In Search of a Challenging and Purposeful Career

Alexander Kniazev with Dean Feldman, receiving the Bluestein Scholarship
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When Alexander Kniazev ’14 (economics and mathematics) received the William M. Bluestein Memorial Scholarship in May he gained freedom from the financial strain he faces daily. “I don’t have to worry so much about buying books, paying my phone bill, or my mother calling near tears because the water heater broke and we can’t pay for it,” he says. “Debt weighs you down. With this scholarship, I can focus on things that matter, such as living my life and chasing my dreams.”

The backstory on Kniazev reveals that he immigrated from Russia to the U.S. with his single mother in 1999 and began the process of learning the language and adapting to the culture. “We moved around a lot. It was very difficult for my mother to support me with almost no help and no language skills.” Eventually they settled in Stoughton, MA, where Kniazev started fifth grade and began to make some permanent friends. Later, in high school, he played varsity soccer, competed in the science Olympiad and a robotics competition, played guitar and did the sorts of things American teenagers do.

“However it’s hard to say that I was a totally normal student,” says Kniazev. “Constant financial pressure, no father at home, my mom’s structural unemployment and imperfect English meant that I took on a lot of responsibility and stress. I started working at 15 and would give my mom the paychecks. By the end of school I was doing the taxes, repairing the car and house, budgeting expenditures, and doing what I could to help pay the bills.”

By the end of high school, Kniazev decided that attending UMass would broaden his intellectual horizons and eventually ensure a more steady financial future for himself and his mother. He chose economics as his major because he wanted “a good understanding of the financial atmosphere in which we live and  a skill set employers would value and could do some good in the world.”

Kniazev hasn’t been disappointed. “I’ve enjoyed a variety of classes and become acquainted with professors. Talking individually with them opens up your mind to how much you still have to learn. They give your work intelligent feedback, which can be used to improve yourself and to better analyze problems.”

In addition to academics, Kniazev points to “plenty of internships and other learning opportunities” as well as myriad social opportunities. “I have met tons of people just because there are tons of people to meet! The diversity here is great. While there are lots of great options for clubs around here, I regret not participating in more of them. I did go to EDMC (electronic dance music community) events, spring concerts, and various social gatherings. The most excellent part about UMass is the variety of everything. It’s an empty canvas and that’s awesome.”

This fall Kniazev will study abroad in England at Sussex University. “I’m thrilled! Study abroad is a great part of UMass and they make it pretty easy to go unless you have really stringent requirements. I expect to gain a greater understanding of the culture and enrich my education,” thanks in part to the Bluestein scholarship.

Kniazev dreams of pursuing a challenging and purposeful career. “I want to be able to do something that will have an impact on the world and lets me grow as a person—maybe in economics, business or medicine. I am trying to narrow down a specific field, learn as much about it as I can, and jump in to see if it is fun and interesting. I want to use my time on earth efficiently and do something that is financially and intellectually rewarding. Everyone needs to have a sense of purpose.”

The William M. Bluestein Memorial Scholarship, funded by the late Bill Bluestein ’78 (economics) and others, supports students interested in economics, technology, and/or public policy. It is but one of many SBS scholarships that are awarded annually. For more information on creating scholarships for SBS students, contact James Mallet, director of development at jmallet@amin.umass.edu; 413.577.1700. To give to existing SBS scholarships, click here.