Alumni Service Stories
Shanshan He, Class of 2019-2020
On the last day of one of our scholar-organized Deep Dives, I was on my way from Beijing back home and read the shocking news on my phone that Wuhan would be shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak. My hometown province of Sichuan, next to Hubei province, was basically in lockdown as well. The first two weeks were tough. Our community was under quarantine, and we were only allowed to go out and buy supplies once every two days. Everything in the media was about the virus – the growing number, the individuals’ stories in the pandemic, and the challenges to save lives. It was a dark time, and the Schwartzman community brought me some light! I received many calls from friends asking if I needed any support. Melissa Diamond, one of our Scholars, organized a collection of notes from the whole fourth cohort, expressing their love and support to everyone in China. Samuel Curtis, who mobilized the knowledge and resources in the community to build local COVID-19 response projects, inspired and motivated me to explore ways to contribute to this battle. I was helping to facilitate knowledge and experience exchange between different organizations home and abroad. Then, I was contacted by my previous supervisor at a health organization, asking if I would like to volunteer to translate some WHO guidelines on epidemic control; I said yes and they were later published on the China CDC website. I didn’t expect the last time when I said “see you back in the College” to my fellow Scholars would be a farewell message for a while. Still, I believe, as the Schwarzman Alumni, we are always here for each other and for the greater good!
Jack Huebner, Class of 2017-2018
When I think back to my time in Beijing, what often stands out in my memory is the sound of the college’s lobby. There was always a conversation being had with a visiting guest about their lecture, or about a new take on a longstanding issue. I can’t tell you how many times my point of view changed or a conversation added nuance to my views. My classmates, with their backgrounds as investors, engineers, and policy wonks, showed me new ways to approach and solve problems.
Up until Schwarzman, I had always been an unorthodox premedical student. However even then, I had spent four years preparing to enter medicine, a culture steeped in tradition and convention, and had cultivated a certain way of thinking. My Schwarzman experience brought encouragement to do something different. More recently, during these troubling times, I have been both buoyed and inspired by my Schwarzman family as they mobilized to provide healthcare supplies, and essential support to their own communities. In NYC throughout the spring, I tried to do my part. I volunteered with an upstart 3D printing operation producing face shields for frontline workers. Having no engineering experience, I offered what I could fashioning together the 3D-printed elements of the shield with repurposed supplies. With no subway or bike at hand, I ran the five miles to and from our workroom. When I was not there, I helped source PPE donations from local businesses around the city. Throughout the worst of the crisis, we shared ideas, contacts, and advice for those not yet in the eye of the storm.
As the pandemic has spread, it has become evident that COVID-19 not only presents an immense epidemiological challenge in stemming it spreads or clinical problem in treating its complications; it is also a daunting research, implementation, and public relations problem. It’s more than a doctor or an epidemiologist can do alone, it takes a village – something Schwarzman has shown me again and again.
Namit Choksi, Class of 2018-2019
I graduated from Schwarzman Scholars in 2019 and spending a year with a bunch of incredible individuals has changed my life in more ways than one. My interactions with fellow Scholars from around the world broadened my world-view and helped me craft my life’s narrative. I’ve learnt more from late night conversations and over meals than I have anywhere else.
Schwarzman College is a place where we are taught not how to write answers but how to ask questions, it’s a place we learn not from books but via actions of our colleagues and faculty, where we strive not for good grades but for goodness and empathy. It’s a place where our differences give us distinction, where our diversity gives us strength and where our ignorance is our knowledge.
Through my mentor at Schwarzman, I was able to step into the fascinating world of venture capital and look at/invest in cutting edge medical technologies that would help India bridge gaps in healthcare access.
Currently, I have taken a break from my career in healthcare investing to get back on ground zero to make meaningful contributions to the community as all of us work together to overcome the worst pandemic in our lifetimes. It is also because I’ve found what keeps me up at night and I want to work tirelessly to change it.
Being on the frontlines fighting the SARS-CoV2 pandemic in India has given me an immense sense of personal satisfaction as I work alongside a talented team caring for my fellow citizens. In addition, I am also working alongside the Indian Council of Medical Research on Asia’s largest plasma therapy clinical trial (a treatment that could potentially be a game changer and the gold standard of care for the disease).
I am now using the skills/concepts I learnt at Harvard and in Schwarzman College Professor Howitt’s class in real time as I help the government with Surge Response, Capacity Building, and Operations to overcome this virus.