You Can Get There From Here

 

"Many people ask how I moved from studying biology to working in finance and management,” said alumna, scholarship donor, and LAS Board of Visitors member Randa Touquan (BS ’79, Biological Sciences). “Scientific analysis and financial analysis are really the same thing. It’s about taking those analytical skills you learn while studying the liberal arts and sciences and broadening them to see where they fit.”

A native Chicagoan, Touquan graduated from Schaumburg High School and came to UIC as a student athlete, competing in both track and field and basketball. She chose to major in biological sciences because she found it interesting and challenging.

Randa Touquan

Randa Touquan with her parents, Mark & Shelia in 1977. Photo courtesy of Randa Touquan

For Touquan, the study of biology translates naturally to finance since many organizations function as systems in much the same way that organisms do. “Whether you are considering a human body or a widget manufacturing firm, every action, every input and output, affects everything else within the given system,” explained Touquan. “As a business process architect, I analyze and track all that and work with management to improve the functioning of the organization.”

Prior to starting her consultancy practice as a business process architect, Touquan explored a wide range of occupations and industries. She worked in the fashion industry, retail sales, and furniture manufacturing, was a lab technician, a librarian, and a bookkeeper, and then went on to hold a number of different positions in healthcare, including finance director. In that role, Touquan “was inclined to come up with better ways to do things, so I started creating financial models,” she said. “Back in the day, the healthcare industry was very different; clinicians and financial managers did not communicate at all. I created models so that the business side and the provider side could work together amicably and productively.

I moved into overseeing the clinicians and it was fun to see that my financial models worked in the real world the way they worked on paper.

“I retired from the healthcare industry in 2007, but kept getting all these calls for help,” she laughed. “That’s how my business process architect consultancy evolved. I joke that I am working very hard to retire.”

In recognition of her influential experiences at LAS, including being a woman in science as well as a female athlete, and in honor of her parents’ legacy, Touquan created four new endowed scholarships in LAS: the Athology Scholarship, which she intends to benefit a student athlete pursuing a degree in biology or another science; the Shelia K. Touquan Scholarship, for high-achieving science students in the GPPA (Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions) program; the LASlete Scholarship, open to LAS student athletes; and the Mark A. Touquan Scholarship, open to LAS undergraduates in the social sciences or humanities, preferably a sociology or a language major.

“My philanthropic motivation is to raise the bar so that the world is a better place. If people are fed and housed, clothed, and educated, then they are in a place to take advantage of every opportunity. If all of us are in that place, then it is better for each of us,” Touquan said of her interest in establishing four scholarship funds.

Importantly, Touquan credits her parents for her multi-faceted approach to life and her ability to create her own path. Her mother Shelia, who passed away in 1998, was a pharmacist (BS ’64, Pharmacy) who also earned a law degree and ultimately ran a managed healthcare organization. Shelia was also an awardwinning artist. “Mom worked from both sides of her brain, and worked each very well,” said Touquan. “She was a natural student and a high achiever and always stayed focused. She came from a small, rural community in southern Indiana and might have been one of the first people from her town to go to college. She earned scholarships to make it possible.” Touquan’s father, Mark, who passed away in 2006, earned his degree in sociology (BA ’59, DePaul University) and went on to become a bank vice president. “He was also a terrific mechanic and at one point he owned his own gas station. At the age of 72 he earned his real estate broker’s license,” explained Touquan.

“My parents had a very broad vision of life and what was possible. No one took a direct path. That was my example, so how could I not follow it?” she queried.

With her parents’ inspiration and support as the foundation, Touquan took the experiences and skills she acquired at LAS and pursued career paths that utilized many of the analytical perspectives she learned in her coursework. “LAS provides you with multiple perspectives that enable you to make connections between ideas and between things. Even if you know from the age of 10 exactly what you want to be, a broad-based education will make you a better whatever-you-are.”

Touquan also believes that her experience as a student athlete contributed to her career success. “Athletics develops teamwork, the ability to work with others to get to a common goal. That is an invaluable skill to take into the business world,” she said.

Reflecting on her varied and interesting life, Touquan recognizes the contributions of her teachers and mentors. “I have always been blessed by outstanding teachers who guided students to think outside the box,” she said. “LAS is the best because it offers the broadest range of courses. In every class there is something that you can apply somewhere else.”

Now, thanks to Touquan and her parents’ meaningful legacy, current and future LAS students can benefit from these four endowed scholarships, which support students in their pursuit of an LAS education so that they, too, can create their own paths of possibility and career success.

 

To learn more about how to give to or create a scholarship fund in support of LAS students, please contact Katherine Veach, Assistant Dean for Advancement, at 312.413.3469 or katveach@uic.edu.