International Studies & Business

Community

Reem Kassis

Class: 2009

Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel

High School: Jerusalem American High School

Target Language: French

Study Abroad: Lyon, France

In Huntsman, our nationalities, cultures, and languages are differences that rather than separate us, bring us together, strengthen us. Our beliefs and ideas are challenged every day and we are constantly forced to stretch our minds and learn about others. The global perspective teaches us invaluable lessons that would be impossible to learn elsewhere and the people you meet become friends you know you will have for a lifetime!

Why Huntsman?

Reem has always liked this quote by Aristotle: "Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation." As an international student coming from quite a turbulent region (Reem is a Palestinian Arab from Jerusalem with Israeli citizenship), she felt that it was quite easy for her to see what her country, and the entire region she's from, needed. "Finding out where my interests and talents intersected with these needs, however, was a different story," she says. This made her decision about where to apply to college a difficult one. "I didn't want a broad liberal arts education where I would leave knowing a bit about everything and a lot about nothing, but at the same time, I didn't want to stay home and get a degree in a very precise discipline that didn't offer a global perspective."

While researching various university programs in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, it was only when she came across the Huntsman Program that Reem felt she had found something that captured the essence of what she wanted to do. She knew she liked business and enjoyed working in groups. Reem also knew that she liked knowing about what was going on in the international community, that she liked languages and history and that she was good at public speaking. She enjoyed learning about other cultures and meeting people from all over the world. But she wondered how she could incorporate all of that into something coherent that would allow her to become a person who could one day make this world a better place?

"Huntsman does all that!!!" says Reem. She adds that the program's curriculum draws on various disciplines, from the theoretical to the practical, from the local to the international, preparing students to become "global leaders in whatever field we end up choosing."

Reem says that beyond the excellent education she's received, "Huntsman offers us something that we would not be able to get in any other place. Not only do we learn about business here and how it can resolve the problems of the international community, but we also meet and learn from people who we know will one day become the leaders shaping our future and solving the problems we face. After being here for several years I realize that the global perspective and caliber of education we receive is superb, but what truly makes us lucky in Huntsman is the astounding diversity of individuals who complement and enrich our education."

International Exposure

Through the Huntsman Program, Reem spent a summer in France on a Huntsman Summer Study Grant and spent a semester abroad at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Lyon.  She says that her study abroad experience was "amazing in every kind of way." She was truly exposed to the language and culture in Lyon and made a lot of close friends with whom she is still in touch to this day. Studying in France helped her to see things in a different way, and Reem says that she came back with a fresh perspective on things. Also, she adds, Lyon "has the best food in all of Europe."

Her time in France was not the only international experience that she gained as a student in the Program. At the suggestion of one of her International Business professors, Reem successfully applied to work for the World Economic Forum. She started out working on the media team for the Middle East conference and ended up working on three Forums in Jordan, Egypt and Davos, Switzerland. The conferences gave her the opportunity to "work with some of the most important people in the world, whom normally you'd only see on TV." She also spent a summer at B'tselem, a human rights organization in Jerusalem, and was an intern at Siemens in Germany. She says the internship helped her gain valuable corporate experience before beginning her MBA program.

Wharton MBA Submatriculation
Reem is one of four undergraduates in her Wharton class who were selected to "submatriculate" into the MBA program. She will graduate in five years with two bachelor's degrees through the Huntsman Program and also with an MBA from the Wharton School.  The additional degree will help her find a coveted job back home in the Middle East, where she plans to return after graduation. To help fund her extra year at Penn, Reem applied for and has been awarded the MBR Al-Maktoum Fellowship, a scholarship granted to young Arab leaders based on academic and professional excellence, leadership, and potential for future achievements.

Reem says that her MBA coursework is similar to some of the classes she took as a Wharton undergrad in terms of the material presented, but that the experience is completely different because her classmates are now older, more experienced students. She's learning a lot from her fellow MBA students, but she's also able to contribute through her international experiences and Huntsman education.

As an undergrad, Reem created her own concentration, "Business Development in Emerging Economies." Now, as an MBA student, her focus is on Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship. As a teaching assistant for a Marketing professor, Reem now teaches two lectures to other undergraduate students!

Despite a very busy academic life, Reem finds time to be involved in a number of extracurricular activities. She is the Vice President of Wharton Arabia, and she organized the first ever student-led discussion panel at UPenn between Jewish and Arab student groups. The event was such a success that the two clubs now collaborate on a number of events. Reem's also involved with Dance Studio, a Wharton club that organizes an annual show featuring a variety of dance styles - everything from jazz to bollywood, from hip-hop to tango. This year, Reem will be choreographing the belly-dancing performance!

After completing her MBA, Reem would like to work in consulting for a few years to gain more work experience, but eventually she hopes to move into the public or nonprofit sphere. She cites her experience with the World Economic Forum as an example of the work she'd like to do in the long term.