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Alumni Spotlights

Alumni Spotlights

When you hear the words “SAS alumni,” who comes to mind? Perhaps the shy young woman who found her voice in special needs education advocacy. Maybe the guy who changed his career from operating room doctor to fitness expert. Or, the young movie director who made waves at the Tribeca Film Festival. Their stories and voices highlight the SAS alumni experience. Click on any article below to read about how our alumni thrive.

Spotlights

Chloe Yee May '12 : Lessons from a Professional Artist

Meet Chloe Yee May ’12, formerly known as Chloe Chan, freelance artist who recently did some solo shows. From fine art to commercial work, this alumna is carving her way in the world as a professional artist. 

Trajectory since graduating from SAS:
Definitely always bettering myself as a person and also learning all the many ways I could potentially have a career in art & design. I threw myself fully into college life at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where it is truly an all-creative environment. I probably grew ten-fold in design knowledge within those four years. Nowadays, discovering and innovating are the two things I really focus on no matter what kind of job I take. Man, there’s so much I want to do!!

Lessons learned at SAS that have been especially meaningful in adult life:
It was within my SAS years that I had realized that hard work and ambition worked hand in hand. It sounds pretty basic, but you would be surprised how many people don’t actually act upon this mindset.

Hardest and the best parts about trekking a life path as an artist:
Hardest part? I’m always at war with myself. Art is such a personal thing, that making “good” work can sometimes come down to how you were feeling that day. I can definitely admit that I can be so critical of myself that it cripples my work. Best part? Being constantly re-inspired by discovering all the incredible art and design out there in the world. You really will never stop learning, no matter what age. 

Advice to young people interested in pursuing art:
No matter what field you end up in, always try to find a balance between making art for yourself and for others. When I was young, I made art for myself, as opposed to when I was at RISD, I was making art for my professors (sounds strange, but when you’re critiqued everyday this will happen). Now I’m at the phase where I’m finding that perfect in-between.

A bit about the work you see here:
There is definitely always a story behind each piece. Probably heavily influenced by how I felt that week, and trying to grow as an artist. I would say if you chronicled my work, you can see all the phases, haha. As of right now, I’m trying to get back that child-like wonderment in my work that I felt I had lost after transitioning out of RISD.

Follow me @cloyeemay if you want to see all the weird things I’m up to!

 

Johanna Tan '11: Her Commitment to Lifelong Learning

It’s safe to say that Johanna Tan ’11 has spent most of her life in the classroom. 

Originally from Singapore, Tan moved to Shanghai when she was 10 and attended SAS from grades 5 to 12. “I had teachers who encouraged me to make mistakes, challenged me to take risks, and celebrated my growth, no matter how big or small,” she recalls. 

It was this experience that inspired her to become an educator herself. “Every day, I looked forward to coming to school because it was a place I felt comfortable and safe in,” she says. “It’s no wonder that many SAS students are successful.”

One student she is referring to in particular is Nick Tsuar ’08 whom she met in the 6th grade. Little did she know at the time, they would date in college before becoming husband and wife. 

a一集100级After graduating from SAS Puxi, Johanna studied Elementary Education and History at Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts. She then participated in a special education teaching fellowship at the Bridge Boston Charter School. “I was able to spend that year learning about what it is like to be a teacher, especially one working in an urban school that serves a specific student population like my school does.”

a一集100级Tan now holds a master’s degree in Moderate Disabilities and is a fourth-grade teacher at the Bridge Boston Charter School.

Like any career, teaching has its challenges. Her day begins before the sun rises and finishes well after it sets. “When I come home, I usually still do work for hours – either planning and prepping for what's next, or I’m communicating with parents, or constantly thinking about my students and how to better teach them,” she says. While she will be the first to admit that she is always in teacher mode, Tan is learning to balance the personal and professional aspects of her life. 

a一集100级The joys of teaching always overshadow the challenges for Johanna. “Every day, I can count on something interesting to happen, especially with the students in my classroom and my interactions with them. When you are around 20 nine and ten-year-olds all the time, life is never dull! Every day when I wake up, I can never predict what will happen, even though most of my day follows the same schedule and routines.”

Above all else, Tan is focused on creating a learning environment similar to what sparked her growth while at SAS. “If [my students] are feeling discouraged about issues that have happened at home or with their friends or in their communities, I provide the space for honest conversations where they can talk about how they feel without judgment. In the end, it depends on what my students need, too. Some of them need someone to listen to them; some might want to hear a personal story from me that can connect to how they are feeling.”

a一集100级The role of educator is not a job—it is a lifestyle. When a teacher commits to this life, they commit to a journey of changing the world through instructing the leaders of tomorrow. This is the path that Johanna Tan has chosen; a path that she was destined for. 

Stephanie Yin '09: Her Journey from Start-up Employee to Start-up Owner

She walks into her office dressed in black from head to toe, which is the only colour you will find in her closet. According to Stephanie Yin '09, an all-black wardrobe channels her inner Steve Jobs and eliminates unnecessary choices in the morning. While Yin’s attire seems monotone, her life is far from dull. 

At the age of 27, Yin is the Chief Executive Officer of Fugazi Creative. Fugazi is a branding and content-creation company with clients such as Carrefour, Lanna Coffee, Spread the Bagel, and O&G Capital Management. Her journey to becoming her own boss before the age of 30 would take her around the world - and it started right here at SAS. 

In third grade, she convinced her parents that she should take French instead of Mandarin since she would have exposure to Chinese at home. It was this same persuasive attitude that gave Yin the courage to sway her parents’ decision to allow her to attend university in Paris. After all, she did a一集100级study French for 10 years.

Yin studied at the American University of Paris. “Attending AUP was eye-opening, magical at times, and something I would never trade,” she recalled. “After two years in Paris, I realized I wasn’t going at the pace I wanted, so I went back to the drawing board.”  

a一集100级Before she knew it, she was accepted to Northeastern University and headed to Boston.

At Northeastern she participated in a co-op at a music studio. This gave her a taste of real work and ultimately changed her professional goals. She went on to become a Content Marketing Manager for a New York-based contemporary arts start-up company after receiving her undergraduate degree.

After realizing her efforts did not match her gains at the start-up, Stephanie reluctantly returned to Shanghai. Her boss at the time saw this as an opportunity to expand the start-up and sought Yin’s guidance for setting up shop in Shanghai. She recruited a friend to help her. 

Little did Stephanie know at the time, this was her first step towards establishing herself as an entrepreneur. While exploring the value the start-up could gain from Shanghai, she recognized the value she could bring to businesses in the city. Yin eventually left the company and Fugazi Creative a一集100级was born. 

a一集100级According to Yin, “SAS  breeds independent thinkers and go-getters, while emphasizing teamwork,” she said. “As I gained more confidence as an adult, I found myself looking back at my time at SAS and extracting the positive attributes I admired about my peers and teachers. But beyond that, being at SAS contributed to my open-minded outlook, which can be applied in any setting or situation.”

Ben McGill ’08: From Northeast to the Far East

Ben McGill '08

a一集100级10 years after leaving Shanghai, Ben McGill ’08 moved back to the place where he had his fondest memories and found the courage to live his dream. 

McGill graduated from SAS Pudong in 2008 and is a member of the campus’s first graduating class of students who attended SAS Pudong for all four years of high school. Among other extracurricular activities, he was involved in Model UN and Habitat for Humanity. “I specifically remember my trip to the Philippines for Habitat for Humanity with some of my good friends and Ms. Bailey. We had a blast working and learning how to build houses for low-income families.”

McGill recalls the teachers who played influential roles in his life. He thanks Mr. Blair for pushing him out of his comfort zone, Ms. Bailey for her witty conversations and life-altering service learning trips, and Mr. Wild for his joking insights on literature.

a一集100级After SAS, McGill studied Marketing with a concentration in Chinese Language and Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he accepted an entry level position at Techtronic Industries then moved on to be a product manager at Milwaukee Tool. “Professionally, I would say SAS tells us to strive for the highest goals, whether to become a doctor, scientist, or business owner.” 

a一集100级 While he found himself moving up the corporate ladder, McGill was unfulfilled with the path he was taking. “This job, although great, was not what I originally set my mind on doing for the rest of my life, ” says McGill. With valuable educational and professional experiences behind him and a bright future in front of him, he set his sights on advancing his career in Shanghai.

In September 2018, McGill enrolled in a joint master’s program with Northeastern University and Jiaotong University. As he is undergoing this rigorous graduate program, he is also a product marketing manager for the education company Mad Science. While finding the balance between the roles of student and professional, these experiences will help him bring his ultimate goal to fruition. McGill wants to start his own company that bridges Chinese and English-speaking businesses together by providing unique marketing and translation services. 

 “Before you can run you need to learn how to walk,” he said. “So I must start with becoming fluent in my Chinese and affluent in my knowledge of the Chinese market place.”

From past endeavors to future plans, Ben shares what it means for him to truly live his dream. “To me, living my dream means living in the now. It’s important to follow our dreams and to achieve our goals but to me it is even more important to have fun while doing that. Not everything can happen overnight. We can only take one step at a time toward our goals and just make sure that we are moving in the right direction.”

If you find yourself having brunch in the French Concession, participating in an acro-yoga class, watching a Shanghai Dolphins rugby match on a sunny day or eating hot pot in Xujiahui, you’ll most likely run into Ben.  He also loves to read Harry Potter books. One quote he lives by is “It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. His academic and professional choices not only show us the type of person McGill is, but also how he is the master of his own destiny.

Cailin Lowry '10: Redefining the Voice and presence of Women in the Creative Industry One Project at a Time

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Carson Lee '07: From SAS to Nurse Practitioner

This year for International Nurse Day (May 12), we interviewed alumnus Carson Lee ’07 who has been a dedicated nurse practitioner for the past eight years. Join SAS in thanking Lee and all nurses who prioritize the health and well-being of their patients, no matter the cost.

Shanghai American School (SAS): Tell me a little bit about yourself. 
Carson Lee (CL):a一集100级 My name is Carson Lee and I graduated from SAS in 2007. I have been working as a nurse ever since I graduated from New York University with my bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2011. I went on to complete my master’s degree on a part-time basis while working as a registered nurse at NYU’s orthopedic hospital. I am now working as nurse practitioner at one of the largest public outpatient clinics in New York City. 

SAS: Now, tell me something I won’t find in your biography. 
CL: a一集100级Freshman 15 is a real phenomenon, but for me it didn’t stop there. I went on to gain even more weight in college. At my peak, I weighed almost 300lbs and had started to require multiple medications to control my blood pressure. In 2015, as I was finishing up my master’s degree in nursing, I decided to make some drastic changes in my diet and lifestyle. I was able to lose almost 100lbs by following a strict diet and going to the gym on a regular basis. 

 

SAS: What inspired you to become a nurse? 
CL: a一集100级Honestly, I went into nursing because I was not sure what I wanted to do. I was actually a math major when I first started out at NYU. After doing some research, I learned how versatile a nursing degree could be. You could practice as a nurse in a variety of settings and roles. Besides the obvious path of providing direct patient care (which could also be in many different settings such as hospitals, clinics, or schools), you could also choose to become a nurse educator and teach other nurses. You could go into research. You could even go into nursing informatics, which is a role that combines computer science with nursing.

SAS: Describe a typical day in the life of Carson Lee. 
CL: I typically have 18-20 patients scheduled each day (10 patients in the morning then another 10 in the afternoon). As a nurse practitioner (a nurse who has an advanced degree in nursing such as a masters or doctorate degree) I am able to treat and manage conditions similarly to how your general medical doctor/practitioner would function. Patients come to see me for a variety of reasons ranging from acute complaints like headaches, chest pain, or a cough to more chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma. After work, you’ll find me working out at the gym or walking around the city catching Pokémon (yes, people still play Pokémon go… hopefully it gets released in China soon!!)

SAS: What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
CL: The most rewarding part of my job is getting to see patients get better and improve their health. I also work at a public/city clinic that provides care for an underserved community in NYC. A lot of my patients are either uninsured or are on Medicaid (insurance for low-income individuals). These patients tend to be extremely appreciative of the care they get at the clinic.

SAS: On the other hand, what aspects of being a nurse do you find the most challenging? 
CL: a一集100级Motivating patients to make a positive change in their life can be extremely challenging. For example, trying to help a patient who has been smoking cigarettes for over 40 years to quit smoking. But when you and your patient are successful, it can also be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. 

SAS: People say that medical practitioners tend to be the worst patients. Does this apply to you? 
CL:a一集100级 Unfortunately, I think it’s probably true—we do tend to be the worst patients. I haven’t seen my primary care provider in over a year! Although, I do try to follow the same medical advice I give my patients about diet and exercise.

SAS: What advice would you have for any current student/new alumnus who wants to be a nurse? 
CL: a一集100级There are a lot of different ways to go into nursing! If you are a current student who is considering nursing, I would definitely look into programs offering a bachelor’s degree in nursing (many facilities no longer hire associate degree nurses).If you are an alumnus and already have a bachelor’s degree in a different area, you can apply for an intensive “accelerated program” that typically takes only 12-15 months to complete. 

SAS: How would you define the term “live your dream”? Do you think you are living your dream? 
CL: Living your dream involves doing the things that you enjoy every single day. I definitely enjoy working as a nurse practitioner and I get to go home after work and spend time with the person I love. So, I guess, in a way, I am living my dream. 

Susan Ho '06: Her Business Journy, and Her Trailblazing Experiences as an Entrepreneur Woman in Tech.

a一集100级 : “I felt like, why is it that I am an internet savvy person and I took the time to research and plan, yet I couldn’t find the things that I was looking for? Something’s broken.” And the idea for her new business, Journy, was born. 

Ascent interview with alumna Susan Ho ’06

Susan, tell us about what you are up to these days.
I'm running my travel company, Journy (). We're a mobile app and web platform that pairs travelers with their own personal travel designer. We take care of hotel, activity, and restaurant bookings for our travelers using recommendations from a network of over 300 top chefs, sommeliers, and local experts. Travelers come to our site, fill out a questionnaire, and get paired 1-on-1 with an expert to plan their trips for them. 

Since launching the company in June 2016, we were featured in Travel+Leisure as one of the best new travel apps of 2017, and have now planned over 4,000 trips.

What has been your trajectory since college?
My first job was as an associate at the Boston Consulting Group. After two years, I had the opportunity to join one of NYC's fastest growing startups, Fab.com. While there, the company grew from 100 to over 700 employees in under a year. I became the youngest executive in the company, managing a team of over 120 people across New York and Berlin as VP of Customer Service & Operations Strategy. After Fab, I consulted for a few other NYC startups including DigitalOcean (cloud hosting), Blue Apron (meal kits), and Learn Vest (financial planning) before starting Journy. 

What are the biggest challenges and greatest satisfactions you find in running Journy?
The biggest challenge in running and growing a startup is that there is no playbook to follow. In the past, when I was working as a consultant or on operations issues, there was also a clear path to getting to the right answer to solve a problem — you just have to do the work to pull the right data, interview the right experts, or run the right analyses. With a startup, all of that goes out the window. I can work 100+ hours a week and still not be sure that I spent my time working on the right things. How do you market a product that never existed before that people didn't necessarily know they wanted or needed? How do you do customer acquisition at scale in a space that's incredibly expensive to do so, on a limited budget? Why aren't travelers engaging with our site the way we expected them to?

There are endless challenges that our team faces every day and there are no clear paths to the right answer. But, that's also what makes it so much more rewarding when you figure out something that works. For instance, we realized that potential customers have quite a few questions about our product. For our email onboarding, rather than have a short introductory email, we tested it against an email that included our entire FAQ that was more than 10x longer. To our surprise, the longer FAQ email resulted in 4x more purchases than our short email that adhered to more conventional "best practices." 

It taught us that we shouldn't just follow best business practices and we need to continually test and challenge the norm to succeed. 

What advice would you give to young people entering into today’s economy?
Learn as much as you can. I've managed over 100 young people in their first, second, or third jobs out of school. The ones who succeed and are able to move to the next level are constantly learning and asking how they can do their jobs better. 

I also see a lot of young people who come into the workforce very entitled. They don't want to take a customer service job, they want to work on strategy right away, they want to a CEO right away. These are the people who don't succeed because 1) they aren't able to get their foot in the door by proving their willing to do whatever it takes for a shot, and 2) because they're constantly focused on the next level instead of how to better do the job in front of them. 

My advice is to be humble and learn. For example, one woman working for me had a biochemistry degree from NYU, but she decided she didn't want to be a doctor anymore. She started off in customer service and then we trusted her to manage customer fraud. She continually excelled and innovated and her work led her to collaborate with the company's product management team. Eventually, she became a junior product manager and is now a senior product manager at Rent the Runway. I have multiple stories like this, including from people who quit careers in law and investment banking to join startups. They were humble enough to realize that their skills didn't translate directly right away and they needed to learn how the companies worked first before being able to contribute more meaningfully. By taking an entry-level position and not complaining and doing the work, the showed they were team players, willing to roll-up-their-sleeves, and trusted in their own ability to provide value without needing the perfect role and title right away. 

How many hours a week, on average, do you work?
I used to work 90-100 hours a week, but I realized I wasn't being productive the way I needed to be. Because I'm in a role that requires a combination of creativity, management and empathy, and strategy, I'm not my best when I'm sleep-deprived or tired. Nowadays I limit myself to 60 hours a week (and encourage my team to do the same). I also make time for things like going to the gym, doing yoga, going to the chiropractor, etc. and I'm not only much more productive, but also much happier. 

Best and worst part of being a grown-up?
Best: living alone. 
Worst: paying your own bills. 

Is Shanghai coming as a destination on Journy, and can we help contribute?
a一集100级 Yes, soon! You can help by sharing introductions to serious local experts, food lovers, chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers to uncover the best of Shanghai! 

Photo credit, Edward Scudzlo

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Betty Barr '49: SAS Adventure May 13, 2019

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