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College of Liberal Arts News

Student gained job skills from internships, study abroad program

Keith Fakhoury's first encounter with a camel occurred near Dubai, where he recently studied at the American University of Sharjah through an international exchange program.Keith Fakhoury's first encounter with a camel occurred near Dubai, where he recently studied at the American University of Sharjah through an international exchange program.

Fakhoury celebrated New Year's Eve in Dubai.Fakhoury celebrated New Year's Eve in Dubai.

Fakhoury visited a Friday market in Fujairah, United Arab EmiratesFakhoury visited a Friday market in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates

In the past year and a half, Keith Fakhoury ’14 studied in Dubai, interned for JP Morgan Private Bank and was one of only 60 students selected from around the world to attend Yale School of Management’s Global Pre-MBA Leadership Program.

With the knowledge gained through these programs, Fakhoury is writing his thesis about the role education reform plays in reversing income equality. He also hopes his experiences will help cement his career in the banking industry.

“After working in the states for a few years, potentially as a private banker, I want to return to the Middle East and launch my own private wealth and asset management firm,” says Fakhoury, an economics major and Kemper Scholar.

Linda Angell, director of the International Exchange Program at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in the United Arab Emirates, is confident Fakhoury’s background will help him achieve his goals.

“Keith gained important marketable skills in multi-cultural adaptation and communication, problem solving, teamwork, management, overcoming challenges, coping, independence and more,” Angell says. “His enthusiasm for all things Arab was infectious.”

In an interview with Willamette University, Fakhoury answered questions about his recent work and study experiences — which included his many internships and studies at AUS in the United Arab Emirates.

Here's what he had to say:

Q. What were your favorite and most challenging parts of the programs?

The only thing better than Friday Brunches in Dubai would be the Emirati people themselves. They really spoiled me. Arabs, in general, are known for their hospitality and generosity, but people of the UAE really take these qualities to the next level. I felt like a sheikh whenever I was with them. Looking back, my favorite experiences were the desert barbecues, wearing kandura to class everyday (Emirati clothes), and exploring the country with the most amazing people.

The most challenging part was reminding myself that I was not in America anymore. Having an opinion is encouraged, but free speech in the emirates is not the same as it is in the states.

Q. Do you think it is important for students to have these experiences? What life lessons did you learn?

Definitely. If students want to pursue meaningful, influential lives, they should start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Willamette students are very fortunate to have such amazing people working at the international education office. I would also encourage my peers to attend the American University of Sharjah. Their international staff does an amazing job of integrating international students and making them feel welcome.  

People have the same core. No matter which passport you hold, we’re all curious people that like to learn, feel secure, eat good food, and be around people we love. If more people were mindful of that and Willamette’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born,” this world would be a much more inviting place.

Q. What do you value about a liberal arts education?

To me, a liberal arts education is synonymous with free thinkers and helpful communicators. There’s freedom when you’re able to analyze an issue and construct your own judgment, a scarce behavior in today’s political landscape or financial markets.

I think because liberal arts students study a wide range of disciplines, they can find inspiration and build ideas from just about anything. At my previous internships with Disney, Lockheed Martin — and with the mayor of Chicago — liberal arts students were superior at forecasting potential initiatives because we’re mindful and analytical. I personally think we’re even better at connecting with a wide array of characters because we celebrate and embrace diversity, especially at Willamette.

Story by Natalie Pate ’15, politics major

Pew study shows number of non-religious Americans on the rise

David Gutterman, politics professorDavid Gutterman, politics professor

In the final Big Questions Over Lunch discussion of the semester, politics professor David Gutterman spoke on the growing trend of religiously unaffiliated people in America.

Titled ‘The Nones,” Gutterman’s seminar on Nov. 5 presented the facts and statistics behind the growing number of individuals leaving main-line churches and identifying as non-religious.  

The statistics show that the growth of “Nones” is comparable across the country and is a generational phenomenon.   

In a 2012 nationwide survey of 5,000 people — conducted by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project — 24 percent of 18-29 year olds said they do not believe in God or a higher being. While the data was collected between 2007 and 2012, the spike occurred in the late 90’s, and, according to Gutterman, “set the trend that we are seeing now.”

Parents who are unaffiliated are said to have a higher “retention rate,” as their children are more likely to stay unaffiliated than religious families’ children are to stay religious. This may also be a contributing factor to the recent rise in statistics, Gutterman says.

In addition, the statistics show that more people are now adjusting their religious beliefs to fit their political beliefs, instead of the other way around. Twenty-four percent of Democrats or democratically leaning registered voters identify as religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew study.

“Political identification is leading religious identification,” Gutterman says. “There seems to be a distrust of authority attributed to the religious-right.”

Finding a Sense of Community

In addition to the growing number of young adults pursuing college degrees — and changes in age and roles within marriage — Gutterman says this shift is partially due to a change of desire to be in a religious group.

Instead of finding a sense of community and membership through religion, he says people are experiencing belonging through organizations of shared interests outside of religious groups.

“Being a member of a religious organization is becoming less important for social status,” Gutterman says. “Many people are saying, ‘if religion is merely about ethics, why go to church on Sunday?’”

Among the “Nones,” 28% of those polled still believe it’s important to participate in groups with shared values and beliefs.

Seth Radler '16, who attended the seminar, says Gutterman presented a lot of information in a humorous yet thoughtful manner. Though Radler thought economic classes and race may play large roles in religious affiliation, the statistics showed otherwise.

“I was struck most by the misconceptions I had, but he refuted them in a logical, informed and respectful way,” Radler says.  

Though the series is complete for the first semester, it will start up again in February.

• Article by Natalie Pate '15, politics major