Matthew Asada

Class Year: 2002
Target Language: German
Study Abroad: Berlin, Germany
College Second Major: German
Wharton Concentration: Finance

What is your current professional role?

Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

When you think back on your time at Penn and in the Huntsman Program, how did your experience as a student in the Program impact your career decisions and professional development?

My interests once at Penn evolved from a strict international business focus to an appreciation for the interweaving of politics and economy. While at Penn, I developed this interest through internships with the Department of State, elected officials (Senate/House) and the German parliament. I pursued my academic interests with a Master’s in European Politics at the London School of Economics and then entered the U.S. Foreign Service in September 2003.

In what ways have you used your dual degree training and education?

I draw on my broad-based liberal arts education and undergraduate business school curriculum in my current work as an American diplomat. Huntsman prepared me to have conversations with political and economic leaders, in languages other than English, at home or abroad.

In retrospect, what are the most significant features of your experience at Huntsman?

I wanted a vigorous academic business program at an educational institution that could also offer a strong liberal arts palette – something that a number of large universities could provide. However, Huntsman’s small class size ensured that its students receive an unparalleled level of mentoring and resources at the same time. It combines the benefits of the larger University of Pennsylvania with the intimacy of a highly selective program. At Penn I was also able to dive into the rich social environment and extra-curricular offerings. I was a member of a social fraternity (Psi Upsilon), the hip-hop dance group Strictly Funk, and co-founded a non-profit group focused on increasing computer literacy.

Do you have any reflections on how your semester abroad influenced your academic, career, or personal development?

Penn has a robust international alumni network that I have drawn upon as a study abroad student or as an American diplomat. At Penn, I dual majored in German and spent a semester studying abroad in Berlin. Reading, writing and speaking in German about Prussian architecture, German literature, democratic theory and Cold War history alongside German students was challenging; however, immensely rewarding. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to conduct primary research in German on a topic, the German response to Sputnik, which would serve as the basis for my Huntsman thesis. All of this had the additional benefit of helping develop my fluency in German – a language that I truly love – and also an invaluable economic and political resource.