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Learning to Practice Philanthropy and Good Citizenship as Means to Conquer Poverty

"Taking Poverty 101 and subsequent classes made me realize that there are many facets of poverty and many ways to help those in need."

“Taking Poverty 101 and subsequent classes made me realize that there are many facets of poverty and many ways to help those in need.”

Ms. Siu graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and German, a Bachelor of Science in Business, and a minor in Poverty and Human Capability. She currently lives in Chicago and works for Accenture Strategy as an M&A Consultant.

It’s Friday morning and I’m in an Uber from my client site where I’ve been helping a mid-sized pharmaceutical company with its acquisition of a smaller company. I’m en route to my firm’s office in downtown Chicago, and a day of meetings with candidates from my business school alma mater, Kellogg at Northwestern University, who are interested in joining my group at Accenture. I’m talking with my Uber driver about how to attack the root causes of violence in our city rather than addressing its symptoms. We agree that the long-term nature of addressing root causes such as lack of consistently high-quality education, the cycle of poverty, and lax gun control laws are enough to make many politicians shy away from tackling these issues head on.

This is the essence of how my education through the Shepherd Program has impacted me, and why I’m passionate about supporting the program in any way I can.

While in my day-to-day job as an M&A Strategy consultant my passion for the eradication of poverty isn’t evident, it comes through in my conversations with colleagues, friends, and taxi drivers, for example. And I hope that this is not the culmination: years ago, at a dinner during our Spring Break Service League trip, when asked what we wanted to be when we grow up, I said I wanted to be a philanthropist. I wanted to build up my professional skills to give forward in meaningful ways, whether that meant using the skills acquired at work to help further non-profits’ missions (something I try to do by serving on the Board of Urban Upbound, the non-profit where I spent my Shepherd internship) or with in-kind or monetary gifts.

When I came to Washington & Lee, I wanted to be a lawyer, and was full of optimism that I could become an idealistic justice-fighter featured in one of the many John Grisham novels I had read during my teenage years. Taking Poverty 101 and subsequent classes made me realize that there are many facets of poverty and many ways to help those in need. My Shepherd Internship at Urban Upbound (previously the East River Development Alliance) made me realize that as non-profits strive toward efficiency and effectiveness, a healthy dose of business acumen can benefit them. Wanting to continue studying poverty and welfare policies abroad post-W&L, I set my sights on a post-graduate fellowship and won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study social welfare in Hong Kong for a year. I came back to what some might say is the exact opposite experience – an Internal Audit position at Goldman Sachs. I found though, that while I was at Goldman, I was able to support non-profits not only financially, but also by spreading awareness of organizations’ goals and missions, and providing in-kind services using the skills honed at my job. Since then, I have gone to business school and am now a few years into my Strategy Consulting career. I hope that the problem-solving skills I am honing will help to eradicate poverty in a meaningful way in the future.

I have been able to contribute via my position with Urban Upbound and my participation in the Shepherd Program Alumni Advisory Committee at Washington and Lee, a committee on which I have served for five years. I have also been involved in funding the endowment for the Shepherd Program. I became involved in this work because I want more students to graduate with an in-depth knowledge of poverty. These are the citizens and professionals who will be involved in the fight beside me to eradicate poverty in both direct and indirect ways.


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