What does one do with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering and a master’s degree in quantitative finance?
“The funny answer to that is probably go to law school,” says Brian Holland ’13, who admits to having a very diverse range of interests. “Adding law school to what I am doing now will open up several interesting paths. I would love to be able to combine my disparate pursuits in such a way that each complements my career.”
A 2017 graduate of Vanderbilt University, Holland’s thesis focused on a device that could be used in pediatric medicine, specifically neonatal ICU’s. “I worked with Dr. William Walsh, who heads the neonatal ICU at Vanderbilt’s Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital. My implementation was to use the game-playing device XBOX Kinect that can scan an area in 3-D and an inexpensive Central Processing Unit (CPU) to create a cheap but accurate device that can detect when and how many people enter and exit a room,” explained Holland. “The device detects whether an infant has been removed from the crib and if so, for how long, with the goal being to ensure that there is enough activity and interactions between the baby and others to stimulate him or her to make sure that a condition termed “failure to thrive” does not develop. My implementation was a successful prototype that was left at a point that it can be extended and moved to a further production level by later students as part of their research.”
Shifting his focus to an MBA, Holland was awarded the Ron Brown Scholarship at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management in Croatia, where he is not only studying the core of business management with an emphasis on quantitative finance, but he is reconnecting with his mother’s Croatian-Bosnian roots. “My mom was born a Croat in Banja Luka, Yugoslavia, which is now part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her parents were both Croatians, which in Bosnia was a bit of a statement. Yugoslavia was composed of three main ethnic groups – Croats, Bosnians, and Serbs – but Bosnia and Herzegovina was especially ethnically mixed,” he explained.
In addition to his MBA studies, Holland is immersing himself in Croatian culture and enjoying its natural beauty. He declares the ethnically Croatian and Balkan food as “outstanding,” adding that the “quality of the ingredients and the homemade mindset behind most restaurants ensure I am not going hungry.” He describes Zagreb’s perch beside a mountain as “supremely beautiful to hike and experience” and has discovered the surrounding countryside and coast to be exquisitely beautiful. “The coast is not too far away and there are hundreds of islands that are each a jewel.”
His interactions with the people of Croatia have led to many memorable experiences. During an event dedicated to the Croatian Diaspora, he met Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (pictured above, right) and met the American ambassador to Croatia, Robert Kohorst, at a school event. He also participated in a grape harvest that took place at a vineyard owned by his landlord’s family, attended the U.S. vs. Croatia Davis Cup tennis competition in Zadar, and had the good fortune of being in Zagreb during Croatia’s 2018 World Cup finals match against France. “I was here to welcome the team back home and was amazed by the scale of the celebration and the joy everyone shared. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets that day and all in celebration.”
Reflecting on his earlier academic path at Baylor, Holland cites three teachers who impacted him most. In William Montgomery’s AP Human Geography class, he says he appreciated the two pressing questions the course sought to answer regarding humanity: where and why. “Many of the topics I learned in the class I still talk about and consider.” He adds that he respected retired math instructor Marti Wayland “not only for her adroit talent at teaching, but also for her dalliance in the CIA,” and Latin instructor Floyd Celapino. “Few weeks go by that I do not use a fact in a conversation or whatever that does not have a basis in Mr. Celapino’s class. Having so many interesting conversations with my teachers, who were open to having an honest dialogue with their students, magnified my love of academics.”