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Lebanese Mother Finds Future in Finance

Karmen RouhanaOne of the benefits of the University of St. Thomas being located in the large, international city of Houston is the diversity of cultures represented on campus. Karmen Rouhana, a recent graduate originally from Lebanon, discovered this diversity when she decided to return to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in finance with a minor in economics from UST’s Cameron School of Business.

Born and raised in Zahle, Lebanon, a small town 30 miles east of Beirut, Rouhana never thought she would end up in the United States. In her youth, Rouhana attended St. Joseph’s School, a Catholic school run by a group of religious sisters, and although her native language is Arabic, from the moment she began school until her graduation, the language spoken in the classroom was French. It seemed like a natural progression to study French literature in college at L’ecole des Lettres at Lebanese University.

In 2001, Lebanon’s political climate led to Rouhana and her family – a husband and two daughters, age nine and 17 – to move to the United States. Once here, she began looking for jobs to use her language skill, but could only find an opening as a part-time bank teller.

However, while working at Bank of America, Rouhana discovered her true passion: finance. She was quickly promoted to full-time teller, a position in which she thrived. Through hard work and dedication, she worked her way up the hierarchy and found herself managing one of the banking centers. Still, Rouhana knew that she could only go so far without a business degree.

She began taking classes at Houston Community College and after Rouhana had earned 55 hours of college credit, she transferred to the University of St. Thomas.
“It is not easy to quit your job and go to school because of the economic necessity,” Rouhana said, but she had the support of her family.

She began to see the correlation between what she had been doing while working at the bank and the theories she was learning at school, and she found herself enjoying her classes and excelling in her studies. To put the theories she was learning into practice, Rouhana started a small online business selling promotional products.

While Rouhana enjoyed all of her classes and had good relationships with each of her professors, she counts Dr. Beena George, associate professor of management and marketing, as one of her most influential professors. She said the atmosphere Dr. George fosters in her class is an extremely rare quality to find in a business school.

“Dr. George gives everything she has to the class,” Rouhana said. “She makes you want to succeed and strive for the best.”

Rouhana’s goal is to find a position in investment or private banking, but in the meantime, she will begin working towards her MBA at St. Thomas. She will also continue to grow her online business and is excited to share what she has learned in school with her oldest daughter, who will work with her over the summer.

“Going back to school is one of the best things I have done,” Rouhana said. “It makes me even happier that I went back to a school like UST; one that makes me like what I am doing and that made me love going back to school.”