Around the World with Artemis Koch
Artemis Koch wears many hats. She is a CPA, world operations traveler, and a university advisor.
E: Let’s start with some background. Describe what you do and how you arrived there.
A: I run the global operations office at the University of Pennsylvania, assisting with travel logistics and operational needs for all global activities such as study abroad, research, and other activities the university engages in outside the U.S. During my studies in accounting, I never would have imagined myself working in global higher education. Before coming to Penn, I worked as a CPA and tax consultant for a public accounting firm. Five years in, I went into a specialty practice that addressed international tax and global mobility issues such as compensation, benefits, and general international HR.
I found myself gravitating more toward the people services, especially when that meant working with people of different cultures and countries.”
E: Do you travel often?
A: I go on one or two big trips each year. The university sends me to potential or existing study abroad and research locations to assess the safety and operational risks. Making sure the students are entering a safe environment and ensuring Penn has the tools to operate effectively in the location is one of my favorite things to do!
Recently, I visited a large medical research program that University of Pennsylvania operates in Botswana. I was there to look at the site for health and safety in the surrounding areas. Students in this program travel to community clinics and get to see all parts of Botswana while gaining clinical experience in both rural and urban areas. I did a similar exercise in Guatemala with several partner institutions reviewing agreements partnerships with them. This program was incredibly remote by a large beautiful lake, surrounded by active volcanoes. To get to each of the towns in the lake region required small boat “taxis.”
In the next 6 months, I will go to India and perhaps China later in the spring!
E: How did you prepare for your role at the University of Pennsylvania?
A: The hardest part was that I was essentially creating the position and launching a cross-functional office, utilizing existing expertise, and infrastructure already scattered throughout Penn. The first task was to develop a system for travel risk assessment.
Our office is pretty small since we are so cross-functional. I did outreach all over the university at the beginning to learn where the global expertise already existed. This knowledge allowed me to create a committee for global incident management, mirroring the crisis management committees for domestic university issues. The GIMT (Global Incident Management Committee) consists of about 30 members who each weigh in as needed when we are confronted with a situation – they are “on call” to address their specific area such as financial aid, academic, and curriculum issues, as well as health, security, safety, legal, or operational needs.
E: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
It’s funny you should say that because I have a 20-year-old daughter! I would say not to be so set on your plans. Be flexible! It’s great to have long-term goals but if something unexpected comes up, say yes or seriously consider it – even if it wasn’t in your original “plan.” I used to be so set in my trajectory. I did love tax and accounting, but I could have left the client service business sooner. Ultimately, coming to Penn and being able to strategize from the inside of an organization, especially one as complex as a research university, was a step outside of my comfort zone that has taught me more and enhanced my skillset more than I could have imagined.
I also want to add that you can and will fail, or you will say yes and it isn’t a good move, but that could be the starting point for something else that is unexpected and tremendously rewarding in the long run.
E: Is there anything remarkable or unique about your daily routine?
A: I wouldn’t consider my routine totally unusual. I don’t like to be rushed in the morning so I will get up at 4:30 AM or 5:00 AM if I have a 7:00 AM meeting. Most times it’s a more reasonable hour but either way, I need 2 hours minimum. I like to read the news, exercise, or relax with coffee before starting my day.
E: What books do you gift most?
A: Malcom Gladwell books! – The Tipping Point and Outliers. I like that his writing style is so thought-provoking.
Contributor: Emily Zenthoefer