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World-Traveling Alumnus

Alumnus Philip Capone, Founder of Meru Global, on Honors and Experiences Abroad

Alumnus Philip Capone, now a Baton Rouge local again, has the distinction of being the first LSU Honors student selected for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) in 2008. The CLS afforded Capone the opportunity to travel. 

“There was always an interest to travel the world,” Capone said. “There just wasn’t always the means.”

Born in Mobile, Alabama to parents hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Capone jokes that he is “first-generation South.”

Capone began LSU in 2003, arriving at the Honors College with a comprehensive academic scholarship.

“The Honors College provides you with the flexibility of access,” Capone explained.

Capone claims he was introverted as a freshman, but dove into his classes when he recognized a passion for learning. Though he initially selected engineering as his major, Capone found himself in an honors calculus course that changed his mind.

“The class was with a gentleman who was viciously smart,” Capone said. “It was very challenging, so I made a decision to move away from engineering. I was kind of finding my way through what I wanted to do, and that experience was intense. Then I moved into business.”

Specifically, Capone moved from engineering to business, then to accounting, and finally to finance toward the end. He graduated with a concentration in the investment side of finance. 

His move, he found, paid off. One of his professors took his investment class on a trip to New York City.

“That kind of was the inspiration to move to the investment management track and find a way to get to New York at some point,” Capone explained.

He also had the chance to work with the business college in the Entrepreneurship Department. His student job involved reviewing business plans and helping faculty with their responsibilities running certain classes. Capone even got to attend international trips with the MBA school to Ecuador and China.

Upon graduation Capone moved to New Orleans to work at an investment bank doing research. Nevertheless, what Capone refers to as the “seed” for exploration had been planted, and he was inspired to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship to go to Tunis, Tunisia in the summer of 2008.

He had, at that point, only received what he described as a taste of international travel with his experiences in Ecuador and China. Capone also fondly remembers Associate Dean Ann Holmes’ Ancient Western Civilization course as inspiring him to see other parts of the world.

“It was a pretty challenging class,” he said. “I may not have academically taken a lot of classes like that after the obligatory first year, but the seeds were there after college, and that kind of put me on the track to get the fellowship with the State Department.”

Capone received the CLS and promptly quit his job.

“It was the first job that I ever quit out of college, which is the exact opposite of what your parents want you to do,” he said ruefully.

The CLS program involved around 40 students in different stages of the learning curve of a foreign language spending a summer of immersion in a specific country. Capone studied Arabic in Tunisia, taking full-time courses Monday through Friday. According to Capone, it was similar to a college experience – except in Tunis.  

"Part of the program is exposure to the culture,” he explained. “On the weekends, we were placed in local homes to kind of appreciate the Tunisian culture."

By all accounts, Capone had an incredible experience, one that he took with him when he eventually ended up working in finance in New York City. Capone has since traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Peru, Canada, and the United Kingdom – adventures that began with the opportunity to step into a different culture.

Now, Capone has moved back to Baton Rouge as founder and CEO of Meru Global Technologies, located at LSU Innovation Park.

At the end of the day, Capone explained that traveling and seeing the world is a wonderful opportunity, but that you can’t take it for granted – you must continue to learn every step of the way.

“You can only lean on your college resume for so long,” he said. “You must continue to learn. Even if you find success, always be self-improving.”