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LAU students participate in U.S. finance and entrepreneurship program for women

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From left: LAU students Leila Kabalan, Noushig Ghazarian and Yasmeen Makarem at the end of their visit to the HSBC headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.

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The HSBC Financial and Entrepreneurship Awareness program participants in front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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From left: Ghazarian, Makarem and Kabalan at the Formal Business Etiquette dinner held at Wilson College in Pennsylvania. The dinner was organized after participants attended a course on business etiquette.

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A group photo of the participants in front of the Washington Monument after touring the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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September 1, 2009—

The three female LAU students who participated in the HSBC Financial and Entrepreneurship Awareness program, held in the United States from July 5-22, regathered along with the other two Lebanese participants at the HSBC head office in Beirut on August 25 to talk about their experiences at the program.

Organized by HSBC in the Community Middle East Foundation and AMIDEAST, the program aimed at providing training to young Arab women in finance, banking and entrepreneurship. It drew 25 participants from Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, and the UAE.

The LAU student participants were Noushig Ghazarian, Leila Kabalan and Yasmeen Makarem.

In many Arab countries, the role of women is not considered very important in the business world, says Makarem, a sophomore in business (banking and finance). “So they wanted to empower us,” she adds.

The participants spent 10 days at the Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where they took courses on business ethics, business planning, entrepreneurship, and business English. They also worked together as a team on their own business plan.

“One of the most important things I learned was teamwork. We were divided into teams that were diverse and representing different cultures and countries,” says Kabalan, a junior majoring in international affairs. “The teamwork also enhanced our communication skills,” she adds.

The program also encompassed visits to the HSBC headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, where the group learned about the banking giant and its commitment to social causes, and also got a close-up look at a financial market, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The participants also traveled to Washington, D.C., where they visited the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, where U.S. dollars are printed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Company, and the American Bankers Association.

The young women say they learned much more than effective business strategies. “We met a lot of people that had started their businesses from zero,” says Makarem.

International affairs student Ghazarian says although she is not studying business, she believes the program was beneficial because business can by applied to anything. “It’s like a complement to my education,” she adds.

The three LAU students agree that a key strength of the program was its emphasis on hands-on experience. “It showed me what a career in business really looks like and this has certainly inspired me,” says Kabalan. Makaram has even decided to include Wilson College in the group of universities where she plans to apply for her M.B.A.

At the launch of the program in March, AMIDEAST’s President and CEO Theodore H. Kattouf said: “This new program … will increase the financial and entrepreneurship awareness of women. The Middle East stands to reap extraordinary benefits through the greater integration of women into the fabric of its civic and economic life.”

According to Kaltham Al Koheji (as quoted in the same press release), chairperson of HSBC in the Community Middle East Foundation, the initiative “aims to further promote women’s cross-cultural understanding and financial education,” as it “will see young women from all backgrounds become involved in the learning [program], and experience the true benefits of diversity.”

Ghazarian says the program was not just an educational experience. “We also gained friendships and got to know more about the American culture as well as [other] Arab cultures,” she explains.

Program participants were chosen based on academic achievement, anticipated personal outcomes from the program, and English language proficiency.


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