2023 Best & Brightest Business Major: Alex Firestine, University of Pittsburgh

Alex Firestine

University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration

“Of all the titles I’ve had, the most rewarding has been “Oldest Brother”

Fun fact about yourself: I catch sharks twice my size.

Hometown: Germantown, Maryland

High School: Poolesville High School

Major: Finance, Accounting, Business Information Systems

Minor: Leadership & Ethics, Business Analytics

Favorite Business Course: Applied Analytics Project Course

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

League of Emerging Analytics Professionals (President, Vice President of Philanthropy)

Emerging Business Issues (President)

ENACTUS Social Entrepreneurship (Corporate Relations Manager, Project Lead)

Consulting Academy (Director of Development)

Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity (Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

Pitt Bodybuilding Club (Member)

American Red Cross Club (Business Manager)

David and Tina Bellet Award (Funding to develop a tool to measure regional food security)

Community Research Fellowship (Funding to complete research measuring regional food insecurity in Pittsburgh. Read article here.

Haller Global Honors Fellowship (Leadership-focused study abroad in Dublin, Ireland)

Brackenridge Research Fellowship (Funding to work on deploying a dashboard of food security metrics in collaboration with the nonprofit Food21)

Honors Research Fellowship (Funding to complete market analysis for the development of a sustainable grocery store in Larimer, Pittsburgh)

Scholar Community Award (Established a specialized research cohort focused on sustainable food systems)

Margaret Jonnet Endowed Scholarship Student Resource Award (Awarded to one Pitt undergraduate student for outstanding community service)

Chancellor’s Scholarship (Full tuition and living expenses scholarship for University of Pittsburgh)

Bachelor of Philosophy (Highest undergraduate degree distinction at University of Pittsburgh, capstone research thesis and defense focus are equitable food access)

Dean’s List (all four years)

George J. Mitchell Scholarship (International scholarship that supports a year of postgraduate study in Ireland for future leaders, 1 of 12 nationally and the first in University of Pittsburgh history)

Fulbright Scholarship Semi-Finalist (finalist results still pending)

Founder, PeerCommerce (A start-up connecting students with micro-internships)

Where have you interned during your college career?

Deloitte Consulting (Pittsburgh, Summer Scholar)

KPMG (Washington D.C., Federal Audit Intern)

BDO (Pittsburgh, Assurance Intern)

Food21 (Pittsburgh, Data Analytics Advisor)

University of Pittsburgh Business and Auxiliary Services (Pittsburgh, E-commerce Intern)

Where will you be working after graduation? Upon graduation, I will be pursuing a Master of Science in Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security at the University of Galway in Ireland as a George J. Mitchell Scholar.

Who is your favorite business professor? I’m extremely grateful for all of my business professors, but Dr. Audrey Murrell stands out as one of my greatest mentors during my undergraduate career. Upon my arrival freshman year, Dr. Murrell introduced me to the team at Food21, which kickstarted my journey into building resilient food systems. Over the past four years, Dr. Murrell and I have completed extensive research, discussion, and learning in the areas of sustainable food systems and servant leadership. She taught my capstone class in Service Learning, has been my faculty mentor on numerous research fellowships, and co-authored my first publication. I’m immensely grateful for all the support Dr. Murrell has provided me and thus she is my favorite business professor.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The biggest lesson I learned from business was the importance of diversity within a team to contribute to success. In business courses, there is lots of teamwork, and I’ve found that the most effective teams I’ve worked in were ones that incorporated a diverse group of people from different backgrounds with different perspectives. When organizations celebrate and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds, particularly marginalized individuals, shared value is created. As future business leaders, it is absolutely necessary for business undergrads to understand the importance of diversity, allyship, and inclusion in order to progress towards a better future for all.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? My advice to a student looking to major in a business-related field would be to pursue your passion and find a mentor who can help you achieve your dreams. Business faculty have such eclectic backgrounds that span virtually every industry, and they’re often engaged in interesting and impactful projects of their own that you can get involved with. In addition, find an area within business that you’re passionate about and that excites you. Use that motivation to drive your undergraduate journey.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? One characteristic of majoring in business that has surprised me the most is my ability to make an impact leveraging the skills and knowledge I obtain through the business program. Many of the analytical methodologies and dashboards I create to assess regional food security stem from subjects covered in my business analytics courses. Furthermore, knowledge of ethical business leadership principles, like the triple bottom line, has catalyzed sustainable impact through my involvement in social enterprises.

What business leader do you admire most? A business leader I admire the most is Andy Hannah. Though maybe not as well-known as Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs, Andy Hannah is a lifelong entrepreneur who has developed several successful businesses. His current venture is 1486 Labs, and he also teaches the Applied Analytics Project Course at the University of Pittsburgh. I admire him because of his leadership style that’s grounded in data-driven decision-making with great emphasis on building the right team. I had the pleasure of working with Andy during my own entrepreneurial pursuits and he always urged me to focus on the data. In addition, he taught me that one of the fundamental components to a start-up’s success is having the right team of people to make it happen.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? One extracurricular achievement I’m most proud of is the development of the analytics institute through my involvement with the League of Emerging Analytics Professionals (LEAP) at Pitt. As President, I worked with other board members and the Business school to develop an extracurricular institute that provided equitable access to crucial analytics training. The institute certified over 100 students and was the precursor to a revitalization of the PittBusiness curriculum in regard to analytics. It was during this year that LEAP was also named the #1 business student organization.

Which classmate do you most admire? A classmate I most admire is Katie Gallo. She’s currently a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh and CEO/Founder of the start-up Underdog. Underdog is democratizing proactive and reactive self-defense resources for all women+. Watching her build the startup has been extremely inspiring. Her drive, determination, and tenacity make her an exceptional leader and entrepreneur. I can’t wait to see her continue to grow and have a tremendous impact on such an important issue, especially for college campuses.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? It’ challenging to thank just one person for my success, as I’ve had the privilege of being surrounded by extremely supportive family, friends, and mentors throughout my undergraduate career. If I had to pick one person to thank for my success, it would be my youngest brother, Nick. Throughout my life he’s always been by my side as my best friend. His perseverance in overcoming the obstacles he’s experienced has been extremely inspiring to me and mentoring him through his career journey has been rewarding.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The top item on my professional bucket list is to work for an international NGO working to address food insecurity in disadvantaged areas of the world. I wish to make strides in international food systems research to discover new ways to build equitable, resilient food systems. Another item on my professional bucket list it to become an Executive-in-Residence or potentially an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh. It would be an amazing opportunity for me to give back to a community that has provided so much guidance and mentorship for me.

What are your hobbies? I’m an avid car enthusiast, so on the weekends you can catch me at the local cars and coffee meet ups in Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. I’m also passionate about personal fitness and weight training, with the goal of competing in a bodybuilding competition one day.

What made Alex such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“My initial contact with Alex occurred during my time as a faculty member and Associate Dean for the University of Pittsburgh’s undergraduate business program. He is a highly engaged student who was in my class as part of our Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE). As the only program of its kind in the United States, the CPLE offers undergraduate business students an integrated and sustained program of study of the relationship between leadership, social responsibility, and ethics. Alexander is a strong contributor with his CPLE student cohort and has not only engaged in projects that we created, but he saw the important connection between ethics and his passion for transformational work within the community related to the issue of food insecurity. He became very involved with a local organization devoted to building a more resilient food ecosystem named Food21 of Pennsylvania. His interest in the use of data analytics solutions that build organizational capacity were a strong fit for the work of this organization.

This involvement also allows him to apply his academic concentrations in finance, business information systems, data analytics, and ethics to create social impact solutions that have sound business foundations to produce effective outcomes. Alexander currently works with Food21’s Data Insights Center which conducts solution-orientation research to help communities address the disparities in food access that supports health and well-being. For example, his research examining an underserved local community was recently published in a peer-reviewed academic journal with Alexander as a co-author.  This work has led to his work toward completion of the Bachelor of Philosophy degree in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh’s Honors College which requires completion of an original research honors thesis. He has been involved in and taken leadership roles within several student organizations including the social entrepreneurship group known as Pitt Enactus as well as the Lead of Emerging Analytics Professionals (LEAP) organizations.

As a continuation of his work on addressing food insecurity, Alexander has chosen to examine the role that transportation plays as part of the built environment as either a barrier or a facilitator of food access within poor and underserved communities. He was recently named a George J. Mitchell Scholar as the University’s first-ever recipient of this prestigious national scholarship, which sends future American leaders to Ireland for a year of graduate study. Once again, we see how his academic preparation, engagement in research and strong community service shape his drive toward ethical leadership that has a sustainable impact on society, especially in terms of strategies to increase access to healthy and affordable food in the U.S. and globally.”

Audrey J. Murrell, Ph.D.
Professor of Business Administration, Psychology
Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh


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