International Student Table for Advocacy & Relations


The International Student Table for Advocacy & Relations (ISTAR) works closely with ISSS and is a partnership of different student organizations, both undergraduate and graduate, with a mission to advocate and provide a unified voice for all international students at Penn.

ISTAR comprises representatives from the following student organizations:

  • International Student Advisory Board (ISAB)

  • Assembly of International Students (AIS)

  • Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) International Affairs

  • Undergraduate Assembly (UA)

ISTAR is coordinated by ISSS. For any questions about ISTAR, please contact:

Rudie Altamirano, Director of ISSS

Neeraj Chandrasekar

Neeraj is a junior in Wharton studying Finance and Business Analytics. Although he was born in Chennai, India, Neeraj spent most of his childhood in Bahrain, and went to high school in Qatar and Singapore, where he currently lives. Outside of AIS, Neeraj is involved in Penn Microfinance and 180 Degrees Consulting. He is also an RA in Fisher Hassenfeld. Neeraj loves to cook and explore the city. 



James Goh

James is a sophomore from Singapore, studying Economics at the College of Arts and Sciences. He served about two years in the military as an Infantry Lieutenant before coming to college, having trained in jungle and urban warfare missions in Singapore, Brunei, and Taiwan. Having to adjust from the military to school life, he understand the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and making new friends. Through ISTAR, he hopes to make student life more enriching for all international students, through the organization of more social activities, more interactions between different cultural groups and raising awareness about the cultural diversity at Penn. In addition, he is also interested in economics, public policy, and international development, and is actively involved in numerous social impact consulting clubs at Penn, serving clients that range from Cambodia to Nigeria.


Mahvish Ilyas

Mahvish is a student of Masters in Environmental Studies (MES) with concentration in Environmental Policy at School of Arts and Sciences. She was born and brought up in Pakistan. Before joining UPenn she was working with WWF-Pakistan as the head of Green School Programme which is one of WWF-Pakistan’s largest environmental education and youth engagement initiatives. She was also working on an international assignment in a multicultural setting as the WWF Asia Pacific Growth Strategy (APGS) Information and Knowledge Management Coordinator. Her role at APGS required close coordination with a network of 23 Asia Pacific countries as well as communicating with other WWF Network offices. Mahvish is passionate about traveling and exploring new cultures and cuisines. 

Lina Qostal

Lina is the current Undergraduate Chair of the International Student Advisory Board and has been a member since Fall 2015. She is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, intending to major in Philosophy, Political Science and Economics. She was born and raised in Morocco, coming to the United States for the first time her freshman year. Her native languages are Arabic and French and she enjoys learning about new cultures. Before coming to Penn, Lina's commitment to Tennis allowed her to travel to many countries, especially in Europe and Africa, and compete against some of the best junior tennis players in the world. She is now representing Penn on the Women's Varsity Tennis Team. Her passion and dedication to helping others have led her to engage in activities such as tutoring and mentoring. Now, she wants to use her own experience as an international student to help bring Penn's international community closer together and to improve the transition of international students to life at Penn and in the United States.

Maher Abdel Samad

Maher is a freshman from Lebanon, studying Systems Science and Engineering. Maher hails from a rich culture defined by diversity and coexistence: Lebanon’s 18 different religious groups and dozens of ethnic groups all live in an area 11 times smaller than Pennsylvania. He serves as the Executive Vice President of the Freshman Class Board and sits on the Undergraduate Assembly’s Social Justice Committee. Through the UA, he hopes to make tangible positive changes to the lives of students not traditionally represented in Student Government at Penn such as International Students. In addition, he is also interested in international development, financial systems, and operational efficiency. He’s also a big champion of the Penn spirit, as he’s involved with the Kite and Key Society and works closely with Penn Traditions.

David Socol

David Uriel Socol de la Osa is an internationally trained lawyer. He has a dual degree in law and political science from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, having also attended the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Texas School of Law as an international student. He has experience both in the public and private sector - having contributed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Spain, both in central services and the Consulate General in New York; as well as firms like Baker & McKenzie. He was born in Spain, though he holds an Argentinian passport. His family migrated to Argentina during the Holocaust from the Slavic countries. He has competed in basketball at a high level, and is an avid musician. Here at Penn, David is on the board for Penn Law's International Human Rights Advocates, is an International Associate Editor for the Journal of International Law, and is the founder and president of the Mixed Martial Arts Club.

Eva Zhang

Eva is a sophomore studying International Relations and Business Analytics, minoring in Art History. Born and raised in Beijing, she attended high school in Connecticut. At Penn, she is involved in the Assembly of International Students, the International Affairs Association, and Wharton China Association. Eva enjoys horseback riding, traveling, and exploring different cultures through food or arts.