“Global citizen.” That is how first-year MBA Kenan Scholar Gowtam Atthipalli uses to describe his diverse upbringing.
The son of a professor, Atthipalli grew up in a multitude of countries and experiencing an amalgam of cultures in India, the United States, the U.K. and Germany. Moving at such a young age caused him to develop a knowledge of English, four Indian languages, and a working knowledge of French.
However, Atthipalli mainly credits his international background for versing him in cultural sensitivity.
“There are a lot of cues that I pick up on that people generally might not because of the experiences I’ve had growing as a child,” he said. “[Moving around] sort of helped me, I think, understand people at a level that may not be possible considering if you have not been exposed to a bizarre array of cultures growing up.”
Jean Montano, Atthipalli’s fellow Kenan Scholar, can also be considered a “global citizen,” having lived in three countries and four U.S. states.
Between the ages of eight and 18, Montano lived in San Salvador due to her mother’s career at an NGO.
“My mom and dad both work in public health, so that was kind of the context that I grew up with,” Montano said. “El Salvador is very poor and very, very segregated as far as wealth. So, there’s really not much of a middle class … You’re just surrounded by really, really poor people all the time and that’s hard and that’s taxing … on your perception of the world and fairness.”
Montano’s childhood in San Salvador drove her to pursue a socially impactful career. Initially studying to be a journalist at Northwestern University, she quickly changed her major to Political Science and Anthropology and aspired to work in social enterprise.
Following college, Montano worked for two different social enterprise organizations, but decided to return to school in order to gain the expertise the field currently lacks.
“Through all these different social mission-focused organizations that I’ve worked at, I found that they … didn’t have the right business models,” she said. “I wanted to help socially focused organizations add more credibility and sustainable business models to their organizations.”
Atthipalli, after working in the technology industry, also sought his MBA in order to bring business expertise to for-profit companies.
“I see how the technology side of firms work, but I never got the big picture,” he said.