Home Region

Home Region

Lebanon

Undergrad Education

Undergrad Education

American University of Beirut, Engineering, 2015

Previous Experience

Previous Experience

Boston Consulting Group, Strategy& (formerly Booz & Co.), Visual Artist (self-employed)

“Through HBS, you can discover more of your own identity; who you are vis-a-vis the world.”

Like many HBS students, Yazan Halwani has a resume that includes a branch of experience within the consulting industry; in Yazan’s case, two-and-a-half years focused on investing with the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Funds.

But the record of Yazan’s experience also includes a tree with branches that reach deep into the history of his home country, Lebanon. The Memory Tree is one of many public artworks Yazan has created, a ~20 foot sculpture intended to serve as a witness to the 1915-18 famine; as one approaches the sculpture, the autumnal bronze “leaves” turn out to be elements of Arab calligraphy, suggesting the voices of victims who can no longer speak.

“A lot of my work explores Lebanon’s history,” Yazan says. “There’s no consensus on our history since 1975 [the start of the Lebanese Civil War, 1975-90], which creates a weak public memory.” To provoke that memory, Yazan creates art based on the region’s visual and cultural elements, such as calligraphy. In 2017, for example, he painted a mural for the M.I.T. Media Lab’s “Defiance” event. Constructed once again of calligraphy, the mural represents a young Lebanese woman in a hijab defying social convention by riding a scooter. “It’s so simple yet so controversial,” says Yazan. “But the real story behind the image is a woman breaking the rules to support her family.”

Expanding his impact

Yazan wanted an MBA “to bring the pieces together. I have different parallel interests that I want to consolidate to have more impact.” HBS became his top choice, in part because of its relative proximity to the New York art scene, but largely because of its “network of people for support, and to refine ideas,” and for the case method. “Case study provides a nice ground for sharpening your ideas,” Yazan says, who views his MBA as an opportunity to address “the big questions that drive my interests.”

“How do you make art more pervasive, more democratic?” he asks. “How do you reach an audience, even when they pass your art for about 20 seconds on the street?” Reflecting on the needs of Lebanon itself, Yazan observes, “The industry is not sustainable for artists. There’s a lot of room to change the way artists are funded at the macro-level itself.”

HBS has “made me more aware of how my eclectic background can bring value to the world,” he says. “It’s a humbling experience. You think you know a lot of stuff – then you discover how much you can learn through a simple conversation with your peers. Through HBS, you can discover more of your own identity: who you are vis-a-vis the world.”

Yazan is still considering his options for the future – perhaps more focus on his art, perhaps a startup related to the arts. Eventually, he would like to return his attention to the Middle East. “I don’t have one clear direction,” Yazan says, “but many options. HBS gives you room for spontaneity. It’s organic – you can be more patient, more reflective.”