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Sameer Allabadi '13 - Graduate Student, London School of Economics (LSE)
Sameer Allabadi '13 - Graduate Student, London School of Economics (LSE)

Fearless Changemaker

When most people think of finance, they think of Wall Street wheeling and dealing. Sameer, a native of Kuwait who has lived in Australia and Lebanon, wants to change that perception. Sameer credits both his experiences growing up and his time at PSU as instrumental to the development of his goals.

What have you been doing since graduating in 2013?

Since graduation my primary focus has been on enhancing my candidacy for graduate business school, particularly because the majority of the programs had certain pre-requisites. I have been incredibly fortunate to receive admission into all my desired programs including the University of Sydney, Australia National University, Boston College, Villanova University and the London School of Economics and Political Science in a variety of programs ranging from Master of Economics, Quantitative Finance, Applied Econometrics to Finance and Accounting. Also, many of my offers came with merit-based scholarships and graduate research positions. I couldn’t have done it without access to the 5th floor of our beautiful Miller Library!

How does this fit into your career goals?

My long-term career goal is to play a constructive role in alleviating global poverty by utilizing certain finance mechanisms. Though achieving this goal through the use of finance maybe difficult to envision, informational sessions at Mercy Corps Global HQ here in Portland taught me otherwise. After professor Ted Khoury generously introduced me to Mercy Corps, the digital economy director of the Middle-East reached out to me and taught me how Mercy Corps invests in seed accelerators, links aspiring entrepreneurs to venture capital and how establishing a private equity fund can help catalyze sustainable economic growth in developing industrial regions. As a result of my interactions with Mercy Corps and PSU faculty, I am now confident that I can successfully leverage my graduate education to achieve my goals - despite their seemingly none-traditional nature.

Tell us about your background and how you found your way to PSU.

My parents are both Palestinian Refugees; as a result I’ve lived the majority of my life on the move. I was born in Kuwait shortly after the invasion, grew up in Australia, and began my upper education at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Though chaotic, the nature of my background is actually a blessing in disguise because I’ve experienced a profound level of global consciousness. Now, I am proud to say that my journey towards global awareness culminates with a Bachelor of Science from PSU. At first, I learned about PSU through recruitment efforts hosted at the American School of Kuwait. After visiting campus multiple times I realized that PSU is truly a cultural melting pot; combined with the multi-disciplinary nature of the educational curriculum, it was an easy decision.

Why did you decide to study business/finance? How is this different than what was expected of you?

Growing up, I was expected to become an engineer. Not only does the level of social stratification prevalent within my culture influence that expectation, but also growing up with an Engineering PhD and an Architect, I felt I had no choice. I took a risk and applied to the School of Business because I wanted to the opportunity to develop a skill set that will allow me to think critically about multiple businesses, industries, as well as the interconnectivity of the global marketplace. Professor Piman’s introduction to finance course really sparked my interest. Typically the study of finance is constricted, especially at an introductory level, in that the scope is limited to the valuation of projects, bonds, asset pricing etc. which really belies how relevant finance is in the context of a global economy. However from the start of the finance sequence at PSU, I was taught how finance plays a pivotal role in the well being of the overall economy. In unison with a comprehensive accounting component of the curriculum and dynamic business coursework, the forward-looking nature of finance gave me confidence in my ability to articulate why individuals, businesses, and government make decisions the way they do.

How did PSU’s finance program prepare you for your objectives?

Like many students who attempt to balance vision and pragmatism, I initially struggled with my goals and intentions. I still do. Nevertheless, the professors at the SBA finance have been instrumental in helping me develop effective academic and professional aspirations. From day 1, all my professors maintained an open-door policy, which isn’t a luxury I expected to have at a large institution. No matter how intricate my concerns, my professors never wavered their support; for example, professor Daniel Rogers even helped me evaluate my graduate programs course-by-course 6 months after graduation!

The finance program at PSU is unique in that it offers a dynamic sequence of courses usually reserved for graduate programs – such as Derivatives & Risk Management and Finance Case Studies. Furthermore, the program helped me develop a pragmatic skill set applicable to all realms of finance. In other words, its not a conventional “cookie-cutter” program tailored purely for Wall Street. Whether you are interested in investment banking or financial planning & analysis, the PSU finance program is designed with enough breadth and depth to equip you with the necessary tools

How did PSU’s university studies program provided you with a well-rounded skill set that set you apart from other candidates?

The PSU university studies program is every students chance to elevate their academic standing and develop an essential interdisciplinary lens. I decided to complete the Science in Liberal Arts cluster that emphasized active scientific inquiry concerning issues within the political, economic and social contexts. I believe this element within my profile enhanced my candidacy because graduate programs appreciate applicants who are knowledgeable and can communicate in subjects beyond their discipline. Although the university studies component of the PSU curriculum is a very flexible one, you certainly get out of it what you put into it.

Can you tell us about experiences at PSU that pushed you outside of your comfort zone? How did you feel about the challenge and how did you overcome them? What did you gain from the experiences?

PSU presents a unique and risk-free learning environment with many opportunities that are guaranteed to push you outside of your comfort zone. On a personal note, the highlight of my experiences has to be the CFA Global Investment Research Challenge. There were many memorable moments from the CFA competition, however the greatest moment of my learning experience occurred during the mock sessions. We sent an invite to the SBA faculty and to our surprise, professors from finance, accounting, and even marketing all showed up – and they did not hold back with their constructive criticisms. To put it lightly, we were grilled! It was at that moment I realized I was sitting on a gold mine - that is, I had exclusive access to a first-class faculty eager to share their knowledge and wisdom.  Back home this sort of open-door access to mentors is not as prevalent mainly due to a perceived authoritative gap between teachers and students, therefore taking advantage of this live and primary resource was crucial to my academic development beyond the syllabus.

The institutional climate of mutual respect explicit in PSU’s culture has helped me discover the value of diversity and to successfully leverage that knowledge in the classroom, competitions, and in the professional environment.  By participating in extra-circular activities, reaching out to my professors, and discovering the world from within the diverse student environment that PSU advances, I enhanced my communication and public speaking skills, my technical skills, as well as my ability to think critically about global events in a multitude of subject matters.