The Schwarzman Scholars Program has been called “the most significant program of its kind since the Rhodes Trust.” The program was established by the chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone, Stephen A. Schwarzman, and funds a year-long master’s degree studies at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. And for the first time since its inception, the Schwarzman Scholars Program has selected a student from Georgia Tech, Veronica Chua, to join their Class of 2020.
Chua, who graduates on Saturday with highest honors from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), came to Atlanta from her hometown of Miami specifically to enroll in the Emory University/Georgia Tech dual-degree program, which offers undergraduates the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree from Emory College of Arts and Sciences in three years, followed by an engineering degree from Georgia Tech in two years.
Even among ISyE’s many excellent students, Chua is a standout. She entered Georgia Tech with a B.A. in mathematics and economics as a Robert W. Woodruff Scholar from Emory. “I wanted to fuse the merits of both the liberal arts and STEM,” she explained. “It’s an exceptional academic experience, because my STEM education has equipped me to dissect engineering systems via technical analysis, while my liberal arts education has equipped me to frame situations with a flexible, big-picture lens. This joint perspective allows me to tackle problems in an unconventional way.”
An initiated member of the Alpha Pi Mu Honor Society, Chua was drawn to ISyE’s No. 1-ranked program because of a long-held interest in optimizing performance and increasing efficiency. “I have always asked questions about how everyday processes work,” she said. Growing up, when she went to the airport, supermarket, or amusement park, Chua would wonder why the lines were congested and if there was a better way to run operations.
“I chose industrial engineering because it unlocked the answers to my questions and satisfied my natural curiosity. It represented the perfect fit of applying quantitative and qualitative skills in a real-world context. Industrial engineering creates value in virtually any industry – it’s all about repairing and improving upon existing systems. The possibilities are endless, and that is what fuels my excitement about the field.”
The Schwarzman Scholars program, designed to foster relationships between the U.S. and China, aligns seamlessly with Chua’s goals. Next August, when she begins her master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University, she plans to leverage both of her undergraduate degrees to develop a cross-border shipping model between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies.
“Technology has changed the way we conduct business. I came to realize that e-commerce is the next wave of opportunity for small businesses to enter the global marketplace,” Chua said. “Brick-and-mortar stores are no longer necessary – you create a website, and that’s your borderless storefront for the entire world to access. But in order for small businesses to succeed in the long term, cross-border shipping needs to be more accessible and affordable.
“American and Chinese logistics providers can combine their delivery networks – their routes, facilities, and capital assets. This creates cost synergies, for example. The U.S. and China are uniquely positioned to set the geopolitical stage and create a blueprint model for cross-border shipping, which can then be translated across all trade lanes.”
Chua’s ISyE instructors and advisors see her pioneering vision and leadership potential as well.
“Veronica is very deserving of this award, as she embodies the objectives of the Schwarzman Scholars program. She embraces her role in the global community and wants to take action to shape the world,” said J. Antonio Carbajal, vice president of data science at Turner Broadcasting System and a part-time instructor for ISyE. “Coming from a background of family-run businesses, Veronica is passionate about empowering small businesses by advancing U.S.-China partnerships in the logistics sector.”
“Veronica has high goals for her life. Yet, she is humble, modest, plans carefully, and is unafraid of challenges,” noted ISyE Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies Chen Zhou. “When she came to ISyE, she planned out her studies with me with attentiveness to detail and asked well thought-out questions. Before she went to her final interview for the Schwarzman Scholarship, we chatted about both her big plans and short-term goals for the global supply chain between the U.S. and China. I’m highly impressed with her broad knowledge and the insights that she has gained from ISyE’s curriculum, faculty, and students, as well as her internships.”
When asked what she hopes she’ll be able to take away from her Schwarzman experience after it’s over, Chua had a ready answer. “From a professional standpoint, I hope my understanding of the logistics industry is enhanced and that I’m able to investigate central areas of opportunity such that both countries benefit from a strategic partnership.
“From a personal standpoint, I hope I’m able to form lifelong friendships with my fellow scholars, so that together we are able to positively influence and transform how the world functions in the future. Meaningful engagement doesn’t happen unless you connect with others on a human level.”
After completing her year as a Schwarzman Scholar in August 2020, Chua will join the Operations Excellence Program as a business analyst at McKinsey & Company.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering