Lauder Student Spotlight: Jim Gianakopoulos

We are delighted to share profiles of our new Lauder Class of 2022. Lauder students are gifted, driven, and exceptionally academically talented. Students share their stories, offer advice, and discuss their reasons for joining the Lauder program.

1. Where you are from and what were you doing before Lauder?

I grew up in Austin, TX where I attended The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. As part of my undergraduate program, I spent a capstone year abroad in Meknes, Morocco where I gained professional proficiency in Arabic. After graduating, I returned to Austin and worked on Indeed.com’s international product team, managing their Middle East sites. I then moved to Seattle to work with Dataminr, where I leveraged artificial intelligence to track breaking conflict and extremist messaging in the Middle East. Most recently, I relocated to Washington, D.C. to work in public sector consulting, supporting government investment in emerging technologies.

2. What made you decide to pursue Lauder along with Wharton as part of your graduate studies?

Lauder was actually the driving factor in my application to Wharton, not the other way around. I had always been interested in the intersection of international studies and business and had struggled to decide between pursuing an MBA abroad or a standalone MA in International Studies. Fortunately, I discovered Lauder and immediately recognized the value of an integrated MBA/MA. For me, it was a perfect fit.

3. How are your courses going so far? How are you balancing doing two degrees at once?

Balancing two graduate degrees can be difficult at times, but because the programs are integrated, it’s manageable. In fact, I feel like Lauder students have an advantage in going through our early summer courses, as it allows us to get up to speed and adjust to the academic environment and graduate-level coursework before our Wharton classes begin.

4. Are there any events, experiences, or conversations that you’ve had so far that have been especially meaningful to you?

There have been many series of events and conversations that have been meaningful, but one example that stands out is my experience interacting with Ambassador Westphal, a Senior Global Fellow at Lauder. Ambassador Westphal spoke to our class at length regarding his experience in public policy and diplomacy as the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The Ambassador followed up on his lecture offering to speak with students on a one-on-one basis, and later made time to host an in-person lunch. This level of access to incredibly accomplished global leaders who are genuinely interested in helping Lauder students learn and succeed is unparalleled.

5. What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Lauder community?

Without a doubt – the supportive nature of the community. I had heard how close the Lauder community was, but the experience has blown me away. Even before applying, multiple Lauder students offered to connect with me, offering their insights into the program and advice on my applications and interviews. After being accepted, the Lauder network has been integral in connecting me with entrepreneurial resources helping to validate business ideas, professional mentors lending their industry-specific advice and network, as well as Lauder-specific career chats and opportunities. I look forward to being able to give back to the Lauder community in the same way in the future.

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