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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May 8, 2003

Former Israeli Combat Commander Finds New Start in Vancouver

For commerce grad, teamwork is a transferable skill.

By Erica Smishek

Five years as an officer in the Israeli Defense Force taught Nir Kushnir valuable lessons about teamwork, lessons that have served him well as a Commerce student and a future business leader.

“In the military, you really learn how to work in teams and how to develop your interpersonal skills,” says Kushnir, who will graduate with a BCom in Management Information Systems. “The power and control are not coming from your rank but who you are and your ability to lead and motivate and interact with people.”

At age 18, all Israelis must complete a three-year stint in the Defense Force. Kushnir served two additional years and commanded an 80-person combat unit, but says that he, like most Israelis, does not view the military as a profession.

“You do the best you can,” he explains. “I knew I had to participate so I took part with my moral standards. You can influence people and make sure what you believe in comes through.”

Born in Tel Aviv, the affable and assured 29-year-old attended business school part time and worked in marketing and telecommunications before deciding to pursue a degree at UBC. He visited Vancouver in May 2001, met with International Student Recruitment and Advising, wrote the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and returned in August once accepted.

Kushnir relied on collaboration to meet the challenges of being an older student in a “very competitive faculty.”

“Teamwork is huge. You have to rely on your friends. I really tried to help other people on the team to achieve synergy. If you try to do everything yourself, you won’t achieve anything.”
In addition to Commerce courses, he studied political science and history to gain some balance and perspective.

“University is a great place to learn to tolerate other positions,” he says. “And it is a great place to meet people from all over the world. I met some Palestinians and had academic discussions of everyday problems that affect our lives.

“In Israel, you don’t learn history from an objective point of view. You can’t take a step back. Here, people still have emotions and problems but you can listen to people analyze things and get a different perspective. It changes your attitude.”

Kushnir, now an avid snowboarder and long distance runner (he participated in this year’s Vancouver Marathon), is currently exploring job opportunities with a large private company in the Lower Mainland.

“It is easy to start your life here. Vancouver is a multicultural place. People you meet have all come here from elsewhere. I see opportunity for work and my career.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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