“You retain knowledge much more deeply than in a traditional class.”

Although Marques Torbert is too well-mannered to say so himself, he projects an aura of potential that naturally attracts opportunities his way. “My family doesn’t have a background in business or finance or higher education,” Marques says in understated appreciation for what he has received.

In high school, a caring teacher introduced Marques to economics and encouraged him to prepare for and take the A.P. micro and macro exams. The Inroads program provided an internship with the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland. Through analum of his high school, Marques interned with Zephyr Management, an emerging markets private equity firm in New York. “He was one of the most influential people in my life,” Marques says of his mentor. “He introduced me to a world I couldn’t imagine I would even have known about.”

A subsequent summer internship at Lazard Freres, made available through Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), led to a full-time position in the M&A department after graduation, a job Marques held for two years.

“Playing” with the school’s money

After another three years with Clarion Capital, Marques “was looking for a change” from private equity with an eye toward operations or managing a start-up. “I knew a lot about finance,” he says, “but I had always been at arm’s length from the companies. I didn’t know how to run or execute things.”

The desire to expand his skills led Marques to HBS, where the education has been more than, and different from, what he expected. “I thought people here would come from similar backgrounds. But after getting to know people, I’ve found there’s a wealth of experiences and challenges they’ve overcome that you wouldn’t have anticipated.”

Initially, the case method seemed peculiar. “Now I appreciate how it allows me to hear different points of view, and allows me to adjust my point of view throughout the class. You retain knowledge much more deeply than in a traditional class – the cases are tangible because they’re attached to specific companies youknow about.”

Classroom education is complemented with direct experience. Marques, who is considering his own entrepreneurial venture as a career possibility, especially enjoys his FIELD 3 team project, a mobile app that facilitates spontaneous, inexpensive and casual gift-giving. “It’s great,” Marques says. “I get to play with the school’s money!”