Ace of Enterprise

Kamil Fadel ’17 is a high-flying international business major with plans to impact the world through social entrepreneurship and finance.

Kamil Fadel ’17 (Photo by Scott Cook) Kamil Fadel ’17 (Photo by Scott Cook)

You’ll have to forgive Kamil Fadel ’17 if he can’t rattle off his favorite spot on campus. He’d much rather be soaring above it.

Since the age of 16, Fadel has been flying a rented Cessna 172 out of Orlando Executive Airport, finding peace in the scenic skies over Winter Park.

“I wish the admissions department would pay for my fuel to take prospective students up there,” he says, only half kidding. “When the sun is setting, Rollins from 1,000 feet is the most beautiful place. The red sun and red sky reflects off these orange and red buildings, and it looks like the entire school is glowing.”

Fadel, who attended nearby Cypress Creek High School, will graduate May 14 with a major in international business and a minor in Middle Eastern and North African studies. Next, he’ll begin the master’s in finance program at Vanderbilt University before pursuing a career in investment banking or management consulting.

We recently caught up with Fadel at Olin Library to discuss his four years at Rollins, exploring topics that range from social entrepreneurship to his personal intersection of aviation and the liberal arts.

When did you discover your love of flying? “My parents run an aviation spare parts brokerage, so I’ve been obsessed with airplanes my whole life. The first book I had as a kid was an encyclopedia of airplanes, and that led to me wanting to be able to read the words. I credit airplanes with being the foundation for my intellectual drive. If airplanes weren’t so cool, I wouldn’t have been interested in reading, and I wouldn’t be here now.”

Kamil Fadel ’17 has been flying since he was 16. (Photo Courtesy of Kamil Fadel) Kamil Fadel ’17 has been flying since he was 16. (Photo Courtesy of Kamil Fadel)

What’s it like being a pilot? “It requires two extremely divergent parts of my capacity: the highly analytical and extremely conscious, and the relaxation and extreme calm. Flying actually relaxes me quite a bit.”

How do international business and finance complement one another? “When people think about careers in finance, the first thing that comes to mind is either Microsoft Excel or numbers, formulas, and mathematics. And while those things are really important, nowadays you also need to be able to contextualize relationships between business entities, people, and countries. It really demonstrates the intense need to be a global citizen.”

Speaking of global citizenship, you have a unique perspective of what it means to be an American. “Yeah, my parents left their countries as a result of significant violence—for my mother’s family it was gang violence in Puerto Rico, and my father fled Lebanon because of civil war. But I’ve been blessed in that I’ve been able to go back to the Middle East and Puerto Rico most of my life. Being Lebanese and Puerto Rican makes me what’s called ‘third culture’ in the U.S.—I’m more American than my parents but less Puerto Rican and Lebanese than they are. I’ve had to develop three fully functional frameworks of thinking that can connect with one another but also stand alone. It’s definitely helped me understand the relationship between the Islamic and Catholic cultures, especially in regard to things like family, relative conservatism, food, gender roles, etc. On the surface, you could never recognize I have so much in common with so many people.”

You’ve performed a lot of community engagement work. What have you learned? “The most important thing is understanding my role in this world. In high school I started a nonprofit, and the biggest difficulty we’d always face was money. That’s why I’m interested in finance—it’s a career where you can make a ton of money extremely consistently. I never want money to be my determining factor to be able to help empower some social issue I’m working on. I want to be invested financially and emotionally. I certainly don’t have the best solutions to tackle every issue, but I know there are people who do—and I want to be able to give them the tools they need to accomplish their social interests. I want to be really rich to do all these social goods, but I also want to have a plane for myself.”

What social issue are you most passionate about? “Income inequality is the most important issue the U.S. and the world has to address. It does a lot to explain all the social ills the U.S. faces. Scholarship funds are particularly good at empowering different minority groups, but more needs to be done. I’m certain there are ways to solve wealth inequality beyond providing scholarships and grants.”

Kamil Fadel ’17 (Photo by Scott Cook) Kamil Fadel ’17 (Photo by Scott Cook)

Why is social entrepreneurship growing in popularity among Millennials? “Our generation is the most exposed to foreign ideas and people and culture, especially through the internet and social media. We’ve grown up in a generation that’s enjoyed the benefits of desegregation of schools and communities, and that’s allowed us to be exposed to this rich cornucopia of America. We’ve also become increasingly aware of how things can go wrong. Our generation finds itself at the fork in the road of a world that aims toward tolerance and egalitarianism and a world of increasing hostility and division. We stand on the precipice of finding a way to address things before they become seriously problematic.”

You turned down an Ivy League school to go to Rollins. Why? “At Rollins, an aggressive pursuit of your future goes the farthest. You’ve got tiny class sizes and professors extremely close to campus. When you need a professor, they are there for you—they respond to your emails, they’ll meet you in their office and invite you to their house for coffee. The professors here are so accomplished and accessible. You have the ability to build relationships with true experts in their field.”

Any advice for prospective students and their parents? “Rollins has a great curriculum if you don’t know right away what you want to study. That’s why a liberal arts education is fantastic—you can pick up several different passions. For me it was engineering and then law before deciding on international business. All these things excited me. Go to a school where professors are invested in your future, and they’ll empower you to the greatest degree.”

What’s your favorite Rollins memory? “My freshman year I facilitated an alternative spring break to Nashville, and I was the youngest leader they had ever hired. It was the best feeling on the drive back, with everyone asleep in the back of the Tahoe, that sense of accomplishment, that feeling that I did it and nothing went wrong. I had explored a topic I knew nothing about—alternative therapies like music, pets, and horseback riding—and it gave me a lot of confidence to keep working really hard and be aggressive in attaining the things from Rollins I wanted to attain.”

Who are your favorite professors? “Richard Lewin for introducing me to finance in a way that made it more than just numbers, and for showing me that finance has the power to change the world; Eric Smaw for teaching me how to speak and think; and Eren Tatari for putting it all together and teaching me how to think, argue, and refine my goals so I never forget the fundamental reasons I do what I do.”