Math degree, academic curiosity is winning formula for UWinnipeg alum

Joel Peters-Fransen

Mastering one subject while maintaining a wide variety of academic interests has been the winning formula for University of Winnipeg alumnus and successful lawyer, Joel Peters-Fransen.

Peters-Fransen graduated from UWinnipeg in 2006 with a BSc (Hons) in mathematics and completed his Masters at the University of Toronto before going on to study law at Harvard University.

Upon graduation from Harvard he worked at Kirkland & Ellis, a large law firm in Chicago, before working as Tax Counsel for Cargill, where he ensured the large international company abided by all tax-related rules and regulations. He has since rejoined Kirkland & Ellis as a tax partner in their San Francisco office.

“I think it might be surprising for many that big businesses generally take tax compliance very seriously,” he said. “Tax noncompliance and/or highly aggressive tax positions are much more widespread at the small business and individual level.”

While problem-solving and collaboration are Peters-Fransen’s favourite part of working in tax law, his pre-law studies in mathematics have been an invaluable resource throughout his career.

“Studying math and working closely with my professors and peers all helped build skills for my current job,” he said. “Law — and tax law in particular — are well-suited for someone trained in rigorous logical reasoning, so math was a great background for that path.”

The small class sizes in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UWinnipeg gave Peters-Fransen the opportunity to co-author several papers as an undergrad student and work closely with his professors — in particular, Dr. Ortrud Oellermann.

While at the University, he also broadened the scope of his studies by taking courses in a wide variety of subjects, including history, modern and ancient languages, science, economics and philosophy.

“I think having a high degree of intellectual curiosity and broad academic exposure is also well suited to pursuing a path in law, in addition to just making you a more well-rounded student and person,” he said.

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