Looking Back From Afar

Looking Back From Afar

Colby's far-flung international alumni consider their time on Mayflower Hill

By Stephen Collins '74


#internationalhot#right#60%#For Mehmet Darmar '90, now the CEO of a large telecommunications firm in Turkey, coming to Colby for a bachelor of arts program was an adventurous leap of faith. "I didn't know what I would get out of it until I got there," he said.

Initially attracted by the five-year dual-degree engineering program offered jointly by Colby and Dartmouth, he soon got caught up in the choices on Mayflower Hill and was a math major with a computer science concentration and a minor in administrative science.

But by the time he graduated, Darmar was a liberal arts evangelist: "You come in at eighteen or nineteen not knowing what to expect. When you go to university, not college, you're like a racehorse—you're given the blinders and you're channelized. At a liberal arts college you make your own path. You're given a lump of clay—you can make a vase, a plate, whatever.

"If you want to be specialized, liberal arts is not the end point," he said. He called Colby "excellent preparation" for his own graduate work—in just over a year he completed a two-year master's program in industrial systems and engineering at the University of Michigan.

Though he had spent two years before graduate school working for a consultant to the Ford Motor Co., he finished his master's in the midst of an economic recession and jobs were scarce. "I decided not to chase my tail in the U.S. It was always my intention to return to Turkey." But he took the value of his undergraduate experience with him. "It's much easier to comprehend different aspects of life. You can change and adapt," he said.

Change and adapt he has. In 1995 Darmar was the third person hired by what turned into Turkey's biggest Internet company, and in 1998 he founded the satellite telecommunications company Mobilkom, which now controls more than half of Turkey's market for mobile satellite phone, fax, data, and Internet services.

Mahdi Bseiso '04 grew up in Jordan and arrived at Colby from the United World College of the American West in New Mexico. A member of the most recent and the largest cohort to date of international students, he departed Mayflower Hill with "absolutely no regrets," headed for Wall Street, where he is now a forensic computer data analyst with the big accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche.

Talking on his cell phone while navigating the crowded streets in New York's financial district at lunchtime, Bseiso explained that the analytic and forensic technology division gets called in when there are financial disputes within firms, between firms, or between the government and a firm. In December he was working on "a very high profile investigation—one of the high-profile financial scandals," but he couldn't reveal which one. His job is to go in and collect information from computers—to build applications or write scripts that can glean information from any form of data that can be stored electronically. "Very challenging and very stressful," he said.

Even as a student Bseiso demonstrated the skills to manage this type of delicate technical operation. On April 1, 2004 everyone on campus got a masterfully deadpan and untraceable notice, allegedly from the president's personal e-mail account, reporting on a big gift to the museum of art for the acquisition of a 1940 Picasso oil painting, "Buste du femme." It ended with the very unpresidential postscript, "Yeah Doghead!"

Ultimately, in a cordial moment around graduation, Bseiso admitted to President Adams (who clearly was amused) that he had a hand in the caper, but for the record he will say only that he didn't act alone.

Initially a government and economics major, Bseiso shifted to computer science. But it was the breadth of his education that served him well, he said. "I think this is part of what got me the job—computer science and good communications skills."

Asked how he decided to study in the United States, he replied: "This was the story of my plan from middle school in Jordan." He learned of the UWC from a newspaper article and was accepted, and after two years in New Mexico he applied to Colby without any knowledge of the Davis UWC Scholarship. The program he would benefit from had not been announced.

"I'm definitely happy with the way things turned out," he said.