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Photo from Morris Cohen

Over winter break, 20 Penn students in the Operations strategy course OIDD 380 will head to Israel to visit some of the biggest companies in the "startup nation."

The class, taught by Operations professor Morris Cohen, focuses on how companies manufacture products and deliver services to a global market. It consists of a series of lectures and case studies throughout the semester before culminating in the 10-day Israel visit, which will allow students to visit major companies and experience the country's culture.

This is only the second time the application-based course is available for undergraduate students. It was originally an MBA-level course that would visit companies in Seattle, such as Amazon and Starbucks, as well as Germany, Silicon Valley, and Tijuana, Mexico.

Wharton senior Savi Joshi, who took the class last year and is now a TA, said the course was rewarding for its global perspective.

“Coming from the U.S. where you have Silicon Valley and Bay area, you kind of forget that there are other hubs outside the U.S. that are doing the same thing,” Joshi said. “A lot of people forget about other parts of the world that are growing, and one of those is Israel.”

Joshi added that walking through the plants and factories of these companies helped her recognize how the concepts in the classroom play out in reality. “You learn the theory. Now you see the practice."

The students will visit approximately 11 companies, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, the biggest company in Israel, Netafim, the originator of drip irrigation, SodaStream, a carbonated water machine maker, and Innoviz, a leader in autonomous vehicle software. 

The cultural experience was also significant for Joshi. “Israeli culture is a huge part of Penn, but I’ve never been to Israel. It was all just talk for me," Joshi said. "Learning what that meant is really important."

As part of this cultural experience, Penn students will also work with a group of Israeli students from the Arison School of Business who are taking a similar version of the course to evaluate the companies they visit together. During the trip, students will experience the country's culture by celebrating New Year’s Eve in Israel, visiting the Dead Sea, and having Shabbat dinner at a rabbi’s house.

Rhea Vasani, a Wharton junior in the class, has never visited the country and is excited about seeing how the companies she has read about have evolved since the case studies. 

Vasani also saw the course as an opportunity to travel without a long-term commitment. “Instead of taking a semester abroad, which would be difficult to do with all the classes I have to take, I always look for these kind of opportunities where I can go for a week or two weeks,” Vasani said. 

Many students who go on the trip say the country and experience is not what they expected, Cohen said.

“I think that’s the takeaway," he said. “You should have an open mind and realize that everywhere in the world people are thinking about how to win, how to compete, and there’s a lot to be learned from a lot of these places.”

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