“Our investment meetings are full-on, knock-down drag-out debates,” says Pavel Chernyshov ’04, a founding partner at Arkview Capital, a private equity fund that invests in diversity-oriented businesses. “We like to say, ‘The time to disagree is now,’ but once we make a collective decision, each of the founders has to be on board with it. If we can’t convince one person, then we don’t go forward with the investment no matter how strongly the other two feel about it."
Arkview’s practice of intense discussion and spirited disagreement is something Pavel learned at Amherst. “Through whatever magic happens in the admissions process, the College gathers people who are very different from each other, from very interesting backgrounds, and then puts them in the same room to debate questions that don’t have a right answer or sometimes don’t have an answer at all,” Pavel says with a laugh. “Amherst invites this diverse group to argue, to compromise and to respect each other’s opinions—that’s how our investment process works as well.”
Pavel grew up in Volgograd, a Russian industrial center and manufacturing hub known for its production of steel, aluminum and heavy machinery. He arrived in America as a 15-year-old rising high-school senior after winning a Freedom Support Act scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. He lived with a host family in Waitsfield, Vermont, and attended a nearby public high school.
During a post-grad year at Northfield Mount Hermon, Pavel was introduced to Amherst by his teacher Peter Snedecor ’69, who drove him down to see the College. Pavel instantly knew: “That was it. It was a done deal. When I stepped foot on campus, I knew it was the place for me.”
Pavel received a full scholarship and was determined to use it to the fullest advantage, which meant enrolling in five classes per semester rather than the standard four. His academic advisor Geoffrey Woglom, the Richard S. Volpert ’56 Professor of Economics, Emeritus, refused to sign off on Pavel’s five-course schedule unless he got to pick one of the classes. “I showed up with a course selection card packed with math, computer science and economics courses,” says Pavel. “Professor Woglom said I was missing the point of Amherst. At his insistence, I took classes in political science, literature, art and languages. These were by far the most challenging courses I took, but they transformed me as a person.”
Pavel graduated with a double major in economics and computer science and has worked in finance ever since. He is a dedicated Amherst Fund donor and volunteer. “For me, it was never a question that I’d give back to the College,” he says. “Amherst impacted my life in a fundamental way, and I will always support it because I want another kid in a similar situation to have that same shot.”
Pavel gives to Amherst not only for the life-changing opportunity it offered him two decades ago but also for the way it continues to inform and shape his life and career right now—through the capacity to think critically and unconventionally, to hear views contrary to his own and to push outside his comfort zone. “When my partners and I launched Arkview in 2020, the idea was to do something very different,” says Pavel. “Everyone who launches their own fund says that, and most end up looking the same.” They chose to focus on providing capital for businesses owned by minorities, businesses that employ predominantly minorities and businesses that predominantly serve minority communities.
Pavel sees tremendous potential in this approach. “There’s a lot of talk about supporting diverse businesses, but the reality is that capital is not flowing to them,” he says. “The businesses we come across that have diverse management teams, a diverse employee base and serve diverse communities are often better businesses than their majority-owned competitors because they had to persevere and survive a much more difficult playing field. More than 90 percent of those businesses are self-funded without any institutional capital. So when we invest there, it really makes a difference.”
The right investment at the right time is a theme in Pavel’s story. Amherst’s belief in him changed the course of his life. “It was such a tremendous opportunity. At the time, I don’t think I understood the magnitude of the chance I got at Amherst,” he says. “Only in hindsight do I really comprehend how fortunate I was that the College has the financial aid programs it has and gives scholarships to international students like me. I will be forever grateful.”