Two Hometowns

Scranton’s international graduates change the world for the better, at home and abroad.

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First, they bring the world to Scranton. Then, they bring Scranton to the world.

International students enrich campus and off-campus life by infusing a global perspective into every space they enter. Lured by the promise of a top-tier education and an increasingly diverse community of scholars — and sometimes, several say, by the bonus pleasures of plentiful nature, four seasons and fabulous food — they enhance Scranton immensely while students. When they depart, they are not only themselves enhanced but well-equipped to participate and, typically, to lead in a global society.

In the past six years alone, Scranton has educated 289 international students representing five continents and 50 countries, from Argentina and Azerbaijan to Vietnam and Zambia. Students have hailed from islands and archipelagos, colonies and territories, and have lived under almost every form of government. From Saudi Arabia alone, 136 students have enrolled in six years, with the next-largest contingents coming from India and the People’s Republic of China. Among the 289, 224 have been graduate students and 65 undergraduate students.

Most international students have enrolled in The Kania School of Management (KSOM) in six years: 48 accountancy or accounting majors, 44 finance majors, 17 management information systems majors, 15 general business administration majors, 12 marketing majors and seven each of international business, operations and software engineering majors. Health administration has been almost as popular a field, with 24 majors, but international students also have chosen counseling and the sciences, human resources and theology as academic disciplines.

We caught up with five international graduates, as recent as 2018 and as long ago as 1987 when a KSOM graduate, who is now an entertainment-industry titan in India, said satellite technology was just gaining momentum. Scranton, he observed on a recent visit, has changed almost as much as the world has changed in 30 years.

With individually impressive life stories that set them apart, all remain united by that common Scranton thread. All shared — and still share — the same sentiments about Scranton, saying none of their successes would have been possible without the foundations and friendships built here and the lasting lessons imparted here.

Seek the Chances

Mohammed Alshammary G’19  MAcc

Professor, College of Technology

Hometown: Dammam City, Saudi Arabia

Now resides in: Dammam City, Saudi Arabia

The belief that “teachers are the messengers who spread the knowledge and goodness to humanity” has propelled Mohammed Alshammary along his path from undergraduate studies at Ohio State to the corporate world to, since 2016, a post teaching in his Saudi Arabian homeland at the College of Technology, which gave him a full scholarship to complete his bachelor’s in accounting at Tiffin University and master’s in accounting at Scranton.

Alshammary believes he had the best Scranton professors and appreciates Scranton’s safe, convenient location.

He credits his family, particularly his wife, Bashayr, for his successes.

“I started my honeymoon with my wife in the beginning days at Scranton, and the last days we got news of her pregnancy, which is unforgettable,” he said.

A shining Scranton moment came as part of his MAcc capstone research course. He and his equally unforgettable accounting professor Douglas Boyle, D.B.A. ’88 presented collaborative research on corporate social responsibility and taxation at the 2019 International Academic Conference on Business (IACB) in New York and earned a Best Presentation Award.

Getting from Point A to Point B has been largely about a personal initiative for this 31-year-old who admitted he still finds himself too young to teach in his accounting department.

“I think experience is the most effective factor that creates capability,” he said. “Success will not seek people; people should seek the chances that will lead them to success. My advice is to be educated and never stop learning.”

Alshammary plans to pursue a Doctorate in Business Administration and earn more professional designations. He may even return to Scranton.

“We never know what is hidden behind the future,” he said. “I feel both countries are my hometown, and I would love to be back in the United States for any reason.”

A Sense of Service

Deirdre Ypma G’96  MBA

Senior Vice President/Director of Portfolio Analysis, Neuberger Berman, an investment manager

Hometown: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Now resides in: Dobbs Ferry, New York

After spending 14 years at APG Asset Management, both in New York and The Netherlands (her home country), one of the largest pension funds in the world, and two-plus years operating her own consulting firm in New York City, Deirdre Ypma is a senior vice president and director of portfolio analysis at Neuberger Berman, a private, independent, employee-owned investment manager.

Ypma earned her accounting and finance MBA at Scranton in 1996 after earning a master’s degree at RijksUniversiteit Groningen/University of Groningen.

“Coming to Scranton is not a very glamorous story,” she admitted, explaining that a missed deadline after taking the GMAT had her checking a box saying interested colleges could reach out. One that did was Scranton. The result made up for her slip-up.

“I wanted to go to a small college, and my family has a long and good experience with Jesuit education, so that sealed the deal,” Ypma recalled.

Her fond Scranton memories are many, but she said her biggest takeaway was her husband, Arwinder Bindra, whom she met the day she arrived. He earned his MBA and master’s in software engineering.

All her worthwhile Scranton memories, she said, reflect a great sense of community. “The University was an incredibly warm, supportive and involved place, where giving back was part of every day.”

“The sense of service has stuck with me,” said Ypma. “It informs my decisions on where to work, how to contribute outside of work, and in our family life so that my girls (Isha and Olivia) develop that same sense of service.”

Ypma is an avid skier and equestrian, serving on the board of Blue Rider Stables, a nonprofit offering therapeutic and holistic educational equine programs.

A Widened Perspective

Chie Fujikake G’18  MBA

Faculty, Nanzan University, Japan

Hometown: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

Now resides in: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

Virtual exchange, or Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), is a passion for Chie Fujikake.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in education in Japan in 2010, Fujikake worked as a junior-high English teacher, studied English in Canada, then took an administrative role in Tokyo until 2015, after which she was awarded a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant grant and chose Scranton. She first worked for the Department of World Languages and Cultures as a Fulbright assistant, then became a graduate teaching assistant in that department while enrolled in the Kania School of Management.

The people she met here “changed my life and personality and widened my perspective toward the world and even my country. My dearest students and my many friends, who are from all over the world, nurtured my global mindset and identity as being Japanese.”

Now back in Japan as an instructor at Nanzan University, she promotes COIL and manages corporate organizational collaborations by teaching project-based learning courses. She leads a U.S. study-abroad program for her Japanese students, a role that picks up where her Scranton days left off. Through her interactive Japanese lessons at Scranton, she oversaw a video, letter and e-mail exchange project between her students and Japanese people.

“I came to know that virtual exchange is drawing attention as one of the latest educational approaches around the world, so what I have done in Scranton coincidentally expands my career,” she said.

As a specially appointed instructor for the government-funded “Re-Inventing Japan” project, she said, “I see the dynamics of society, educational movement and organizational cooperation/collaboration from a higher vantage point.

“Had it not been for the management view I learned at KSOM, I would not have been as successful as I am now,” she said.

She lives near her parents, with whom she enjoys weekend gardening, and visits her brother, sister-in-law and nephew, who is “now becoming the greatest piano player who entertains all of us.”

The Kindness of Strangers

Carl Cervi ’11, G’11  Political Science/History; Master’s in Education

Corporate Vice President, CCS Fundraising

Hometown: Dublin, Ireland

Now resides in: Forest Hills, Queens, New York

As a child in inner-city Dublin, Carl Cervi never imagined the life-altering power of the kindness of strangers, specifically philanthropists Francis and Elizabeth Redington, who established the endowment that gave him a full-tuition-plus scholarship upon graduation from one of Ireland’s five Jesuit high schools.

“I always acknowledged how lucky I was to be looked after like that,” this first-generation college student said, explaining he began his Scranton days as a political science and history major. He graduated with the Professor Timothy H. Scully Award for Excellence in Political Science, staying on to complete his master’s in secondary education. Two government-related internships made him long to stay in the States, but the 2008 financial crisis brought a turning point.

As graduation approached, Cervi feared he was “on a one-way ticket back home” because he couldn’t get a job. University connections at CCS Fundraising led to an employment offer he would defer after accepting a graduate assistantship to pursue his master’s. He reconnected with CCS, though, in 2011 after completing that degree and learning he had a difficult path to teaching in the U.S. as an immigrant.

Cervi accepted a new CCS offer and has flourished since as a consultant in the faith-based, health and social service sectors.

“Capital campaigns, major gifts, other fundraising roles … all of that can be taught,” he said. “At Scranton, I learned to be a critical thinker, to write well, to communicate clearly and to get along with people, and those are the most important skills you can have as a fundraiser.”

He is now a CCS corporate vice president living in Queens, New York, with his wife, the former Caroline Frey ’09, DPT ’12, whom he met at Scranton. They are expecting a child this spring.

From Scranton to Kollywood

Sanjay Wadhwa G’87  MBA

Owner, Managing Partner, AP International

Hometown: Chennai, India

Now resides in: Chennai, India

Most people have heard of Bollywood, the informally named, Bombay-based Hindi-language film industry in India, but many may not know of Kollywood, Mollywood and other Hollywood twists.

Kollywood is Tamil-language cinema from the Kodambakkam neighborhood in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and Mollywood is Malayalam language cinema from the southern state of Kerala. As managing partner of AP International, Sanjay Wadhwa is a veritable force in both.

AP International, which caters to home entertainment, is the family business that launched Wadhwa’s career. For more than 32 years, he has grown the company into one of the largest exporters of Tamil films.

“My family has been financing films since 1960, and when I came back in 1987, I wanted to do something different,” Wadhwa said. “As a student in the U.S., I saw a huge yearning for movies by the Indian community, and I decided to get into the distribution of films outside India.”

AP specializes in South Indian films and operates one of the largest channels on YouTube for South Indian content, with 7 million-plus subscribers.

Wadhwa, who associates now call “an astute businessman,” and “the most gracious host you will ever come across,” was educated in Chennai, India, at Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School, then Loyola College, where he earned a bachelor of commerce in 1986 before coming to Scranton to earn his finance MBA in 1987.

His fondest Scranton memories include moving video players and 16mm projectors around campus as an employee of the Media Resources Department, where he recalled spicing up his ordered-in Pappas pizza enough to prompt jokes about calling the fire brigade. Little did he know, he said, that he’d end up devoting his life to media, building on this early work experience.

Academically, Sanjay bonded quickly with Professors Riaz Hussain and Satyajit Ghosh and launched a still-current friendship with classmate Viren Mayani G’88, who calls him a “bright scholar” and a “gentleman,” and recalled that “the comedy of life” reunited them decades after they earned their MBAs. Be-sides Mayani, his Scranton network includes Niral Shah G’88, Ajay Kaul G’88, Sanjay Shah G’87, Sanjeev Patel (Sanjiv) G’87, Francis D’Souza G’89 and Sharad Kumar G’88.

Wadhwa is a member of The Chennai Angels, who provide funding to innovative entrepreneurs, and is only the second Indian to become a global board member for the Alexandria, Virginia-based Entrepreneurs Organization in its 30-year history.

He and his wife, Vrinda, have two children.

Jarman Alqahtani, MHA, ATP, a family medicine consultant and health care administrator, answers questions about how Scranton helped him innovate in Riyadh. Click here for the story.

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