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Ricardo Taveras: Capitalizing on Online Learning in ERM

By Nick Schiff

After finishing a postgraduate degree in business at Harvard University, Ricardo Taveras (’18SPS, Enterprise Risk Management) began a private practice as a venture capital investor and advisor in New York City. In his role helping the companies in his portfolio formulate and execute their growth strategies, he noticed something peculiar. Start-ups are among the riskiest assets for investors. However, their risk management practices are very often outdated—or nonexistent. He decided to fill this need in the finance industry: by entering the master’s program in Enterprise Risk Management at the School of Professional Studies, he could help firms minimize risk while maximizing their growth.

How you plan to utilize your education in your career?

I started by studying Financial Analysis and Decision Making Science at Harvard University while completing a postgraduate degree in business. As an entrepreneur, I’ve brought two of my previous companies from inception to successful exits in the education and entertainment industries. Currently, as an angel venture capital investor and financial consultant in New York City, I help the companies in my portfolio form and execute their growth strategies. My contribution is to perform a sound strategy based on Enterprise Risk Management techniques and approaches. Ironically, these assets are risky, but enterprise risk management practices in the venture capital space are either obsolete (often ignoring upside risk) or non-existent. My plan is to change that by helping these firms increase their CARRY/ROI.

What online program are you enrolled in and why did you choose an online class over a traditional classroom?

I am enrolled in Enterprise Information Security: Threats and Defense. The class is online-only. I was intrigued: would Columbia lower or increase its academic requirements for an online class? Also, I’ve had very pleasant educational experiences with online classes at previous universities, and I was curious to compare them. This class has been the best online learning experience I’ve ever had. Columbia’s academic requirements and standards did not change in the course compared to the physical classroom. The online class even had some advantages of its own: transparency and repetitive interactions. These led to a great opportunity to learn from my peers.

Where do you typically “attend” your online class? Can you describe your typical study space or area?

My online class was scheduled in between two (in-person) classes that I was attending on campus. I had approximately 20 minutes to go somewhere quiet, where conversations are permissible, and the Wi-Fi connection is strong enough to support the online classroom software. The Lehman Library was my favorite spot (especially the couches near the main entrance of the first floor), or a quiet coffee shop in my home neighborhood. On the other hand, part of the reason why I enjoy online learning is because of the geographical flexibility that it gives me. As long as I have a reliable Wi-Fi connection (I carry my own internet hotspot most of the time) and a quiet space, I can engage with the class almost anywhere.

How is online learning different from a classroom? What are some aspects of online learning you think are beneficial?

There are advantages to each. Traditional classrooms have the benefit of in-person contact, which allows a wide spectrum of communication between teachers, TAs, and students. Online learning, on the other hand, offers constant interactivity and faster, more transparent grading.

What is interaction like in an online classroom? Do you feel that you are able to participate with other students and build a relationship with your professor?

I was surprised by how interactive the online environment is. The professor and TA were extremely engaged. Every week we would open with a week-long discussion named “timely topics” where we discussed cybersecurity issues in the news. The professor added between twenty and forty posts a week, and students constantly responded. We also engaged in a weekly case study. Submissions were all public. As students posted their research and responses, the professor replied within ten minutes. His responses were thought-provoking and invited further discussion, engaging us in a (sometimes very intense) week-long discussion about the issue at hand. I also engaged regularly with the professor via email. By the end of the course, everyone involved built a lasting, close relationship.

Would you recommend online learning to others? Why?

Yes, I would recommend online learning. Here’s why:

  1. Geographic flexibility: not only convenient, but allows the university to engage a wider variety of talented students.

  2. Ultra-productive lectures: The TA can actually answer questions while the professor is giving the lecture. After the class the professor goes back to the chat box and responds. In the end, everyone gets comments from both the TA and the professor.

  3. Quicker grading results: exams are taken online while the system corrects the exams and gives the results back to students instantaneously.

  4. A lot of interactivity to the benefit of everyone involved.