Business school students immersed in Turkey

Students met prominent Turkish businesspeople as Hassenfeld Fellows

Students from the International Business School visited Garanti Securities in Istanbul.

Alan Hassenfeld will discuss new fellows program Sept. 13.

If you were given the chance to meet “the Warren Buffett of Turkey,” would you take it?

For 30 Brandeis International Business School MA and MBA candidates, the opportunity to combine classroom knowledge with in-country experiential learning was an enticing one. In May, the group flew to Istanbul to connect with prominent business leaders and gain an in-depth look at Turkey’s economy as part of the school’s new Hassenfeld Fellow Overseas Immersion Program.

The week-long trip was made possible through a gift from Alan Hassenfeld, retired chairman and CEO of international toy giant Hasbro, Inc. Hassenfeld established the program to give students a richer understanding of some of the most promising economies across the globe.

The Hassenfeld Fellows visited several of Istanbul’s leading institutions and businesses, including Garanti Securities, a brokerage firm, and Koc Holding, the country’s largest conglomerate and a key player in the automotive industry. In their free time, students took calligraphy lessons, visited handicraft workshops and soaked in the atmosphere of a vibrant city that was in the midst of its governmental elections.

Fellow Tom Weaver MA ’12 said he was most impressed by the quality of connections made during the visit. In addition to meeting with investor Jak Kamhi, who has been likened to Berkshire-Hathaway founder Buffett for his prescient vision and resourcefulness, students met with the chief economist at Koc Holding and private-equity managers such as Seymur Tari, who has graced the covers of major magazines and turned local businesses into global brands.

“The business leaders expressed a strong belief in Turkey’s future, but were also humble and not afraid to comment on the country’s past,” said Jonida Kapo MBA ’12, who had previously spent a year working in Turkey. “During one visit, a presenter made fun of how behind the country was a decade ago – it set the tone in terms of showing how much they have achieved in a few short years.”

Professor Can Erbil, who oversaw the trip, said it will be an important asset for the students’ work on cases covered in their second year here. “Students return to campus with not only an ability to draw connections between their field experience and coursework, but also a firm grasp of what it means to do business in a country like Turkey,” he said.  

Weaver called the trip “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to connect with influential businesspeople who have been instrumental in Turkey’s success.

“It showed us places we hadn’t seen,” he said, “and opened up possibilities I didn’t even know existed.”


On Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 12:30 p.m., Brandeis International Business School invites its students to a special presentation about the trip in International Hall.

Several Turkey trip participants will be sharing their experiences with program founder Alan Hassenfeld, and Dean Bruce R. Magid will also be announcing the destination of the program’s next trip. Lunch to follow.

For more information, contact Kate Goldfield, associate dean for administration and student services,


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