Fatma Sonmez-Leopold Seeks to Inspire a Belief that Knowledge is Power

Throughout her academic and professional career, Fatma Sonmez-Leopold, assistant teaching professor of finance in Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, has displayed an aptitude and passion for education.

Sonmez-Leopold is of Turkish origin and lived in Canada for several years before coming to Whitman. She studied mathematics as an undergraduate and pursued two master’s degrees in mathematics and engineering management/industrial engineering in Ankara, Turkey. She also has a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

With an extensive history of schooling, Sonmez-Leopold says she has always been drawn to teaching. “Since I was a little girl, I loved learning new things and sharing them with people around me. However, I was also interested in making people happy, and I realized early on [that] sharing knowledge makes people happy.”

Before coming to Whitman in the fall of 2017, Sonmez-Leopold was an assistant professor of finance at Queen’s University in Canada. At Whitman, she teaches the introductory finance course, FIN 256 (Principles of Finance), FIN 400 (Fixed Income Securities), and FIN 756 (Investments) for online master’s students. She also teaches in the Newhouse School’s Communication Management Master’s Program.

Sonmez-Leopold’s primary area of Ph.D. research is in asset pricing, such as pricing securities, where she has worked on idiosyncratic volatility and its impact on stock pricing. “In theory, idiosyncratic volatility should not matter due to diversification, empirically however, it matters a lot,” she said.

More recently, she has been working with two co-authors from Penn State on a research paper looking at trading strategy involving high and low beta arbitrage.

Sonmez-Leopold also enjoys being involved outside of the classroom. She is the faculty advisor for the Bloomberg Trading Challenge team at Syracuse, as well as for a new campus chapter of She’s The First, which is an international nonprofit organization that aims to fight gender inequality through education in underdeveloped countries.

At home, Sonmez-Leopold takes pleasure in being a mother and spending time with her daughter, Mina. She also says she is an avid runner, with a goal of four miles every day, which she says, “is kind of my thing.”

Above all, teaching has been extremely rewarding for Sonmez-Leopold. “The light in the eyes of the students when they learn something new and exciting is worth a million bucks! I love to inspire students to learn and to have fun by doing so,” she said. “Inspiring people with knowledge is powerful. I can’t emphasize the importance of effective teaching on students of all ages. It literally changes one’s life and future.”

Julia Fiedler
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