Chiwuike Owunwanne, Executive MPA '16

May 8, 2015

Tell us a bit about your hometown.

I have the privilege of having two hometowns.  I was born and partly raised in a remote village in the south eastern region of Nigeria before emigrating to Buffalo, New York, when I was eleven years old. The small village, Akirika Uku, had no paved roads, electricity, indoor plumbing, or wells. A typical school day began when roosters woke me. I would walk a few miles to the stream to fetch water before getting ready and walking a few more miles to school. Under a full moon, we would gather outside and tell stories and weekends were spent tending to crops in the farm.

Buffalo, my second hometown, is the second largest city in the state of New York with a population of 1.2 million. From the Erie Canal to Niagara Falls, there are many attractions in and around Buffalo. A once thriving city that declined along with other rust belt cities, Buffalo is making a comeback with a more diverse economy. Its largest sectors are financial services, technology, health care and education. Of course I cannot talk about my hometown without mentioning what it's really famous for; snowfall. Last November, the city experienced a record-breaking snow storm in which over 6 feet of snow fell over a three-day period effectively shutting the city down.

What were you doing prior to joining Fels?

I am still with the firm that I have been with since 2005 prior to coming to Fels last fall. The firm is an alternative investment money manager. We were based in Princeton, New Jersey, before relocating to Newtown, PA., summer of 2009. I am the Senior Operations Associate and in addition to helping manage the trading desk's daily operations, I play a supportive role to the Director of Trading and Vice President.

What attracted you most to the Fels program?

I have always been interested in and passionate about public services, and after 10 years at an investment firm, I am looking to pursue that passion and the Fels program was the most attractive given my current circumstances. As a full time employee with a demanding work schedule, I needed a program that is both rigorous and flexible. A fully online program was out of the question because I prefer getting to know my cohort and professors on a personal level.  I also believe that Fels practice-based curriculum would best prepare and equip me with the necessary tools and skill sets I'll need in my transition to public service and beyond.

Tell us about your current job or internship.

To ensure an effective work flow, as an operations manager I coordinate activities, manage resources, and collaborate with various stakeholders at every level, both inside and outside the firm. Trading futures commodity contracts can be stressful at times depending on the type of order and market liquidity. On the trading desk, the notion of going out for lunch means going out to pick up lunch. We eat our lunches at the desk just in case an important trade needs to be executed.  A few years ago, a 5:30 AM phone call woke me up and it was my supervisor. The Japanese market was down several hundred points and since I am the closest to the office, I drove to work in my pajamas to execute trades to hedge our portfolio. I was on vacation in Aruba when my supervisor called to discuss the impending Man Financial (MF Global) implosion. We had a $22 million account with the commodity brokerage firm.  I think it's safe to say that there are rarely dull moments in my current job.  

What do you like to do in your free time?

Aside from plotting on how to turn West Africa into a powerful economic region, in my free time I like to watch documentaries, CrashCourse YouTube videos and catch up with friends. Lately, between working and homework, free times are harder to come by.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829