Vasilieva: A passion for numbers, languages and foreign cultures

When Olga Vasilieva was 12 years old, she and her mother moved from her native Moscow to the United States. Her Russian roots show to this day from her very slight accent to her embodiment of Russian warmth and hospitality.

Astute and affable, Olga Vasilieva (right) says the quality of the friendships she developed during her years at WUSTL is on par with the quality of her education. She finds value in spending time with friends, such as Nicole Alimonti, BSBA ’08, in the lounge in Simon Hall.

Vasilieva’s family heritage is also manifest; her parents and grandparents were all numbers people, and Vasilieva is carrying on that tradition. She graduates May 16 and is expected to be at the top of her BSBA class, majoring in both accounting and finance.

Even though she loves her numbers-intense business side, she deviates from her mathematical heritage in a significant way: She also has a passion for languages and foreign cultures, especially those of Spain. In fact, Vasilieva’s third major is in Spanish in Arts & Sciences.

This summer, she will intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington, D.C., and then return to WUSTL to complete a masters of accounting degree.

“I love Wash U. so much, I guess I’m not prepared to say goodbye,” Vasilieva says.

In talking with her friends and professors, one gets the feeling that WUSTL is not ready for her to leave, either. Vasilieva cherishes the strong friendships she has made during her years here. She has been involved with the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi since her sophomore year and has been a teaching assistant (TA) for the introductory classes in accounting and finance. She says that being a TA allows her to help other people, which brings her a great deal of satisfaction.

“I love being able to help somebody out on a one-on-one basis,” she says.

“I like explaining something that I understand but that may be more difficult for them. Accounting doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it kind of does for me; it just makes sense in my head. So, it’s great to help someone work through a problem they’re having academically.”

Her enthusiasm for helping others pays off, says Mark Soczek, director of the Center for Experiential Learning, lecturer in accounting and director of the MSBA Program in Accounting. Vasilieva was Soczek’s TA for three years, so he has come to know Vasilieva very well.

Olin Business School

“She does an excellent job as a TA. She writes very detailed comments to students on their tests and homework, and she spends a lot of time evaluating and guiding other students,” Soczek says.

It’s not just that she is kindhearted with her peers that makes her remarkable, Soczek says. It’s also that she’s very intelligent yet totally unpretentious.

“She’s very humble in general, which is a nice touch, in spite of the fact that she’s incredibly talented,” Soczek says. “She is highly regarded by her peers, which is the highest praise, I think.”

One of the people that benefited from her mentoring skills is freshman Alexandra Dumas. She also is a member of Delta Sigma Pi and already was a fan of Vasilieva’s when Dumas came to her for help with accounting.

“She would tutor me for hours in preparation for my tests,” Dumas says. “She was always available for me and made time to help. It was nothing for me to call her at midnight and talk about accounting for a half-hour.”

While Vasilieva’s generosity benefits many others, she does take time to enjoy her own passions in life, especially experiencing different cultures. Vasilieva spent a semester in Madrid during her junior year — an experience she considers the pinnacle of her time at WUSTL. During the past few summers, Vasilieva has interned with Deloitte & Touche in Moscow, which enabled her to visit family and old friends.

Even though Moscow doesn’t feel like a foreign place to her, she does appreciate the differences between the country of her birth and her adoptive country. Still, she says, she feels more American than Russian in her outlook on life, and that would make it difficult for her to ever settle in Russia — and especially in Moscow.

“I’m not very confrontational, and, in Moscow, you have to be pushy,” she says. “I think I’m too nice for Moscow.”