A Mathematician in Foundation Year

Spotlight: Fareed Hawwa, PhD, Assistant Teaching Professor

Fareed Hawwa, Assistant Teaching Professor, enriches his students’ learning experience with his extensive real-world financial expertise. A significant career in the finance sector preceded his time at Northeastern University in Foundation Year, one of a variety of pathway programs offered by the College of Professional Studies (CPS).

Hawwa began his career as an equities trader in New York City. He also occupied other roles such as analyst, partner, and head of trading at a financial firm in Chicago, before transitioning to his current position at CPS. In these various professional capacities, he had to hone his knowledge of mathematics and apply it to his management of both technical analysis and risk management methodologies, utilizing logic and quantitative analysis. He led trading operations and strategic initiatives for funds valued at $250 million in assets under management during this time. The experience of managing a high-net-worth portfolio helped him acutely understand the mechanics of money. He now shares this knowledge in the classroom.


Hawwa’s upbringing took place in Rhode Island. During his high school years, he participated in wrestling and garnered attention from a coach at New York University (NYU). Enrolling at NYU, he devoted himself to the sport, recognizing its rigorous demands. Hawwa frequently undertook the arduous task of cutting weight by up to ten pounds in just a few days to meet the requirements of specific weight classes, demonstrating extraordinary discipline of both body and mind while maintaining his academic performance.

During his time at NYU, he made the decision to major in mathematics. Expressing his sincere affinity for the subject, he said,

“While some find math boring or difficult, for me, it brings joy.”

Fareed Hawwa

Approaching the completion of his bachelor’s degree at NYU, Hawwa knew that he wanted to obtain a doctoral degree in mathematics.

He decided to attend Louisiana State University (LSU) for his master’s and PhD degrees. Halfway through his studies there, Hawwa was awarded a National Science Foundation GK-12 fellowship, contingent upon his commitment to teach each semester while pursuing his doctoral studies.

“There were six times I looked for flights home because I was going to quit; it took a lot of discipline to stay the course.”, he said. But Hawwa realized that he had to want to put in the work to get the result. “This realization really shaped me as both a jock and an academic”, he said.

In the initial year of his graduate studies, he taught mathematics at a local alternative high school, an institution for students facing suspension within the public school system.

“The students had different challenges, and I witnessed some unfortunate situations, such as students being summoned to court during class time. I always assumed that all students desired to attend school, but that isn’t always the reality.”

Fareed Hawwa – Reflecting on his Experience

In addition to teaching, Hawwa also resumed wrestling. His unwavering commitment to the sport propelled him to a coaching role for the NCWA LSU wrestling team.

During the next two years in his doctoral program, he continued to coach wrestling, and he also transitioned to teaching undergraduate courses on campus.

He expressed satisfaction with this shift, stating, “I had the opportunity to engage with students who possessed a genuine interest in mathematics and were able to be fully vested in their academic journey.”

In the course of his time at LSU, Hawwa was a three-time recipient of the Mathematics Department Teaching Excellence Award for his work with students.


In 2010, after successfully defending his PhD dissertation, Hawwa moved back to New York and bartended before landing a job at a trading firm. Shortly after this, he got an offer to join a hedge fund in Chicago as an analyst, later becoming partner and head of trading.

Hawwa describes his time at the hedge fund as exciting. While the role was challenging, the substantial salary served as an attempt to rationalize the extensive hours and the inevitable sacrifice of work-life balance inherent to such demanding positions. Despite the financial compensation, he came to realize that mere pursuit of monetary gain was not his primary motivator.

In March 2018, Hawwa left the firm and took a year off work. He took time to look inward and got certified in transcendental meditation. “These pursuits helped me to identify my true passion of teaching”, he said.

Foundation Year

In 2019, now back in Rhode Island, Hawwa applied for jobs and seized an opportunity to teach within Northeastern University’s Foundation Year, a program that serves students in the city of Boston in transitioning from high school to college. Administered by the College of Professional Studies, it offers rigorous academic coursework within a supportive cohort environment during students’ initial college year. Completion of the Foundation Year enables students to progress into a degree program at Northeastern University. The program’s design aims to maximize student potential, offering small classes and individualized advising. Additionally, the cohort model fosters a strong sense of community, supplemented by provisions such as textbooks, technology access, and a dining plan providing meals on campus throughout the year. The program boasts a 92% average matriculation rate for students who successfully complete the program and meet progression standards and continue at Northeastern. Many of these students successfully graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Hawwa was hired by Foundation Year to teach a variety of math classes. The very first class he taught, Foundations of Math, started a few weeks after he was hired. He has since taught other classes, including: College Algebra, PreCalculus, Calculus 1, Calculus 2 recitation, and most recently, Personal Finance.

As a pragmatic and empathetic educator, Hawwa places a high value on fairness and respect in his interactions with students. He maintains accountability among students while being mindful not to place undue pressure on them.

He emphasized, “Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, if a student didn’t have their camera on, I didn’t press the issue. I like to employ a deeper concentration on the subject matter itself and what support they require from me.”

As Hawwa taught his math classes that first year, his colleagues at CPS got to know him better. They learned that he used to work in finance and he started to attract financial questions from them, like how to change allocation in a 403b retirement plan to maximize return, how to open a Roth IRA account, or whether they should purchase cryptocurrency.

Seeing that Hawwa was becoming known for his professional expertise, Director of the Program, Martha Loftus, suggested that Hawwa teach a course around financial literacy.

“Fareed’s exuberance for helping others better understand their personal finance was clear when he started at CPS. The fact that he did so with industry experience was an added benefit. We’re always looking to add new courses to the Foundation Year curriculum, so it made sense to add Personal Finance and draw upon his energy, knowledge and commitment to the subject. Financial literacy is an important skill for everyone. The Foundation Year holistic model of student success prompts us to always be thinking of ways we can help students thrive in and out of the classroom”

– Martha Loftus

In his Personal Finance course, Hawwa shows students skills like how to read a stock chart, and he explains the dangers and benefits of compound interest. For many of his students, the discussion he has with them about the importance of a healthy FICO score is the first time they are introduced to the concept.

Hawwa says that teaching is ‘the highest honor of [his] life. It’s taught [him] a lot about humility and empathy.’ He said, “some students have told me that the way they viewed personal finance before they took my class was stressful, but now that they understand the basics, they are able to rise above it and pursue financial success.”

“Math is like life. In math, you need humility, or it’ll eat you up.”

Fareed Hawwa

Fareed’s Money Management Top Tips

YearUp/Roxbury Community College Opportunity Scholarship Recipient, Christian Cartagena

What 3 words encapsulate your Northeastern University experience:
Supportive, Transformative, Stimulating

Getting a degree while life is happening isn’t always easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face at Northeastern and how have you overcome them?

The relentless cycle of working in the early hours, diving into homework late into the night, and reserving weekends for deep dives into my studies created a moment in my life where I was frequently saying “No, I can’t make it. Sorry.” to my family and friends.

Prioritization was the cornerstone of my survival strategy. I had to discern the urgent from the important, constantly recalibrating my focus to align with the goals I have set for myself. I have been in a constant dance, ensuring that no area was neglected while avoiding falling behind on my academic commitments. Being organized has become my compass in this journey so far.

Calendars, planners, and to-do lists were my allies, helping me chart a course through the dense fog of responsibilities. Attention to detail is becoming second nature, as missing a deadline or overlooking a task could jeopardize a lot.

What were some of the reasons you chose to join the Northeastern community? Since joining, what have been some of the opportunities and challenges you have experienced?

I chose to join Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies due to its flexible online classes, allowing me to work in the mornings and manage living expenses in the expensive city of Boston, MA. The flexible scheduling was a key factor for me, as it allowed me to learn part-time or full-time, setting my own pace while still maintaining my daily life. The city is rich with opportunities, and Northeastern stood out as a pathway to acquiring relevant skills and knowledge. Northeastern’s commitment to experiential learning was appealing. The emphasis on real-world applications through case studies, consulting projects, and collaboration with employers aligns with my desire for practical knowledge – learn it and put it into practice! One-on-one interactions with my professors have provided me with additional support, ensuring a more complete understanding of course material. Overall, Northeastern has not only offered me a flexible and supportive learning environment but has also provided avenues for networking and gaining valuable insights from diverse perspectives.

What has your journey at Northeastern University revelated to you about yourself?

My journey at Northeastern University has revealed a lot about myself. I’ve faced numerous emotional challenges, particularly with both of my parents experiencing disabilities from car accidents and work injuries. Despite the stress and sadness that accompanies these circumstances, it has instilled in me a deep sense of determination to overcome adversities and to handle my challenges with pride. My experience at Northeastern has taught me valuable lessons in independence. I’ve learned that effective communication is at the core of navigating through academic and personal challenges.

It’s crucial to ask for help when I’ve needed it, and to trust that people are more than willing to assist, but they may not be aware of what I need or what would be helpful unless I tell them! Overcoming the fear of asking questions when faced with uncertainty has been a significant part of my growth. Being a Northeastern student has been an inspiring journey. Each completed class shows I am not only a step closer to my goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree but also another achievement added to my collection. This experience has affirmed that I am capable of achieving remarkable things. It’s a testament to the power of determination, effective communication, and the willingness to seek assistance when necessary— qualities that have become integral to my personal and academic growth at Northeastern University.

What advice do you have for others considering higher education — either at Northeastern or elsewhere?

Embarking on the higher education journey, especially at institutions like Northeastern, requires a blend of determination, effective time management, and a proactive approach to challenges. As a student, I’ve faced the intricate dance of balancing work, academics, and personal life. The key to navigating this delicate balance lies in meticulous organization and attention to detail. Creating a structured schedule, breaking down tasks, and keeping clear priorities have been crucial in ensuring I don’t fall behind on coursework while meeting other life demands.

In my experience at Northeastern, the institution’s emphasis on flexibility and experiential learning has been instrumental. The flexible scheduling allowed me to adapt my learning journey to my unique circumstances, making education accessible despite a demanding schedule.

Engaging in real-world projects, networking events, and discussions with professors enhanced my understanding and provided valuable insights beyond the classroom. Moreover, my journey at Northeastern has taught me the significance of effective communication and seeking help when needed. The university community is filled with resources, and the willingness to ask questions and request support has been a vital part of my success. I’ve learned that every completed class represents not only a step closer to a degree but also a tangible achievement, reinforcing my belief in my capabilities. For those considering higher education, my advice is to approach it with resilience, organization, and a willingness to seek guidance.

If you’re a current student, why are you interested in the degree you’re pursuing? What motivates you?

Growing up in a household where finances were a constant struggle, I developed a deep-seated desire for financial stability and success. My insecurities stemming from our economic situation fueled my aspiration to emulate the confident and accomplished businessmen I saw on television.

Choosing to major in finance and accounting was an obvious decision for me. I started my academic journey at a community college, earning my associates in business administration. Subsequently, I participated in a program called Year Up in Boston, where I focused on investment operations. Now, as I pursue my bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting at Northeastern, my motivation remains rooted in my past experiences. My primary goal is to understand money to safeguard not only my own financial future but also those of my family, and friends. The vision of my future self serves as a powerful motivator. I envision a confident, happy individual, unburdened by financial stress and capable of positively impacting others. Each day, I strive to live up to this future self, driven by the prospect of not only securing my own success but also contributing to a world filled with more smiles and opportunities for others.

What are you hoping to do after you graduate? Where do you imagine yourself 5 years after school?

As a current student, my aspirations post-graduation are deeply intertwined with my passion for the finance industry. Currently employed with JPMorgan in trade services, my plan is to continue with the company after completing my education. I am committed to immersing myself in the field, aiming to become an expert before considering any transition to another department or company. In the five years following graduation, I envision a trajectory of continuous growth and achievement within JPMorgan. My goal is to stay dedicated to my role in trade services, progressively taking on more responsibilities and demonstrating a mastery of the material. I am ambitious about climbing the corporate ladder and setting a goal to be promoted every two – three years. Beyond personal career development, I have a vision of contributing to the growth and success of my friends and colleagues. I aspire to take on a mentoring role, sharing my knowledge and experiences to help newcomers navigate the complexities of the finance industry. Empowering others to grow both personally and professionally is a key part of my long-term plan. I see myself remaining deeply engaged in the finance world, leveraging my expertise to make meaningful contributions. As part of my journey, I’m contemplating the idea of starting a side business. This venture would not only add an extra challenge to my professional plate but also provide a platform for applying my financial expertise in new and innovative ways.

We know you are more than the person who shows up at Northeastern — what are some of your hobbies and other passions? Where do you find your joy?

Having transitioned from Lawrence, MA, where the urban landscape lacked the glamour of fancy buildings and city lights, my move to Boston has been a source of immense joy. Exploring the city has become a cherished hobby, whether it’s strolling through Boston Common with my golden doodle, reveling in the vibrancy of city lights during night drives, or discovering new eateries that add to the tapestry of possibilities. I love all of the scenic views, people jogging with their dogs, water views, and overall bustling city life has become a source of huge inspiration. Beyond city escapades, my happiness comes from the simple pleasures of spending time with family, friends, and my four-legged companion. Each moment with loved ones adds depth and meaning to my experiences. And yes, even the act of pressing the submit button for my homework brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another passion, with regular visits to the gym serving as a way to stretch and rejuvenate after extended hours spent at a desk. Finding balance between academic commitments and personal well-being is essential, and these moments of self-care significantly add to my overall happiness and contentment. Life is good!

Anything else you wanted to say that we didn’t cover?

I want to express my deep gratitude for the incredible support the Year Up/Roxbury Community College Opportunity Scholarship has given me. Joining Northeastern University has truly been a transformative experience, and the impact of this scholarship on my academic journey will be immeasurable.

Christian Cartagena, YearUp/Roxbury Community College Opportunity Scholarship Recipient

The financial support will not only alleviate some of the burdens associated with pursuing higher education but will also open doors to a wealth of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Every day, I am reminded of the countless blessings that have come my way since becoming a part of the Northeastern community. The unwavering support from those around me, including the generous donors behind the Opportunity Scholarship, have been instrumental in my academic success and personal development. As I reflect on this journey, I am filled with gratitude for the individuals who believe in my potential and have contributed to making my educational aspirations a reality. The Opportunity Scholarship is not just a financial aid; it is a symbol of encouragement, empowerment, and the belief that with dedication and support, I can achieve great things. I am truly thankful for the blessings that this scholarship represents and excited about the endless possibilities it opens up for my future.

A Gift Across Generations

In funding a named scholarship, Jean A. Kovacs pays forward a debt of gratitude for the life-altering education she received at Northeastern

When Jean A. Kovacs, who graduated from Northeastern’s University College in 1983, left foster care in Wilmington, MA, at age 18, the career paths for a woman of her background looked extremely limited.

“As a female,” she told students and families at the 2022 CPS Undergraduate Scholarship Celebration, “you were either going to be a nurse or a teacher, or maybe you’d get a job as a clerk, typist, or a secretary.”

Kovacs started as a clerk-typist at a small company near Wilmington, and soon fell in love with the world of business. She knew she would need an education to rise in the field, and she started taking evening classes—marketing, computer science, accounting—at Northeastern’s Burlington campus. A few years later, thanks to the availability of evening and weekend classes, she finished her degree.

“I was learning things in class that I could then bring and apply at work, so it made the learning process so much more real for me,” Kovacs said. “My job got better, my work performance got better, but also the effort that I put into my classes got better, because I could see the application.”

“That,” she said, “is what I love about the College of Professional Studies.”

Decades later, the entrepreneur, venture capitalist, angel investor, and onetime finance major was present at the Scholarship Celebration to present the inaugural Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment she established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She has come a long way from those early days, and now she wants to pay it forward.

Jean Kovacs ’83 (third from left), Dean Radhika Seshan, Cynthia Thin, ’23 pictured with her family at the 2022 Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian

“My head and my heart go out to you and all the work you’ve done,” she told students. “My story is probably very similar to a lot of you.”

Among those in the room was Cynthia Thin, ’23, a finance and accounting management major and the first recipient of the Kovacs Scholarship. The daughter of Cambodian immigrants, Thin worked from a young age to support herself and her family. At 16, she recalled in the speech she gave at the reception, she was working seven days a week, even as she maintained her studies in high school.

One reason Northeastern has been such a good fit, Thin says, is that it has offered the flexibility her family needs. On a typical day, she’ll help her partner with his bakery until 7 a.m., arrive at the office by 8 a.m., work until 5 p.m. and then attend class in the evening. When she completes her degree next spring, Thin plans to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.

“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”

Reflecting on her scholarship in her remarks at the reception, Kovacs said she was thrilled to meet Thin, and that the experience “sort of brings everything back full circle.” As she introduced Thin, she also offered her an invitation to continue the circle of giving.

“I’d also like to challenge you that in 20 or 30 years you’re up here because you’ve established the Cynthia Thin scholarship,” she said with a smile. “Congratulations.”

Gifts to support scholarships for CPS undergraduate students in any amount can be made by clicking here .

Annual Undergraduate Scholarship Reception Honors Students, Benefactors

Supporting scholarships is all about giving back. Dozens of Huskies who received scholarships to support their education—dating back to the time of University College in the 1960s—have made the choice to establish named scholarships to support future generations of students following in their footsteps. Paying it forward is a long-standing tradition at the College of Professional Studies; so, it’s no surprise that in her speech at the annual undergraduate scholarship reception on August 23, 2022, Jean Kovacs, UC’83, challenged her own named scholarship recipient to do just that in the future when she is able.

Jean Kovacs, UC'83 speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian
Jean Kovacs, UC’83 speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian

Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, is the inaugural recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment that Jean established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Cynthia happens to be interested in both. Once she completes her degree in Finance and Accounting Management next spring, Cynthia intends to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.

“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said in the speech she gave at the reception. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”

Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian
Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian

The financial benefit of a scholarship is most often compounded by the human connection and encouragement of a benefactor. “There is no doubt in my mind that Cynthia has the passion and drive to achieve the lofty goals she has set for herself, just as Jean did before her,” added Dean Radhika Seshan as she closed the annual reception.

The College of Professional Studies celebrates 224 undergraduate students who received scholarships totaling $421,000 for the 2022-2023 academic year, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends of Northeastern.

Huntington 100 Winners Reflect on Their Achievement

Four CPS students were honored this year as members of the Huntington 100, a group of Northeastern students recognized for their contributions to research, global engagement, athletics, entrepreneurship, community service, leadership and other areas that impact the campus or other communities and demonstrate a commitment to the values of Northeastern University.

Antonio Boyd
Hien Linh Dang
Sandrine Mallet
Kevin Stensberg

Honorees Antonio Boyd (EdD ’21), Hien Linh Dang (BS ’21, Finance and Accounting Management), Sandrine Mallet (MS ’22, Commerce and Economic Development), and Kevin Stensberg (EdD ’21) were among a record 16 CPS students put forward for the award this year. Across the university, there were 819 nominations—the highest number in the 15-year history of the Huntington 100.

Boyd, whose work and research focus on experiential learning, afterschool programming, equity and access, diversity and inclusion, social justice education, and college and career pathways, serves as executive vice president at Future of School, a leading non-partisan education intermediary focused on access to quality education.

“I am most passionate about experiential learning,” he said. “Not only is Northeastern a leader in experiential learning, but our program is so focused on experiential learning that I have been able to work with several professors in the field, which has been an excellent experience. I am also passionate about equity and access and diversity, and inclusion. My research and work have fueled my passion for creating college and career pathways for students of color. I believe this is the civil rights issue of this generation.”

Mallet, a research assistant at Northeastern’s Center for Emerging Markets, investigates questions of equity through the lens of economics.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the question of why some nations are poor and others rich,” she said. “My studies in economic development at CPS has given me the opportunity to learn how to combine theoretical modeling and empirical studies to better understand such questions, allowing me to think critically about solutions to the challenges that face global economic and human development.”

Of her inclusion in the Huntington 100, Mallet said, “Receiving this honor means so much to me. My goal is to always be a positive impact on my surroundings and this recognition makes me feel that in some small way, I am succeeding in that goal—and this brings me a lot of joy.”

For Stensberg, who earned his doctorate in organizational leadership studies and has served as a site director for Northeastern in London and Thessaloniki, Greece, membership in the prestigious group represents a kind of personal and professional culmination.

“I’ve worked in student affairs and international education over the last 20 years in North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East,” he said. “So to have a highly ranked university’s student affairs division where I obtain my terminal degree recognize my contributions and value alignment as being exceptional—well, that is to me a great point of professional and academic pride. I think moving forward I also have great hope about what being a Huntington 100 alum may mean. As you might guess based on my profession, community and belonging are important values for me, and as I did my Northeastern degree from eight time zones ahead of Boston, this award affords me a new group of peers to call my second Northeastern cohort. I’ve already connected with everyone on LinkedIn and have joined the social media groups, and I do look forward to the ways in which we might support each other in the future.”

As an international student, Linh Dang says, she feels “blessed to always feel welcomed and supported by the faculty, mentors, and friends at Northeastern.” She has also treasured the range of opportunities available, noting that “Northeastern allows me to explore my diverse set of interests from impact investing, healthcare, consulting, entrepreneurship, and anything in between through our renowned co-op programs and student organization participation.” Being honored as a member of the Huntington 100, she says, has been a humbling experience. The only Vietnamese and undergraduate honoree, she said she hopes to preserve and instill a mentality of excellence in herself and those around her.

“Northeastern’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning, particularly at the intersection of strategy, healthcare, and entrepreneurship is what allows me to reach my full potential,” she said. “The College of Professional Studies is always known for its diversity and globality, which fosters an open and growth mindset for me and other international students to thrive in an increasingly global environment.”