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Gilbertson goes to school at Penn

Kristin Gilbertson has come a long way from Moldova.

Kristin Gilbertson has come a long way from Moldova. The 39-year-old, who last month took charge of the University of Pennsylvania's $4 billion endowment and $600 million pension fund, began her career in finance after the fall of the Soviet Union, helping municipalities in Estonia, Moldova and other former Soviet republics mend their budgets and reconstitute their ravaged pension plans.

"Coming to Penn is a whole lot easier than going to Moldova," says the fluent Russian and Spanish speaker, now the Philadelphia school's chief investment officer. "We've got a great complement of resources here: I've got five investment professionals working alongside me, and a terrific back office."

Gilbertson, who honed her investing talents overseeing U.S. and international equity portfolios for the World Bank's $10 billion pension fund and, later, Stanford University's $9.8 billion endowment, is still intrigued by international markets. "I continue to see opportunities there relative to the U.S.," she says. Her first move? Putting some money to work in small-cap Japanese stocks.

And she hasn't forgotten her first love, Central Europe. "I don't know that I have any greater insight for having spent so much time on the ground in these countries," she says, "but I do have a great appreciation for the difficulties of investing in emerging markets -- and I would say that makes me a very challenging investor for some of our managers."