A Strong Economic Influence
It's not a piece of information you'll easily find on the University of Wisconsin-Parkside website or in one of the university's brochures. Someone, however, has to hold the distinction as the school's youngest graduate.
Meet Jasmina Boulanger.
She finished high school in just two years, graduating from The Prairie School, Racine, Wis., in 1971 when she was 16.
Boulanger began taking a few summer courses at UW-Parkside in 1970, and enrolled on a full-time basis the following year. "My parents told me I could not go away to school until I was 18," she said.
In 1973 at the age of 17, when most students are thinking about their high school graduation party, Boulanger earned her bachelor's degree.
She credits three individuals at UW-Parkside with having a major influence on her educational and professional future. "I had three superlative professors of economics - Dick Keehn, Larry Duetsch, and Richard Rosenberg - who convinced me to pursue economics in graduate school when I thought I wanted to attend grad school for history," Boulanger said.
"I love economics, it has made all the difference in my outlook and career. I've even married a Ph.D. economist! I am ever grateful to those three men who instilled in me a love of economics and the confidence to pursue it fearlessly."
When Boulanger turned 18, it was off to UW-Madison where she earned a master's degree and a law degree. Along the way, she completed all the course work for her Ph.D. "But after three of my four thesis committee members left for other universities," she recalled, "I did not want to start over with a new team."
During her professional career, Boulanger has been in charge of legal affairs in Russia and central Europe for ICN Pharmaceuticals, and is currently vice president, legal and compliance, for Conexant Systems, Inc. The company, with headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif., provides solutions for imaging, audio, embedded modem, and video surveillance applications.
"I am responsible for mergers and acquisitions, financings, securities law - including annual meetings and proxy statements - and compliance with laws and policies," Boulanger said.
She has also devoted a great amount of time and energy to the Serbian Unity Congress, a group representing 3.5 million Serbs in diaspora throughout the world. Diaspora is the result of voluntary departure, coercion or forced migrations and expulsions. Boulanger served as president from 2006-2008 and is currently a member of the board of trustees.
"When I was president, it was like having a 150-percent job on top of my full-time job at Conexant," she said. "Between the 'two jobs' and travel and family needs, there was no way I could keep it up for more than the two years that I did."
When Boulanger isn't wearing either her Conexant or Serbian Unity Congress hats, she enjoys blogging. "I started the blog because my husband and I went on a fascinating trip to Central Asia," she said, "and I wanted to share things 'real time.'"
Her blog, East of Paris, continues to evolve and Boulanger has a plan for the future. "I want to write about money and women," she said. "Hard to believe, but the kinds of questions I get from friends leads me to think lots of women are still not in charge of their finances and don't have enough to 'retire.' I'm planning to retire early ? so I'm thinking about what I'll want to do next."
Even with all of Boulanger's accomplishments - educational achievement at a young age, and a highly successful and varied career - there is still part of her UW-Parkside experience that remains: the advice and counsel from professors Keehn, Duetsch and Rosenberg.
"The long-term lesson," Boulanger said, "is that you can be exposed to and inspired by people no matter where you are."