By Mariana Velasco
Cole is a rising senior targeting German born and raised in Colorado.
What is something that not a lot of people at Penn know about you?
A lot of people at Penn don´t know that I am a super outdoorsy guy, I was an Eagle Scout and did another Boy Scout award, the William T. Hornaday Medal, that involved almost a thousand hours of environmental community service. I really love being outdoors, fishing, hiking, and camping.
What brought you to Huntsman?
I think that the first opportunity that brought me to the program happened while I was in high school. I was really involved in the State Legislature and policy, I worked for a group that helped lobby to make rainwater collection from your roof legal in the state. From there, I got connected to a non profit organization in Denver that worked for the State Department and they brought diplomatic envoys from all over the world to Denver. I ended up interning for them that summer. I met people from forty different countries and worked with translators – It was the opportunity to travel the world from my hometown. And so I knew ever since that I wanted to do something with International Relations and Diplomacy. But I also realized, through my experience with the public sector and policy, that I wanted to be more on the private side of things since it was faster paced and gave you more freedom. All of that led me to International Business and the Huntsman Program was perfect for that, so I applied Early Decision. Getting into Huntsman was really a dream come true.
Has your relation to International Studies and Business changed as you go through the curriculum over the last couple of years?
I think that the great thing that Huntsman and also Wharton at large does is that it really emphasizes having an international outlook when you are making business decisions. It definitely solidified my faith in private companies and markets to make meaningful changes internationally and act as a bridge for positive change in the world. A lot of people think that working for the government or a firm in finance is very different, they think that working for a nonprofit and going to the corporate world are two completely opposite career paths, and that has been vastly disproven to me. Part of that has to do with the opportunities that I have had at Penn. Interning in Munich at a Private Equity Infrastructure firm under a Huntsman graduate was a really amazing opportunity to look at the market and realize that in so many countries the government is not providing enough capital to maintain vital infrastructure. There is this enormous opportunity for private companies to come in and provide needed capital for all of these infrastructure projects.
What makes the Huntsman Program so special?
Just being in awe with all the people around you, being blown away by your classmates. It is such a great feeling to surround yourself with people from so many different backgrounds. Those are the kind of opportunities beyond the classroom that cannot be replicable just anywhere else. I love how open people in Huntsman are to having substantive debates and meaningful conversations. That respectful and open dialogue with people from very different mindsets and opinions is something that stands out about the Huntsman community.
You are involved in initiatives to mentor other Huntsman students and help them out during the recruiting process, where does that motivation to help others stems from?
I think my motto in any organization I am a part of (and it is a Boy Scout thing, from the founder’s dying letter) is leave it better than you found it. The Huntsman Program is tough because it is already such a wonderful place and group of people. For the career workshops it came from my personal experience interviewing abroad and struggling with different time zones and reaching out to upperclassmen. I owe a lot of my knowledge and interest in finance to a Huntsman alumni, who really took the time to help me and give back to the next generation of Huntsman students. My ultimate goal with these career workshops for underclassmen was to make it easier for them to have access to that wealth of knowledge and information that the Huntsman community already has.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I recognize that your education doesn’t end when you graduate, so my goal is to be part of a great group of people, so I can keep learning. Ideally it would be in the investing side. Longer term I would love to combine my passions for International development and diplomacy, investing, and agriculture.
Can you talk a little bit more about the club that you recently started?
This semester, a classmate, Anannya Shandilya and I founded the Agribusiness club at Penn. I always had a strong interest in Agriculture, my family comes from agricultural roots and I always found it extremely interesting. You have this one industry where each person does it all, from plowing the field and feeding the cattle to managing their books. I always had a great deal of respect for people working in that field, and coming to Penn I didn’t find an easy avenue to further pursue that. I did SIRE (Social Impact Research Experience, a summer independent research grant) over the summer comparing the beef supply chains in the US and Kenya – I came back to Penn feeling a lot more confident and became more outspoken about my interest.
What other organizations and clubs are you involved in at Penn?
I am part of the Huntsman Student Advisory Board (HSAB), Model UN, and Authors@Wharton Committee. We work with Adam Grant to invite speakers to come to Penn´s campus to talk to students.
What has surprised you the most about your Penn education?
It is definitely more flexible than I thought. I came in thinking that I was pursuing two degrees in four years and that I wouldn’t have time for anything else. I have been pleasantly surprised because I will graduate with a minor in German and two concentrations and still be able to take very interesting classes. Our program director Dr. Kelly Cleary and our advisor Marco have been really supportive in that sense.
I think that the value of a Wharton education goes beyond the degree and your first job offer after graduation. We take all of these management and public speaking courses that are really valuable in the long term as you become part of larger organizations and work in teams. For instance, if you ever want to start your own business, you have very solid foundations in terms of strategic thinking, marketing, and other business disciplines.
How have your international experiences complemented your college experience so far?
There is something really valuable about working with people from very different backgrounds in a completely different culture than your own – working in Germany was that for me. I would recommend everyone to not only study but intern abroad in your target language. I am a lot more open and able to work in very different work environments now and that learning can probably only take place outside of the classroom.
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