Meet the Graduate: Wendy Chu

05/03/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Wendy Chu SSH'15 poses for a portrait on May 3, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

05/03/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Wendy Chu SSH'16 poses for a portrait on May 3, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Wendy Chu chose to attend North­eastern because she felt the uni­ver­sity “stretched the def­i­n­i­tion of col­lege stu­dent.” Even though she had always been inter­ested in public ser­vice and social impact, North­eastern helped her find oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­duct research, engage with the com­mu­nity, gain real-​​world work expe­ri­ence on co-​​op, and dis­cover new coun­tries and cul­tures abroad.

Four years later, Chu, SSH’16, is a grad­u­ating senior with a bachelor’s degree in polit­ical sci­ence and eco­nomics, and she says that coming to North­eastern was the best deci­sion she’s ever made. A Uni­ver­sity Scholar, her many accom­plish­ments include a co-​​op at a White House ini­tia­tive, working across student-​​led and tech star­tups, studying on Dia­logues in China and the Nether­lands, and serving as a mag­a­zine editor of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Polit­ical Review.

This fall, Chu will attend Har­vard Law School, where she will explore her inter­ests in the fed­eral reg­u­la­tory system. And this summer, she’ll be par­tic­i­pating in another Dia­logue program—this one in India—focused on studying cli­mate change sci­ence and policy. Here, she reflects on her North­eastern expe­ri­ence and what’s next.

At North­eastern, you’ve par­tic­i­pated in Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­grams in China and the Nether­lands and spent an Alter­na­tive Spring Break in Costa Rica. How have your global expe­ri­ences shaped your North­eastern experience?

I’ve had the amazing oppor­tu­nity to travel across three con­ti­nents through the uni­ver­sity. Ulti­mately, the global oppor­tu­ni­ties have rooted me with a better under­standing of how public policy and gov­er­nance affect dif­ferent cul­tures and soci­eties. In China, I became fas­ci­nated by how NGOs were uniquely shaped by the state—and by the polit­ical the­o­ries that underpin our con­ven­tional under­standing of civil society. After the Dia­logue, I fur­ther explored that rela­tion­ship as a research intern at Har­vard Busi­ness School. It was an incred­ible expe­ri­ence that I wouldn’t have had without that Dia­logue. It really helped open doors for me—perhaps one of the major rea­sons I was able to co-​​op at the White House Ini­tia­tive on Asian Amer­i­cans and Pacific Islanders.

Describe that first co-​​op expe­ri­ence, and what it meant to you.

My co-​​op was in D.C. working for the White House Ini­tia­tive on Asian Amer­i­cans and Pacific Islanders. The expe­ri­ence absolutely changed my life. We worked across 24 gov­ern­ment agen­cies to facil­i­tate increased access to and par­tic­i­pa­tion in fed­eral pro­grams for under­served Asian Amer­i­cans and Pacific Islanders. It was a daunting mis­sion for our small cohort of about 15—the staff and interns were kept busy, to say the least. I was able to work on fas­ci­nating projects across the initiative’s data lib­er­a­tion, small busi­ness devel­op­ment, and non­profit capacity-​​building port­fo­lios. I even helped author Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion Arne Duncan’s briefing papers for his visit to Hawaii. This co-​​op showed me how exec­u­tive authority and dis­cre­tion can affect gov­ern­mental impact. I knew then that I wanted to work within the gov­ern­ment to make good happen.

After D.C., I par­tic­i­pated in a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions in the Nether­lands, where we studied sus­tain­able urban trans­porta­tion design. It was a civil engi­neering Dia­logue where we exam­ined mul­ti­modal street lay­outs and low-​​stress bikeway design. As a polit­ical sci­ence stu­dent, I was espe­cially inter­ested in how tech­no­cratic reg­u­la­tions enabled trans­porta­tion sys­tems that made biking, walking, and transit attrac­tive. On that Dia­logue, I began to under­stand that seem­ingly non­par­tisan reg­u­la­tions had polit­ical roots. The expe­ri­ence fur­thered my interest in admin­is­tra­tive law—something that I’ll be exploring at Harvard.

Can you elab­o­rate on your thoughts about begin­ning law school and what you plan to study?

I’ll be starting at Har­vard Law School this fall. My pro­fes­sional inter­ests lie in the fed­eral reg­u­la­tory system—I want to work in the exec­u­tive branch to get stuff done. At Har­vard, I’ll be studying admin­is­tra­tive law; ide­ally, my JD will allow me to draft cohe­sive tech­no­cratic reg­u­la­tions and align them with choice archi­tec­ture prin­ci­ples. This would marry my interest in behav­ioral eco­nomics with my interest in law and public policy. Ulti­mately, of course, I’m not quite sure where I’ll end up—which is part of the fun. I’m tremen­dously excited about exploring as much as I can at Harvard.

You’ve also seen Northeastern’s entre­pre­neurial ecosystem at work, having worked at the IDEA ven­ture New Grounds Food. How did that oppor­tu­nity unfold?

After my co-​​op at the White House Ini­tia­tive on Asian Amer­i­cans and Pacific Islanders, I real­ized two things: that I wanted to return to gov­ern­ment, and that truly valu­able ser­vants think boldly, cre­atively, and broadly. I made the con­scious deci­sion to work out­side of the public sector in order to develop a unique skill set, under­stand what drives impact, and learn how good teams work. To that end, I decided to delve into the startup scene. I joined Northeastern’s vibrant entre­pre­neurial scene—one of the university’s incred­ible strengths. Through the (what was then called) the Entre­pre­neur­ship Immer­sion Pro­gram, I con­nected with New Grounds Food, an IDEA-​​backed startup. I joined as the mar­keting director as its Kick­starter cam­paign took off.

While there, I designed a three-​​pronged mar­keting strategy and worked with national media out­lets like Oprah Mag­a­zine. At New Grounds Food, I was able to set my own agenda: I iden­ti­fied strategic gaps in the mar­keting plan, crafted projects to fill those gaps, and then exe­cuted the solu­tions. Having the freedom to set your own tasks is lib­er­ating and intel­lec­tu­ally sat­is­fying. New Grounds Food was an incred­ible place to build my skills.

What will you remember most about your North­eastern experience?

I’ll remember how much I was able to explore as an under­grad­uate. I came to North­eastern because I was impressed with how much I could stretch the def­i­n­i­tion of a col­lege stu­dent. I thought that freedom would chal­lenge me into becoming a better person—and I was right. Over the past four years, I’ve briefed the sec­re­tary of edu­ca­tion, sup­ported the public rela­tions front for a 440 percent-​​funded Kick­starter cam­paign, con­structed street design inter­ven­tions in the Nether­lands, and worked on a finan­cial tech­nology startup’s product devel­op­ment team to con­struct the busi­ness case for our launch. I think I’ll remember that any­thing felt pos­sible here.

This article originally appeared on news@Northeastern.