If you were to ask Kaija Gisolfi-McCready what her most important achievement while at WPI is, she would be able to tell you right away: “For me, it would be my Major Qualifying Project (MQP), which focuses on building a blood pressure monitor for pregnant women in Ghana.” During the fall term, while pursuing her Master’s in Business Analytics in The Business School, Kaija and her cohort conducted extensive research on the largest gaps in Ghana’s healthcare system, which involved working directly with its local hospitals.
“We found that blood pressure was having a dire effect on mothers and children and there wasn’t enough awareness about the issue. Now, we have an opportunity to provide a solution, while offering healthcare education to women.”
Importantly, economic and ethical considerations are being taken into account with Kaija’s MQP. For example, she and her team will be sourcing parts from the Ghana region. “We worked alongside sustainability science students to ensure that our device development and business plan are sustainable and promoting a cyclical economy.”
For Kaija, working on a project that will affect people across the world is what inspired her to transfer to WPI. She also had plenty of support along the way. “The person who is responsible for me being here today is Dr. Jean King,” she says. “At first, I was unsure about what I was going to do. Then, we talked about project-based learning and having the ability to impact communities in need. We also talked about the relationship between business and science that WPI has really defined.
“Even if you’re doing business analytics, you’re still focusing on how technology can improve the way you do business.”
Kaija also found a mentor within The Business School’s leadership in Dean Debora Jackson. “Her career advice and knowledge of the business environment has really helped me determine where I want to be in the next three to five years. She’s also committed to making us an academically well-rounded school, building a strong community, and helping students do their best.” Given the impact mentors can have, Kaija encourages all students to develop at least one relationship of this kind. Her other key piece of advice for graduate student? “Think about where your interests lie. Then, meet with professors who focus on those fields and programs; they can help you find direction. You don’t have to go it alone.”
Most apparent in her work to bring blood pressure monitors to women in Ghana, WPI’s project-based approach has helped define Kaija’s graduate school experience. “I don’t think a lot of business school students have the opportunity to build a comprehensive business plan for a startup company,” she notes.
“I worked directly with doctors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs in Ghana to make sure this plan was functional. It’s not just hypothetical, it’s something that could be implemented, so that gave me a powerful feeling.”
Kaija feels the way The Business School connects business curricula with technological mastery gives students a significant advantage in today’s job market—and with tomorrow’s opportunities. “The idea of business as an individual space doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t be in the business world without having a functional understanding of technology,” she explains. “Today’s recruiters are looking for people who are adept in both fields. For example, they need people who can manage teams, but also carry out a large data analysis or use the latest accounting applications.”
After graduating from WPI in the spring of 2022, Kaija accepted a position as a private investment analyst at Cambridge Associates in Arlington, Virginia. She continues to have a particular interest in life sciences investing. “I think it’s a fantastic way to combine my biomedical engineering and business backgrounds.”
Going forward, Kaija will continue to leverage her experiences at WPI, and her time planning global healthcare ventures, in her career. She sees her work abroad as an opportunity for the students who come after her. “My goal is for this project to be one that other Business School students continue in the years ahead. This could include expanding with other medical devices and leveraging the relationships we’ve built. This work has really been my pride and joy.”