University of Southern California

Waseem Samaan
Planning a Career of Public Service
Meet me on LinkedIn
Meet me on Facebook
Undergrad Institution
Oakland University
Oakland, Michigan

A top 10 program

After graduating from Oakland University in Michigan, Waseem Samaan knew he wanted to pursue Master of Accounting at a leading institution. He applied to the top 10 programs, gaining admittance—and scholarships—to each.

“USC really stood out,” he says. “It has one of the best accounting schools in the nation. Everyone here is friendly. Whatever you need help with, someone is there. And I also wanted diversity—from the people at the university to the clientele at the accounting firms.” USC and Southern California offered that—and two more factors important to him: climate and location. “I love the weather here,” he says.

Another key factor in his decision was sitting in on Professor John Owens class on Strategy and Operations Through the CFO Lens. “I thought it was really unique because they brought CFOs from these Fortune 500 companies to speak with us,” says Waseem. “I thought that was amazing.”

Favorite courses

Since the CFO Lens course contributed to his choice of USC Leventhal for his master’s program, it’s no surprise that it turned out to be one of his favorites.

“You had CFOs from Mattel and Disney come in,” he says. “Some people who work at those companies never get to meet the CFO, and, as students, we got to interact with them and give them our perspective.” Waseem found it especially gratifying to pose an idea to the Getty Trust CFO about how revenues could be increased to pay down debt without pushing those costs on to the customer.

He says the class he learned the most from was Theory, Research and Policy, taught by Robert Roussey. “It was the most challenging and we had something like 10 papers to write,” Waseem recalls. “The professor really cared about his students. On the last day of class, he did a slide show on the top 10 lessons we should take away, and that was probably the most I learned from any class. It was about how to be successful in life and how to be successful as an accountant.”

That level of caring is what really impressed Waseem about the faculty. “They make time for their students, no matter what, whether it’s night or morning.”

Doing well to do good

Waseem believes profoundly in helping others, which is one of the main reasons he was attracted to the accounting profession and hopes to work his way up to partner. “Accounting firms are very active in the community and I want to eventually make money so I can donate it,” he explains. In addition to becoming a philanthropist, an even higher “extreme long-term” goal is a seat in the United States Senate. “In the Senate, you’re pretty powerful and you can help a lot of people all at once,” he says.

He’s already made one inroad regarding his political ambition—he got to meet and be on stage with President Obama during his visit to USC in spring 2011. “I thought I’d use the skills I learned in the program to talk my way through it. I was just committed, and with commitment comes everything. I talked to the head of the Secret Service and volunteered to be in charge of the VIP line.” Waseem got to meet the governor, the mayor and the senators. “And a week later I got a conference call from the White House when he thanked all the volunteers.”

During the intensive one-year master’s program, Waseem also found time to be involved in numerous activities on campus, and even served as a teaching assistant and taught a class. “USC always has something happening. Whatever your passion, this university has it.”