Namita Desai

Class Year: 

Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota, USA


Eagan High School



Student Background

Namita spent most of her childhood growing up in Minnesota, although she lived in India for four years. During high school, she was involved in a variety of activities: she was active in student government as class president, played piano, and completed an intensive art portfolio. She explored her growing interest in international issues through one of her other main extracurricular activities: speech and debate, where she learned to analyze international legal issues and current events competing in the international extemporaneous category. Namita has always been interested in developing regions, which drew her to study Spanish in high school; she is also a heritage speaker of Hindi and Gujurati.

She discovered the Huntsman Program when she came to Penn for a campus tour and saw a pamphlet in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions! Upon looking into the program, she felt the Huntsman Program would give her a strong background in economics as well as the liberal arts. This was well aligned with her intention to pursue a career in public policy, specifically with respect to poverty and developing regions. However, Namita credits the Huntsman Program with broadening her perspective to see that solutions to poverty exist in the private sector in addition to the public sector.

The Huntsman Experience

The community feel has been the best part of the Program for Namita; she loved the instant bonding that occurred on KC3 freshman year, and feels the Program lounge encourages interaction between the different class years. She was looking for a community of people who were similarly self-motivated and intellectually curious, and she says she definitely found it in the Huntsman Program.

Her experience with classes has been great as well. One of her favorite courses, Biology 140, was one she took to fulfill a general requirement in the College of Arts and Sciences; the professor was extremely engaging, and “bounced around the classroom” discussing theories on evolution and his personal research. Namita is planning on concentrating in Business Economics and Public Policy, and BEPP 204 is another one of her favorite courses; it is on social welfare and taxation, and taking it during an election year – with a professor who worked on the Obama campaign – has allowed for the class to move from studying theories to what the candidates are actually saying about the issues.

During her senior year, she’s looking forward to taking Wharton electives such as negotiations, completing her political science minor, and taking more BEPP and legal studies courses on emerging economies. Beyond coursework, she’s involved in Penn for UNICEF, Rotaract, and Penn Microfinance, which is the first and largest microfinance consulting club in the country. It is divided into regional teams; during her freshman year, Namita was involved in the Latin American team, which consulted in Peru, and the following year, she led the trip to Nicaragua. Other past summer activities include interning at the Financial Services Volunteer Corps, which consults for central banks and stock exchanges in the developing world. This coming summer, she will be interning in antifraud analytics at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She hopes to someday work in development consulting, which she realizes would not be possible without the business background provided through the Huntsman Program.

Study Abroad Experience

Namita chose Cuba as her study abroad location due to her interest in international relations. She thought it would be interesting to contrast the communist thinking in Cuba with the capitalist thinking in the United States, and felt that the opportunity to visit Cuba while it was still largely closed to the outside was unparalleled. Her favorite class abroad was an introduction to Marxist/Leninist philosophy; her professor wholeheartedly rejected all the ideas of capitalist thought. What she took away from the course was “eye-opening” exposure to academic traditions antithetical to viewpoints held in America. Her most valuable takeaway from the experience as a whole was learning “how to talk about the gray area of anything,” which arose from her experiences discussing current events and politics with locals. She loved that the Huntsman Program wasn’t quite as structured as other study abroad opportunities, which also allowed her ample time to explore the island with her peers from Penn.