Do You Want To Climb Tall Peaks? An Expert Guide Helps

Quote: Sir Edmund Hillary

“Because it is there.” These words are, perhaps, the most famous ever uttered by a mountaineer. George Mallory’s words were in response to the question “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” Many of us have a passion to climb something. Most often it is not a physical mountain. Some of us scale the heights of competitive schools, or reach toward a new discovery in a research project, or serve as a guide in an effort to help others climb up from poverty. In Bernice Tay’s case, she does indeed climb mountains and she also does the other things I have just listed. She is an intrepid explorer of her world and her mind.

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Can you give us a brief overview of you and your family?

I was born and raised in Singapore, so attending college in the US was the first time I’d lived away from my family and outside of Singapore.

Bernice in primary school

My parents’ great-grandparents moved to Singapore from China in the early 20th century in search of a better life, so my siblings and I are fourth-generation Singaporeans. My parents were both the first in their families to go to college, and always emphasized to us the importance of working hard and living within one’s means. They have always pushed us to do our best in everything, while being really supportive of our passions. My brother is currently pursuing Economics at the College of William and Mary, while my sister is pursing a diploma in Communication Design at a polytechnic in Singapore. My family has been incredibly supportive throughout college, even when they weren’t familiar with my GDS major and the liberal arts system. They inspire me to become better every day, and it’s been really great being back with them again in Singapore.

Can you describe the way that students move through the education system in Singapore. In other words can you talk about how the funnel narrows from elementary to middle school to Junior College (Notre: a Junior College is the name for secondary school in Singapore) and how competitive this is?

In Singapore, the first 10–11 years of formal education, beginning in Primary 1, are compulsory (by law) for everyone. Students enter primary schools at the age of 7, where they attend Primary 1–6 over six years. After this, they go on to 4–5 years of secondary school, with the length of time dependent upon their academic performance. After secondary school, students can go on to different tracks based on their grades and/or vocational interest: Junior Colleges for those who are keen on a more academic route, Polytechnics for those who are interested in more pre-professional fields (e.g. business, design, hospitality, etc), the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) for vocational training, or art schools, among others. The transitions between the different phases of education are marked by entrance examinations: the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), ‘O’/’N’ Levels, ‘A’ Levels (for Junior Colleges only, similar to the Gao Kao in China). Most junior college students go on to attend university, while only about 20–30% of Polytechnic students (who graduate with a diploma) are accepted into Singapore’s universities.

While schools do often accept students based on non-academic criteria, such as your performance in an extra-curricular activity, for the most part one’s educational options heavily depends upon one’s grades at each national exam. It can be quite stressful and competitive as your social mobility and access to higher education is often very much dependent on your performance on a single exam — tuition ( in Singapore this word means a for profit extra tutoring class ) is a billion dollar industry here!

That being said, the Ministry of Education has slowly been making changes to lessen the emphasis on exam performance as the sole marker of success. It remains to see if such recent policy changes will truly results in attitude changes on a systemic level (both within the Ministry and society as a whole), but for now I do think it’s promising that they’re moving in this direction.

Bernice and VJC classmates

What do you think of the education system in Singapore? What do you like and what would you change?

I appreciate the fact that education is regarded as an important public good in Singapore, and is one of the sectors that the government spends a significant amount of money on. While inequality does exist in the education system, the public school system as a whole is a lot more robust than places like the US, and a quality education can be affordable for the masses. Globally, Singapore is also known for its rigorous science and math education at the pre-tertiary level; I never really appreciated having a strong foundation in such technical fields until I got to college and realized that we were so far ahead of everyone else –UVa granted me also 30 transfer credits based off my ‘A’ level diploma.

In terms of changes that I would make, I’d like to see more holistic approaches to learning, such as through the encouragement of critical thinking and questioning, creativity, and growing from failure. I was part of the Integrated Programme (IP) for two years in VJC, a niche programme which allowed students to bypass the ‘O’ Levels. Instead, we studied under a tailored curriculum that had a greater emphasis on creative problem-solving, group collaboration, and interdisciplinary learning. Those were my two favorite pre-college years, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have been part of VJC’s IP. It gave me a vision of what education in Singapore can be like, even if such changes will inevitably take a while to trickle throughout the system. Our Polytechnic programs are also increasingly becoming more innovative and stimulating, and has drawn a much more competitive pool of students over the last few years. I hope that the education system will help students identify and develop their strengths and interests, rather than pushing students to follow a narrow, ‘proven’ route to success.

Bernice with climbing team at Victoria Junior College, after the 2010 National Schools Sports Climbing Championships

You attended Victoria Junior College, (a Junior College in Singapore is the equivalent of the last two years of secondary school.) The courses are based on the British system and the school is known for its academic rigor. You took on a very challenging course load: 4 H2 courses: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Literature in English (known as A levels in other places), plus a general paper, and also research (an H3). Most around the world take 3 A levels. You not only took 4 but did more on top of that. How hard was this to do? How much stress were you under to perform so well?

I took 4 subjects and General Paper for the ‘A’ Levels, which is actually the norm in Singapore. My research was a supplementary project, rather than a H3 that would be graded and appear on my A level diploma. It was challenging to balance the workload at times, but having a mix of science and the arts was helpful in terms of giving myself mental breaks between subjects.

Can you describe your research while at VJC?

I did two external research projects with the National University of Singapore. The first one was with its Electrical Engineering lab, where I helped to design the data collection system in a smart nest for hornbills, while the second one was with its Inorganic Chemistry lab, where I explored the effectiveness of different compounds as chemical catalysts.

I really appreciated the opportunity to work in university labs and interact with academics at such a young age. From these projects, I learned how to work independently, brainstorm and explore possible solutions to complex problems, as well as communicate my findings in spoken and written form. I also came to have immense respect for scientific researchers, who often pursue questions with no guarantee of success, making the process a lonely journey that requires a great deal of perseverance and passion to see it through. Although I didn’t end up majoring in a scientific discipline in college, the skills and lessons I picked up from my research projects proved to be tremendously helpful in college.

Bernice on a rock climbing trip with VJC friends to Krabi, Thailand

When did you decide you wanted to go to university outside of Singapore? Did you consider the UK or other destinations besides the US? What were you looking for in a US education?

Pretty early on (somewhere between Secondary 3 and 4), I decided I wanted to go abroad for college, even though I didn’t know where exactly yet or what I wanted to study. This is partly because I wanted to see the world outside of Singapore, and because at that point I was convinced (like many other Singaporeans) that UK and US universities were generally better than the ones in Singapore.

In JC1, I attended a talk on the difference between UK and US schools and decided then that I would only apply to the US. UK schools are very similar to the Singapore education system in that they emphasize depth over breadth, so your undergraduate education is focused on the study of a single subject. Furthermore, the UK schools are far more interested in a student’s academic passions than their extracurricular involvements. I was drawn to the flexibility of the liberal arts system, as well as the fact that the US colleges evaluated applicants on a holistic basis and would hence value my leadership and service involvements.

How did you decide which schools to apply to? How many did you apply to and why did you choose the one you did?

I looked at business schools in the U.S. when applying to colleges, since I felt that was the closest fit to my interests at that time, and ended up applying to about 6 schools. I ended up picking UVA primarily because I appreciated that it had a strong College of Arts & Sciences, so that I would have other options in case I changed my mind about a business degree, (which I did). UVA’s also in a college town; having grown up in a city all my life, I wanted to experience a different living environment. The UVA alumni community in Singapore is also incredibly vibrant, and I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was. Given how much everyone raved about their time in college, I could tell they really loved the school, (and that they weren’t just doing PR).

Bernice with the staff of the Lorna Sundberg International Center, where she worked as a Program Assistant in her third and fourth year

How important was getting in the Honors program to you? How important was it once you were enrolled?

I actually didn’t know about the Echols scholars program until I got accepted to UVa, but it helped contribute to my decision to accept UVa’s offer of admission. I didn’t spend much time with the honors program at UVa, but it was very helpful to have my college requirements waived and to have priority class registration, especially when my decision to pursue a second major in Statistics pretty late in college (end of my second year) meant that I had a less flexible class schedule in my last two years.

How was your transition to the US and Uva? What surprised you?

All things considered, it was a very smooth transition: there was not much of a culture shock given how Singapore is very exposed to Western culture, and there was a small but tight-knit Singaporean community that helped me navigate UVa, which was especially helpful early on.

What surprised me the most was how much I missed Singaporean food, and that the US is really big (my friends and I joke about how it’s really a continent, not a country) and so incredibly diverse. I had no idea it takes 6 hours to fly from coast to coast. I was also surprised to find myself sitting outside on nice days, something that I never did in Singapore (probably because it’s so humid all the time). I think it’s also because one appreciates beautiful days more when they finally emerge from a season of frigid weather.

Can you talk a bit about how you ended up in a small interdisciplinary major, global development studies. Looking at your courses at VJC this seems a bit surprising. Had you heard of this program before coming to Uva and if not what got you to apply for it? For those not familiar with the major can you describe it a bit?

In VJC I started to realize that the scientific profession was not for me, so I was drawn to the liberal arts approach of the US colleges that encouraged students to explore a broader range of disciplines before settling on one (or two) to major in.

I first heard about the Global Development Studies major my first semester at UVa, when I joined Global Development Organization and met GDS majors who were always raving about the curriculum and faculty. Having gone on multiple service and mission trips growing up, I have always been drawn to work that involves an element of service or social change, but finding out about the GDS major was when I realized I could pursue this interest academically. My second semester, I took ‘Politics of Development Areas’ — the introductory class to development studies — to figure out if GDS was right for me. I ended up loving the class and decided then that I would apply to the major.

The GDS major is one of UVa’s interdisciplinary programs; students apply in the Spring of their second year, and about 35 are accepted each year. Tapping on a variety of perspectives, the GDS major fundamentally challenges students to be constructively critical of both development projects and the concept of ‘development’ itself. By exploring the relationship between local cultures and global economic and political trends, we consider the social, political, economic and ethical implications of development endeavors. The major is highly interdisciplinary and flexible in nature: the 4 core classes combine theory, methods, case studies and experiential research projects, while the remaining 6 electives can come from any relevant department at UVa. Just as there is no ‘one’ conception of development, there is also no ‘one’ ideal GDS student: GDS classes typically consist of a diverse group of students, spanning backgrounds, interests and strengths. I am so fortunate to have been a part of the major. It has been such a privilege to study what I love under professors I respect, alongside extremely passionate and driven peers.

Fall break trip Bernice took with UVA friends (Jairus, Peiching, Kenneth) from Singapore and Malaysia, backpacking in Grayson Highlands, Virginia

Was it hard to do both GDS and your second major in Stats? Do you have any favorite classes you want to highlight (or any profs)?

I chose to pursue a second major in Statistics at the end of my second year, so that restricted the number of classes that I could take in my third and fourth years that didn’t count towards either major. It helped that GDS is interdisciplinary in its requirements, so I always had a lot of options for classes that would count towards the major. For the most part, I really enjoyed having two majors. As mentioned earlier, I tend to enjoy working on different things that gives me mental breaks, and taking a mix of GDS and Statistics classes meant that I usually had a good balance between readings and problem set. They also complemented each other really well: GDS interests have helped informed the kinds of projects that I took on in my Statistics classes, and I was even able to use R — a software environment for statistical computing — for text mining as I was writing my GDS thesis.

I loved the fact that our GDS professors were really invested in the program — I learnt so much from Professors Richard Handler and David Edmunds, both of whom brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to our classes. The GDS core classes, Global Development Theories and Case studies (GDS 3010/3020) and Development on the Ground (GDS 3100), which focused on the theoretical underpinnings of development and the issues faced by development workers respectively, were incredibly influential in shaping my college experience and career goals. In terms of GDS electives, I really enjoyedEthics and Human Rights by Professor Michael Smith, and Property Rights and Development by Professor Deborah Boucoyannis — both classes exposed me to really challenging material and pushed me to become a more careful thinker. In the Statistics department, I really enjoyed Non-Parametric Statistics by Paul Diver, and Exploratory Data Analysis by Professor Karen Kafadar; both classes were fascinating in how they introduced me to innovative and important approaches in Statistics.

Who were your mentors and whom did you hang out with?

I’ve been blessed with really great mentors during my time at UVa, all of whom I owe so much to. These include Theo Yakah, teaching assistant for 2 of my politics classes; David Edmunds, Professor of Global Development Studies; Pat Loh, director at LIFE! Community development Singapore, which works in disaster relief and community development in Asia; and Terence Fitzgerald, head of the Program Design & Evaluation unit at International Justice Mission (IJM), who was formally assigned my mentor as part of IJM’s summer internship program.

I hung out with friends that I met through a residential program with the Center for Christian study, Singaporeans and other international students, the UVa climbing team and friends from the International Center. I was also really blessed to have been connected to a local host family through the International Hospital Program, who basically were a second set of parents to me throughout college.

During your time at University you took on significant leadership positions, did lots of research and a whole lot of service too. How did you manage to do all this and still graduate Phi Beta Kappa?

Time management was something that I had to learn in college, especially because I ended up burning out during my second year. I learned that sometimes one has to say no to things — even good ones — in order to be fully present in all of life, which is always preferable to being spread too thin. My roommate was a great influence on me in that regard. In my second half of college, I spread out my commitments across different semesters and made sure I had good reasons for the various things that were taking up my time. I was really honored to graduate Phi Beta Kappa; I’m guessing they liked the fact that I double majored in GDS and Statistics.

Bernice with fellow Singaporean students

As President of the Singapore Student Association did you feel the need to educate the university community about Singapore? Do you feel you were subject to certain stereotypes? What should people know about students from Singapore?

While there’s a lack of awareness about Singapore (and Southeast Asia more generally, but especially Singapore because we’re so small), the SSA committee chose to focus on bringing the small Singapore community together. Given that UVa is gradually working on establishing a Southeast Asian Studies department, future SSA committees may explore avenues to educating the university community about Singapore.

The classic stereotype shows up in how everyone usually comments that our English is really good, even though English is the official language of Singapore. Others think that all of us are amazing at Math, or that we all have tiger mums, or that Singapore is in China (a misconception that is not as common at UVa, but still painfully occurs across the US in general).

What people should know (off the top of my head, definitely an not exhaustive list): We have four official languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil); we take our food very seriously (the Michelin Guide isn’t the authoritative guide on where to eat because everyone has their own opinion); we have one of the busiest ports in the world; we’re a pretty diverse country (since colonial times, and even more so today); it’s a really small city-state and only takes about an hour to drive across the country; the US and Singapore have had diplomatic relations for almost 50 years.

There are some that might say that Global Development Studies has raised your awareness of issues that affect millions but that we don’t often think about let alone address. Did the program make you more idealistic or more pragmatic about making significant change?

We were reflecting on this question on our last day of class, and I said that the major is both paralyzing and energizing. It’s paralyzing in that it problematizes so much of the developed world’s attempts to ‘rescue’/’developing’ the developing nations out of their presumed poverty, but it’s also energizing in that it’s really expanded my understanding of what development is. If we’re thinking about making more just societies that enable flourishing for all, including the ones we come from, the possibilities are endless, really. For me (and many of my classmates), it’s become less about a great global endeavor or quick fixes, and more about building strong relationships to understand and respectfully work with community members (wherever they may be), to understand what development means for them and what the ideal process and outcomes look like for them.

Bernice with her parents at graduation

Are there significant changes that you see in yourself as a result of your time at university? Do your parents and friends back home see a difference?

People often say that college is one of the most formative periods of a person’s life, and that’s definitely been true for me, especially since I went to school so far away from home. Since the Chinese make up the majority of Singapore’s population, attending college in America was the first and longest time that I’d experienced living as a minority. It was a perspective I really appreciated having, and it’s helped me to become more cognizant of my majority privilege/comforts in Singapore.

Because the university also draws individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, I also learnt to appreciate and respect difference and individuality (which is not always celebrated in Singapore). American society is also more open and encouraging of unique passions and career paths, which gave me some freedom to pursue my interests instead of simply conforming to more conventional narratives of success.

I think my family would say that I’ve become more appreciative of their support and presence after I left for college. I had to learn how to live and make decisions independently, while still communicating with them often and ensuring that they felt involved in my life.

On LinkedIn, you have summarized your experiences as an intern and as a volunteer. You also give a wonderful summary of your interests and passions. I wish more people would put include these kinds of things on their profile:

Bernice has worked both in Singapore and the United States. She most recently interned with the International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C., where she contributed to a research study on bonded labor in Karnataka, India, and reviewed participatory feedback tools that could be employed by the organization. Her work experience also includes conducting data analysis and supporting the evaluation of grant applications for United Way in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as relief teaching Mathematics at Victoria Junior College in Singapore. During her time in university, she also managed a research study that explored the economic impact of resettled refugees on the local Charlottesville economy.

Through her academic and professional experiences, she has become interested in how non-profits, impact enterprises and policymakers can evaluate the impact of their programs, within the broader goal of becoming more accountable to the stakeholders they work with. Passionate about justice for the vulnerable, she believes that institutional solutions are required to address poverty, beginning with entering genuine conversations with others to tackle collectively defined issues together.

Can you talk a bit about how you obtained your internship and what you did while there that falls under your topic: Program Design and Evaluation Intern International Justice Mission

I knew two UVa alumni who were doing IJM’s year-long internships in Southeast Asia, and I heard about their experiences mid-way when they came to visit me in Singapore for New Year’s. They encouraged me to apply, and so I filled out the online application, had two phone interviews, and got the internship. I’m especially thankful to have gotten the ModernGuild career counseling scholarship, as the lessons I picked up were really instrumental in helping me put together a strong application for the IJM internship.

I applied to the PD&E unit because I’d become interested in how NGOs or policymakers can evaluate the impact of their programs, within the broader goal of becoming more accountable to the stakeholders they work with. I see this interest as bridging my GDS and Statistics majors, since evaluation is an area where both qualitative and quantitative approaches converge. Because the GDS major is also concerned with the political nature of poverty, I was drawn to IJM’s work of strengthening legal institutions to protect the poor from violence.

During my internship, I worked on a literature review for a bonded labor research study that IJM was conducting in Karnataka, India. I also researched and critiqued a number of participatory feedback tools that IJM was looking into using to collect feedback from its clients, primarily for improving accountability and program strategies. Writing the literature review was emotionally challenging at times as I learnt about the issue in greater depth, but it helped me to understand the importance of IJM’s work, taught me to maintain healthy boundaries, and strengthened my research and writing skills. I especially enjoyed my work on the participatory feedback tools, since it tapped on my interest in improving accountability through evaluation. It was really fun for me to learn about the tools available in the space, and to apply them to IJM’s context and needs.

Another important aspect that I loved about the IJM internship was how the organization is truly invested in the professional development of its interns. The intern class had brown bag lunches with the founder and senior managers, where they shared about their career experiences and took our questions. Each intern was also paired with a mentor that met with them fortnightly throughout the internship. I was very thankful for the guidance that my mentor, Terence Fitzgerald, so generously gave me throughout the summer. The advice that I gained from him and the rest of the PD&E unit really helped to affirm the academic and professional efforts that I’d made up to that point, and gave me much-needed assurance and direction for the 4th year job search.

Bernice with a VJC friend, Shin Mun, at Yosemite National Park

What do you miss most about university?

I miss having so many friends live within walking distance, learning from extremely driven and intelligent professors and peers that constantly challenge and inspire me, and having countless opportunities to meet and hear from the world’s best scholars and professionals invited to speak at the university.

Can you talk about your job search? How did you find the job you have? IIX looks to be the kind of thing that could not have existed a decade ago. Can you describe briefly what you do and how people might be able to help your mission (

I first heard about IIX from another Singaporean UVa alum that was working for the company at that time. I was contacted about an interview shortly after sending in my resume. It was really refreshing to discover IIX, since I had been exploring the non-profit and social space in Singapore for a while, and there aren’t many Singapore-based organizations working towards systemic social change in the broader Asian region. I’m part of the Business Development & Advisory team, which primarily works to grow the impact investing ecosystem by engaging stakeholders apart from investors and entrepreneurs (more on this below).

Dureen Shabnaz

IIX’s mission is to create capital markets for social good. It was founded in 2007 by Professor Durreen Shahnaz, a former investment banker and entrepreneur from Bangladesh. When she was running her first company, oneNest, a global e-commerce company for local artisanal products to empower micro-entrepreneurs with access to the global market, Professor Shahnaz experienced first-hand the difficulty of raising capital for a mission-driven business to scale. The experience inspired her to establish IIX, bridging her career experiences in finance and development. IIX aims to democratize capital markets by facilitating investments in Impact Enterprises (businesses providing development solutions), working closely with entrepreneurs and investors. To catalyze the impact investing ecosystem in a holistic way, IIX also offers comprehensive advisory services to corporations, foundations, international organizations and governments, equipping these varied stakeholders with the tools to navigate the impact investing space. IIX also has a non-profit sister entity, Impact Investment Shujog (Shujog), which conducts research on the key sectors, players and financing mechanisms in the impact investing space in Asia, and conducts Impact Assessments for Impact Enterprises to monitor, measure and magnify their impact.

For students or individuals interested in getting involved: we accept interns — known as ‘apprentices’ at IIX & Shujog — throughout the year, and have a couple of job vacancies listed on our website here: http://www.asiaiix.com/careers/

For people who might be interested in following your path to where you are now what advice do you have? Do you have any big plans for the future?

I’ll start off by sharing some of the best advice I had given to me, when I was a little nervous about post-college plans: Don’t be afraid of others misunderstanding you and your pursuit of what you love. Your goals are valid as long as you’re doing your research, heeding advice from trustworthy mentors, and staying true to your values.

On a more specific level, I pursued a second major in Statistics because I’ve always had strong quantitative skills, and knew that it would differentiate me from the crowd during the job search. In general, I would recommend that students identify their strengths and interests — for me it was evaluation — and pursue classes (if not a second major) or projects that help hone relevant skills. My interviewers also often asked me to talk about my research projects, as they were interested in both my technical and project management skills. Because there are so many paths one can take in the field of international development, the most helpful thing an undergraduate can do is to pursue things that tap on your interests and strengths, so that they give you relevant skills and experiences that set you apart in both the post-college job search and your career in general.

In terms of plans for the future, I’m currently thinking about attending graduate school in the US or UK, in a field related to development studies or for an MBA. For the moment though, I’m focusing on gaining as many new skills and experiences as possible, whether I’m in the office or on the field in Asia. I hope to learn as much as I can about finance and development, gain greater clarity on my strengths and passions, and allow these to shape my goals over the next few years.

Bernice in The Big Apple

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Learning to climb takes time. Some of us think that a few hours on a climbing wall over a few weeks, whether it is literal or figurative, demonstrates we have developed a skill. The ability to get the most out of one’s climb, in school and beyond, is about a far greater investment. I’m not talking about money although, sadly, that’s part of the equation; instead, I’m pointing to the way that Bernice’s climb demonstrates the way many more should approach their climb in life.

Bernice was lucky early on. The experimental integrated program at her already great secondary school primed her to look beyond the typical major and ways of taking classes and internalizing information. She gained a wider perspective and in doing so become more open to the advantages of liberal arts. She could see across disciplines and majors in order to develop skills that employers want to see. Too often students (especially international students) do not have this perspective from the start of their university education.

The pi shaped graph reproduced above (it looks a bit like a mountain) shows how the demands of the job market have changed in the last decade. The T shaped skills were what liberal arts tried to instill; now the skills necessary for many post university experiences involve depth of knowledge in a specific fields as well as skills in areas that include statistics or coding. Bernice knew this early on and it helped her shape her climb through the base camps of internships and research.

Bernice was proactive in her search for ways in which she could obtain experiences that would supplement her classroom experience She applied, and received a scholarship to Beta test with the business Modern Guild. There she was introduced to industry professions who helped her prepare for interviews and for standing out in the quest for competitive internships. (Full Disclosure: I helped implement the Beta test for Modern Guild and this was when I first got to know Bernice). Bernice went beyond looking to her university’s career services. Given how hard it is for international students to obtain internships and jobs, many have to go beyond the typical searches and support programs. (It is increasing true for domestic students too.)

In his book, There is Life After College, (a book I recommend and have reviewed) Jeffrey Selingo, Washington Post writer, makes it clear that internships are a necessity for many career fields, Without an internship there is virtually no chance to climb higher into the work world for what some would call the Everests of jobs: finance and consulting in New York and the big places in Silicon Valley too. Bernice’s internship with the International Justice Mission fit her passion for helping others but would not have happened had she just been a smart,

motivated student. She had to put in hours, research and more.

From an exceptional internship to her current job of Impact Investing with a group of people who do indeed want to change the world signifies she climbing to heights that few of us attain. But Bernice’s story demonstrates that she could never be where she is without lots of help form faculty, friends alumni and mentors. It takes, if not a village, then at least a diverse group of people to help. Bernice has one skill that means she never approaches things alone. Without Tenzing Norgay, Hillary would never have made it to the top of Everest.

What makes our species succeed? Obviously, this is a big question with lots of answers. But here is one that I am sure is accurate: passing it on. The ‘it’ might be a physical thing, a tool of some sort, but increasingly the most important things to pass on is information. Those who can teach us through words can do so from anywhere in the world. It is worth repeating advice that has been passed down to Bernice, then to me and now to you.

Don’t be afraid of others misunderstanding you and your pursuit of what you love. Your goals are valid as long as you’re doing your research, heeding advice from trustworthy mentors, and staying true to your values.

Bernice knows the oft-used phrase “pursue your passion” sounds good, but without the added definition of what this really entails, it will only live in the world of cliché. A passion needs defining — research and hard work. It takes strength, effort, and help from others. It takes honesty — the ability not to deceive oneself. None of this easy. But Bernice has given us a path to follow if we hope to climb to new heights. I would like to thank Bernice for lending us a helping hand. I do hope that some intrepid souls will go the link she provides and begin a new journey as an intern or employee of her company.

Bernice looking for New Challenges Ahead

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