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Blugold fulfills dream of earning business degree from U.S. university

| Judy Berthiaume

Dier Pulatov was expecting big things when he left his home in Uzbekistan to study at UW-Eau Claire.

Still, even he never imagined that meeting the CEO of Apple or giving a presentation to one of the top 25 investors of the 20th century would be part of his college experience.

“I cannot imagine a better place to obtain a high-quality education and such well-rounded experiences while making so many lifelong friendships,” Pulatov says. “UW-Eau Claire helped shape me intellectually and personally.”

This spring, Pulatov graduated with degrees in finance and applied math and a minor in accounting.  

He was named the 2020 College of Business Outstanding Senior, an honor that goes to a student who shows great promise and outstanding achievement in their chosen field.

Faculty mentors, challenging coursework, multiple internships, lifelong friends and other high-impact outside-the-classroom experiences all were part of his UW-Eau Claire journey, says Pulatov, who will begin his professional career this summer as a risk advisory consultant for EY in Minneapolis.

A dream internship at the prestigious Driehaus Capital Management in downtown Chicago was among the most meaningful experiences he had as a Blugold, Pulatov says.

While at Driehaus, he reported directly to the head of investments, giving him plenty of opportunities to observe various aspects of the firm and to learn from top fund managers.

The experience helped shape his academic path and his thinking about his future career, he says.

“I worked hard to impress my manager and had a chance to attend many high-level meetings,” Pulatov says. “It was an extremely valuable experience, which helped me better understand what skills I need to develop, and it unlocked many new opportunities.”

The highlight of his internship was having the opportunity to pitch a stock to the firm's founder, Richard Driehaus, one of the top investors in the world.

Securing an internship with Driehaus Capital Management was an incredible accomplishment in and of itself, says Mark Alfuth, a senior lecturer in accounting and finance and one of Pulatov’s mentors. Typically, he says, the firm’s interns come from places like Harvard, Yale or Northwestern.

“Dier did an outstanding job as an intern, even presenting a stock pitch directly to Mr. Driehaus,” Alfuth says. “When Dier told me about the meeting, he indicated that Mr. Driehaus was so impressed they ended up buying the stock. Mr. Driehaus then asked where Dier went to school, and when he found out he asked his operations person why they don’t hire from UWEC more.”

While he learned a lot about the finance world during his internship, he also got a peek at the “Wall Street” lifestyle, Pulatov says.

“I was invited to numerous events, including Mr. Driehaus’s birthday party for 1,000 guests in his mansion,” Pulatov says. “This Gatsby-style party was the coolest party I ever attended. It included a fireworks show and a Beach Boys concert.”

Pulatov’s other brush with fame during his time as a Blugold came when Alfuth took him and other students to Warren Buffet’s (Berkshire Hathaway) annual meeting in Nebraska.

“Warren Buffet is an icon in the investment world and attending his meeting is a great privilege that came about due to Professor Alfuth’s efforts,” Pulatov says. “While we were on a break, I noticed a huge gathering around someone. It was the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, who also came to the annual meeting. I was very lucky to meet him and get a selfie with him.

“The funniest part is that I took the selfie with him on a Samsung smartphone. He noticed it right away and told me several times to switch to an iPhone.”

While Pulatov decided to stick with his Samsung phone, the opportunity to meet the famous business leader was a powerful experience, especially for someone who grew up working alongside his parents and sister at their family-run retail store in Uzbekistan.

“Tashkent is a modern city in Uzbekistan with booming businesses and many educational institutions,” Pulatov says of his hometown. “My parents owned a retail business in Tashkent. My sister and I used to help them run the business. That is how I inherited valuable business skills and developed the appreciation for hard work.”

Pulatov began his undergraduate studies in Malaysia but transferred to UW-Eau Claire so he could earn a business degree from a university in the U.S., which was his longtime goal.

Despite arriving in Eau Claire when it was -27 degrees outside — quite the contrast to temperatures in Malaysia — he quickly felt at home on campus and in the community.

“My intellectual curiosity led me to pursue many exciting opportunities,” Pulatov says. “The U.S. is the land of opportunities, innovation and high-quality education. I thought, 'Where else can I fulfill my curiosity if not in the U.S. pursuing my own American dream?'

“I felt welcomed and wanted at UWEC. Coming here turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made.”

While Pulatov came to the U.S. knowing he wanted to earn a business degree, he found his future career path while taking classes in the College of Business at UW-Eau Claire.

Intrigued while studying investments in an Introduction to Finance class, he decided to major in finance.

His faculty mentors encouraged him to add an accounting minor. And, after his internship in Chicago, he also added a second major in applied math.

While the internships were valuable, he also had many on-campus experiences that helped him grow his knowledge and thinking.

For example, he was involved in the Financial Management Association student organization and served as finance director of Student Senate.

Equally important, he says, are the friendships and professional connections he made as a Blugold on campus and in the Eau Claire community.

“When I first came here, I did not know anyone,” Pulatov says. “Now, I feel like I know half of the campus.”

Those relationships were especially important after his father was diagnosed with cancer, he says.

“It was a difficult period for my entire family,” Pulatov says. “I am so grateful to UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff for the incredible support and love I received during that challenging time. Chancellor Jim, College of Business faculty, my managers at work, my host family, they all stepped up and accommodated me, allowing me to visit my father in the summer.

“My dad wanted to see me graduate from an American university, so I returned to continue my education despite the challenges. Now, I have realized the dream my family worked so hard for. The kindness of my Blugold community helped me overcome all those challenges.”

Alfuth and Dr. Pedro Sottile, associate professor of accounting and finance and Latin American and Latinx studies, were especially instrumental in his success at UW-Eau Claire, Pulatov says.

Alfuth created multiple learning opportunities for him and other students that helped him find success in and outside the classroom. For example, Alfuth oversees a student-managed investment fund program, which Pulatov says gave him valuable experience with investing and using professional tools.

“Professor Alfuth taught me to think outside of the box,” Pulatov says. “He connected me with many industry experts that led to my internship at Driehaus Capital Management. His coaching helped me become more confident and ambitious.”

Sottile also was a teacher and a mentor, helping him understand difficult financial concepts as well as cultural differences in professional settings.

“I am so proud and honored to be their student,” Pulatov says of his mentors. “Every time I spend time with them, I get blown away by their wisdom.”

Photo caption: Dier Pulatov’s internships and other outside-the-classroom experiences added value to his college experience.