Scholar: Wendy Chu
Major: Political Science/Economics
Hometown: Woodside, NY
Co-op: Intern, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
With its experimental learning opportunities, Northeastern University stretches the definition of “college student.” I chose to attend Northeastern because its co-ops, Dialogues, and classes would challenge me into becoming a better person. When I arrived on campus, I only knew three things: 1) that I loved learning, 2) that I wanted to work in public service, and 3) that I would try to take advantage of every opportunity that the university afforded me.
As a freshman, I leapt at the chance to participate in the University Scholar Research Initiative and analyze incarceration policy. I had never conducted research before, although it did seem like an intimidating sort of activity. Our work blew me away – although I was taught that justice was blind and that laws were impartial, it was clear that executed policies had messy impacts. This, along with the Open Classroom lecture series and several advocacy conferences, convinced me to focus on public policy research.
With that in mind, I continued to apply my newfound analytical skills in unexpected ways. During that summer, I participated in a Chinese dialogue and studied the relationship between civil society organizations and the government; my interest directly led to a research internship with Harvard Business School. I also worked with University Scholars to draft a demographical profile of the South End for a non-profit.
These experiences led me to stumble into a co-op with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I was fascinated by the broad scope of its mission, which is to improve the quality of life for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population. I was curious about how the Initiative would approach this hefty goal, and also what role research would play in its strategy. With that in mind, I packed my bags and headed to Washington, DC!
Working at the Initiative was a surreal experience – we all moved quickly, from manning White House events to attending State Arrival ceremonies, and even to planning an event with Vice President Joe Biden as the keynote speaker! I worked with data liberation and disaggregation efforts to improve understanding about AAPI populations, helped establish and strengthen relationships between AAPI coalitions and the federal government, and thought deeply about increasing AAPI non-profit access to capacity-building resources. I helped coordinate our business communication efforts, which included monthly newsletters and targeted conference calls. I even conducted research and helped author the Secretary of Education’s briefing papers (all seven documents) and talking points for a trip to Hawaii. Not only did I improve my research and writing skills, but I also learned a lot about communications, strategic management, and federal government structure.
My time at the Initiative has taught me that truly valuable public servants think boldly, creatively, and broadly. The federal government has a truly broad mission, and it really needs enthusiastic people with diverse skill sets and fresh perspectives. I plan on spending my remaining two undergraduate years honing my research skills, pursuing my newfound interest in organizational strategy, and expanding my interdisciplinary knowledge base. I recently completed a civil engineering dialogue in the Netherlands, where I studied biking infrastructure and sustainable transportation design. I’m looking forward to spending my next year on campus. Thank you, Northeastern!