation counts a lot toward your grade, and as a result, students are encouraged to actively participate in class discussions,” Rizzati says.

En garde

Her love of fencing began at age 5. Even after she broke her dominant hand and had to switch hands, Rizzati’s passion for this sport has never wavered. She has also coached other fencers and refereed matches. She even brought her fencing equipment with her to MIT Sloan.

“I had to decide how long I could pursue fencing, because like any other sport you can’t fence competitively for your entire life. I spent a lot of time fencing — several hours of practice every day and I also went to competitions on the weekends. It was hard to give up, because it brought out the best of my personality and helped me learn to concentrate,” she says.

“But, I also wanted to study economics, so it made more sense in the long-term to go to university. I fence for fun now. It’s like riding a bike — you never forget how,” Rizzati notes. “I am convinced I made the right choice.”

As part of the MSMS degree requirements, Rizzati will write a thesis. She will study and compare developing markets in Asia to those in Africa. She has already met with Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship, to discuss the work.

“I’m developing a statistical model to compare development in Asia in the 1980s to that of Africa now. Some Asian countries showed a substantial GDP growth in a relatively short period of time and some African countries are currently showing a promising development path. Through political and econometric analysis, I’ll compare these growth trajectories and provide a potential scenario for African economy in the future,” she says.

Rizzati is already studying business in Africa as she is working with classmate Aminata Kane, MBA ’13, on Kane’s startup company based in Senegal. Fula & Style is an African Urban Chic clothing line. She met Kane in their Development Ventures (15.375J) class, and is helping the startup with finance and econometric needs.

Rizzati is also an accomplished pianist, playing concerts in her hometown theater. She says playing helps her release her emotions — if she is feeling romantic, she will play Chopin, or if she is feeling energetic, she will play Mozart. One of her favorite pieces is “The Waves” by Ludovico Einaudi because of the intense emotions released by the music.

When she completes her degrees at MIT Sloan and HEC Paris, Rizzati hopes to either consult or work for the World Bank Group, The International Monetary Fund or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.


Topics: Athletics, Education, teaching, academics, Graduate, postdoctoral, Italy, Management, Sports, Student life, Students

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