CHARITABLE FOUNDATION - AmCham Honors Young Leaders of the Year

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Foundation trustees (front row, from left) Rob Chipman, Jon Zinke, Jim Thompson, Peter Levesque, Gage McAfee, Tom Gorman and Mark Michelson; (back row, from left) Institute of International Education (IIE) Regional Director Paul Turner, Kristen Lam, Kieran Fung, Yashvardhan Badoloi, AmCham President Tara Joseph, Anderson Chan, Jenny Ng, Michael Au and IIE Program Manager Wallace Ng

The AmCham Charitable Foundation is privileged to recognize four U.S. college-bound Hong Kong students, three full-time MBA candidates from HKU, CUHK and HKUST, and 20 local secondary school students in 2017 for their exceptional academic achievement, leadership and community service with annual scholarship awards. Here are their inspiring stories

By Kenny Lau


Lyn Edinger US Studies Scholarship

Yashvardhan Badoloi, Hong Kong International School

Yashvardhan Badoloi is “highly organized, incredibly efficient, and committed to service.” His zest, motivation, intellectual curiosity, leadership and diligence are simply “unrivaled.” He will be attending Harvard University in the coming fall semester.

“Yash is always growing, learning and returning for more. This is just one way he reflects humility with his brilliance, always genuinely certain that there is more to learn,” according to his counselor. “His passion for learning is palpable, and his mind races with questions about the world – be it at a molecular, social, global, or universal level.”

With an interest in behavioral economics and a fixation on data, Yash has done independent research on economics and human irrationality by extending his learning far beyond any high school courses. His work as a paid intern at Chinese University of Hong Kong is a confirmation of “his high-level ability to explore advanced economic theory…beyond what he has been taught.”

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, he explored extensively the efficient market hypothesis, behavioral economics and bubble formation in financial markets based on various economic theories of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and others. He runs a blog (Bardonomics) to record his thoughts and writes frequently for the South China Morning Post.

“How poverty can be tackled in a cost effective and efficient manner without breeding dependency and creating negative externalities like the degradation of the environment and strengthening of oppressive and wasteful governments” is a question he strives to answer.

“I firmly believe that if we are to overcome the potent threats of inequality, hyper-consumeristic culture and limited freedom, it is necessary to adopt the kind of innovative, nuanced and balanced economic policy as Alvin Roth points out in his book, Who Gets What – and Why?

Yash is more than just his academic achievements. He has participated in a long list of extra-curricular activities as a student body senator for academics, chief editor of the school newspaper, leader of HKIS’s Math & Science Center, and founder of VolunteerConnect, a platform which through data analysis allows people to create and connect for community initiatives.

Yash has been described as “a gift to humanity” – a commendation of his many humanitarian efforts which include serving as an unsolicited pro-bono independent college advisor during a school trip to the Philippines by implementing lessons on the theme of empowerment, working on construction projects and searching for alternatives on behalf of local students robbed of learning opportunities.

Yash plans to attain a doctorate, perhaps concentrating in a field like macroeconomics, behavioral economics or development economics. In the future, he hopes to apply his economic thinking to problems of policy and development and to help formulate measures to solve key issues at an institution such as the World Bank or IMF.

“I feel strongly that a key challenge facing governments and corporations today is how best to balance the efficiency of market forces and the compulsion to generate profits with social equity and civic values,” he says.

Jenny Ng, Diocesan Girls’ School

Jenny Ng is an “exceptional young scholar with natural curiosity and exemplary conduct.” She is friendly and polite, and always walks around with a smile. Her accomplishments, excellent interpersonal skills and strong desire to make a social impact reveal a passion to examine important global issues and to play a key role in addressing them.

A soon-to-be freshman at Cornell University, Jenny has a special ability to integrate knowledge from socio-political, scientific and historical disciplines into coherent pieces and presentations, and her work is presented with “great flair and wit.” All her teachers agree that Jenny is a “remarkable student…with impressive analytical and numerical skills, and an ability to break down problems and to pose new ideas.”

The notion that “there is a neurochemistry principle behind every human behavior” sparked her interest in understanding the human neural circuit and advancing cures for mental illnesses such as eating disorders and depression. “The potency of the brain never ceases to amaze me, and it affirms my desire to pursue a neuroscience concentration at university.”

“The brain is not just a brain – the interaction of neuron activity and our environment does not only impact us, but it also has great scientific and social implications,” she adds.

A top student early on, Jenny was awarded Subject Prizes in Chemistry, English Language and Chinese Language – a feat described as “exceptionally rare.” More recently, she was named a recipient of the Grose Literature Prize (English Literature), a Harvard Book Prize and the HarvEst Youth Leadership Award, and subsequently a delegate of the Global Citizens Youth Summit at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

More than academic engagement, she is a strong advocate for equality, particularly in the LGBT community, and women empowerment. She has witnessed how homophobia penetrates Hong Kong adolescents’ daily experience – students using “gay” as an insult, teachers’ condemnation of LGBT communities in school and the fetishization of gay men on primetime TV.

Having written an “erudite and eloquent” essay on LGBT rights, Jenny has been incredibly brave to publish her views given the conservative nature of society and education towards LGBT rights in Hong Kong where “vocalized support is rare…and advancement in equal rights has been painfully slow.”

“Though Hong Kong has a relatively low rate of physical assault cases against members of the LGBT community, apathy is equally detrimental to the development of equality,” she says. “The collective unwillingness of society to call out the ever-existing homophobia and across generations perpetuates the unhealthy stereotype that ‘gay is abnormal.’”

The lack of sex education in the local educational curriculum is one contributing factor as sex remains a taboo topic, she believes. Yet, sexual empowerment is critical to the healthy development of individuals, especially among teenagers.

“The infrequency of hate crimes does not equate progressiveness,” she stresses. “By adopting a passive attitude, we are accommodating intolerance. So, I along with a few of my friends decided to set up an LGBT support website to initiate a dialogue as one way to truly embrace the idea of equality enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law.”

Anderson Chan, Diocesan Boys’ School

Regarded as a “studious and serious learner” by the teaching faculty, Anderson Chan has thrived as a student of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program, possessing “an inquiring mind, international mindedness and critical thinking skills.” His areas of academic interest lie in both Sciences and Humanities, and he will have “no limit to his growth and achievements” as an incoming freshman at Columbia University.

“I plan to major in economics and philosophy as I believe these principles offer two lenses through which we interpret human desires and understand the world. I am particularly drawn to the study of the rational assumption and ethical justifications for economic systems, and I question whether idealized models based on the rational assumption can bring new insights into and predict real world phenomena.”

Anderson is known to be “a natural-born orator, a confident and eloquent public speaker,” bearing a strong passion for debate and making speeches in both Chinese and English. Not only has he won awards in debate competitions but has also taken on the challenge of leading his teams. He never ceases to advance his knowledge outside of school, participating in summer programs at Oxford and Cambridge in the U.K. and the Chinese University of Hong Kong locally.

His dedication to community service, motivated by a strong sense of social justice and humanity, is reflected in his role as a volunteer tutor at the Chicken Soup Foundation for underprivileged children in Tuen Mun, as a scout and volunteer to provide first aid at various community events, and as a mentor at the Learner’s Fraternity Club in school to provide his younger schoolmates with academic tutorial support.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Anderson has come to appreciate the complexity of the increasingly globalized economy. “Globalization became my primary area of interest and led me to explore the conflict between the interests of states and the world economy. I reflected on how international institutions, without the check of democracy and acquiring greater influence under neoliberalism, may lead to greater instability and inequality.”

The challenge facing Hong Kong, he believes, is that social disparities have more complex causes and do not necessarily point to a straight-forward solution. He is particularly concerned about the lack of social mobility within the teenage population – one of the root causes behind disparities.

“Soaring housing prices and stagnant wages have limited teenagers’ capability of self-actualization, and they are often confined in sub-divided flats,” he says. “Many are discouraged by the competitive education system and suffer from extreme stress under the high-stake examination system that will possibly determine their future livelihood.”

With plans to attend graduate school and to specialize in economics, Anderson hopes to join the government and become a policymaker in the capacity of an economic institution to serve the larger community. “I hope to devise policies that alleviate the negative effects brought by the globalized economy and build a more egalitarian society. We need to do more to tackle inequality.”

Kristen Lam, German Swiss International Schoo

Outstanding, intellectually superior, super-friendly and nice, but also humble and kind, Kristen Lam is an over-achiever who “will go far in life.” She is curious about the world, constantly learning and participating in opportunities. She is “always positive and puts in her best effort, and is a role model and mentor to other students.” She will be attending the University of Chicago.

Kristen is immersed in many extra-curricular activities as a leader, a volunteer, a musician, a sportsman and a young entrepreneur. Most notable is her involvement in supporting children development, tutoring ethnic minority students, providing peer support and co-founding Viewfinder, an online platform designed to guide high school students through their transition to college.

“Growing up, I was always interested in examining how society shapes a person, and I am passionate about preserving our natural environment. It is my desire to be an entrepreneur with a start-up focused on children development and sustainability education… and to transform learning through innovation and technology.”

“Education is an important part of environmental sustainability,” she believes. “To inspire even broader changes, there must first be social change. Sociology, therefore, is my core academic interest.”

Her interest in sustainability began when she met an environmental entrepreneur. Through an internship, she witnessed how technology can enhance living and sustainability and was inspired to help raise environmental awareness among children by developing a game app.

The launch of Viewfinder, an online peer-to-peer counseling and mentoring platform that pairs university students with high school students navigating through the college application process, was the result of winning Credit Suisse’s Young Entrepreneurship Award. During a Bloomberg TV interview, Kristen and her team shared their experiences of starting up a venture outside of school and becoming young entrepreneurs.

“The award not only provided me with the funding to launch our start-up, but more importantly it sparked my entrepreneurial ambitions and taught me the importance of persistence and critical thinking in times of unexpected setbacks. I was very excited to learn that 97 percent of the platform’s participants were accepted to at least one of their top three university choices.”

Personally, Kristen is grateful for having grown up in a family that values free play and exploration. “Throughout my childhood, there were no restrictions on creativity, whether it was building my dream house with Play-Doh or playing hide-and-seek with friends. My childhood playtime helped me discover my interests.”

“Nowadays, play – which matters as much to the intellectual development of every child as it did for me – is given low priority,” she adds. “As a volunteer, I help kids to learn through play, and nothing is more enjoyable than seeing youngsters laugh and learn while using their imaginations to make capes out of tarpaulins and bamboo sticks.”

“The human ability not just to develop solutions to the world’s problems, but also to redefine the problems themselves, requires the genuine, boundless imaginative powers that free play can instill.”

Scholar Awards

Kieran Fung, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

Kieran Fung spent his early years in Asia, mostly in Hong Kong, studying at an all-boys school before moving to Los Angeles for high school and San Diego for university. At the University of California-San Diego, he studied computer science, specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. He is currently an MBA student at HKUST.

“I am fascinated with different technology advancements and singularity theory, which is a school of thought about the potential outlook of future with the rapid development of science and technology,” he says. “I am very lucky and grateful to have friends from the start-up and technology communities in the U.S. and Asia as they can fuel my curiosity.”

From an early age, Kieran was involved in various leadership roles: he served as a school prefect in primary and secondary school, led the Hong Kong Student Union at UC-San Diego, and started an entrepreneur club with the support of his fellow classmates at HKUST. He also spared time to volunteer in Hong Kong, mostly with the Lions Club, organizing multiple events and participating in the annual visit to rural China.

After graduating from university, Kieran founded his first business venture in Los Angeles, an online career platform matching fresh graduates with companies and job opportunities based on the profiles and skillsets of candidates. About a year later, he returned to Hong Kong to join his family business in manufacturing and trading. There, he started to learn the traditional way of business, from supply chain management to sales and marketing.

“Although I have some experience from my start-up and family business, what I can learn in an MBA program will enhance my knowledge which can be applied in the future,” he explains. “With my undergraduate degree in computer science, I want to learn more about economics and other business-related skills, including soft-skills like presentations, negotiations and leadership development.”

“Most importantly, through an MBA, I can interact with experts and business executives and pick their brains on many topics, and I can learn about the business landscape as well as tips and tricks in dealing with many different business situations. I decided to do it in Hong Kong because of the focus on Asia, the mix of Western and Eastern cultures and knowledge, and the great vibe and variety of good food here.”

In recent months, Kieran established his second business venture – a journey he believes will be quite different from his first endeavor because of the different ecosystem in Hong Kong and Asia. “I hope I can grow and scale my second start-up within three years. I also want to support anyone looking to start their own businesses, and I think I am heading in the right direction with what I’m doing in the entrepreneur club and design thinking club at HKUST.”

Kieran is keen to give back to the community and is currently an intern at SOW Asia, an incubator and accelerator for social enterprises. “I want to be part of the driving force in social enterprise to have a larger impact for the good of community.”

Shailendra Pamnani, University of Hong Kong

A native of New York, Shailendra Pamnani achieved an exemplary academic record and other accomplishments in community service as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey) where he was a member of the marching band’s drumline and practiced 10 hours a week to entertain some 50,000 fans during each NCAA football game.

In his four years of undergraduate study for a major in Finance and Supply Chain Management, Shailendra completed two summer internships. He first covered business operations at National Retail Transportation, Inc. where he pinpointed geographic hotspots by cargo volume and customized presentations for potential clients. In his second internship, he worked in enterprise operations and technology at Citigroup where he designed a PowerPoint presentation on the topic of resource strategy.

On top of his academic achievements, Shailendra kept himself busy with community service. In college, he was Vice President of the Rutgers Association of Marketing and Strategy and a Residence Hall Association representative in charge of organizing social events for the community of residents. Later, despite his hectic work schedule, he volunteered to organize a career day for the visually impaired, and provided coaching and assistance in writing resumes.

Shailendra is currently pursuing an MBA degree at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), after spending four years working for Moody’s Investors Service in New York. As an associate analyst, he was involved in the credit rating process for about 30 capital goods/manufacturing companies: building financial models, analyzing financial statements, assessing liability structures and preparing rating recommendation memos.

“After my undergraduate degree in Finance and Supply Chain Management, I decided to focus on finance and chose to work at Moody’s in New York. I worked in the Corporate Finance Group covering credit ratings of many U.S.-based manufacturing companies. In my spare time, like everybody else, I would do some traveling and reading, watch movies and play tennis and basketball.”

Shailendra remains ambitious in advancing his learning. “As I continue to develop my career, I want to get a more holistic viewpoint of the global business environment through MBA courses, guest lectures and business visits,” he explains. “I decided to study at HKU because of its prestigious reputation and rankings, as well as its program length of just one year.”

“The program also exposes me to different cultures and people of different professional backgrounds and helps in the development of my leadership and teamwork skills. During this period, I have studied not only in Hong Kong but also in Beijing and London, further expanding my academic and cultural learnings. My MBA degree in Asia will help as I believe future business growth will come from this region.”

“And, of course, Hong Kong is a major financial center and strategically important to the Asian markets. Many of the global banks have a large presence in Hong Kong,” he adds. “I believe that as Asian countries continue to grow economically, Hong Kong will compete with Shanghai and Singapore to meet the financial needs of consumers and businesses.”

Michael Au, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Michael Au is a seasoned salesforce manager with extensive experience in the luxury sector across Asia. He is a specialist in relationship management and the implementation of client-focused business development plans. He expects to complete his MBA degree this year with a concentration on entrepreneurship from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

Outside of work, he serves on the board of directors of the Hong Kong International School Alumni Association. He is an avid cycling enthusiast and has completed a 1,000-km tour around the perimeter of the Taiwanese peninsula in 2016. With a passion for cycling, he volunteers as a bicycle mechanic for the Crossroads Foundation, where he repairs old bicycles before they are sent to third-world countries. He is also a new father to his 7-month-old daughter.

Professionally, he is co-founder and chief consultant of a wine and rare spirits trading company, offering bespoke services in collectible wine procurement. Prior to that, he held several positions in sales and marketing, leading teams to achieve profitable results for various well-known luxury brands, most notably in the trading market of high-end wine.

A graduate with a degree in Fine Arts at the Parsons School of Design in New York, Michael returned to Hong Kong for an opportunity to join the contemporary arts department of a major international auction house. His career in the wine & spirits industry started around the time the Hong Kong government decided to abolish the city’s wine tax in 2008.

“Recognizing and capitalizing on a business opportunity at the time, I pivoted my career from art to wine and I became the founding specialist for the auction house’s fine wine department in Asia,” he recalls. “It was an exciting challenge to be at the helm of a business unit in a thriving market. It certainly allowed me to acquire the necessary skills in relationship management and consultative selling as well as deal negotiations with international stakeholders.”

Seeking to expand his business skills, Michael went on to devise retail and operational strategies for a local firm, before joining a historic British wine merchant where he mentored a team of sales associates and helped them to develop relationship management skills. He eventually started his own business to seize a growing opportunity in the spirits market, and is leveraging his flexible schedule to pursue an MBA degree.

“Hong Kong is a dynamic city and is very friendly to the world of commerce, besides having some trouble opening a bank account in the beginning,” he says. “Overall, Hong Kong has a great ecosystem for entrepreneurs.”

“Because I have been looking for a way to add to my management toolkit in a structured manner as well as a business education to complement my degree in fine arts, an MBA was a clear choice. As I envision my future career to remain in Asia, CUHK, with a focus on entrepreneurship and leadership skills, was also a clear choice.”

PRIZE BOOK AWARDS

The Prize Book Awards are part of an annual educational incentive scheme to recognize secondary students, with an objective of contributing to the education system of Hong Kong. For more than 30 years, AmCham’s Charitable Foundation has worked closely with local and international schools across the city in honoring students who are poised to become community leaders of tomorrow.

This year, a total of 20 students – who have demonstrated a combination of academic excellence, achievement in community service and leadership in a variety of projects both inside and outside of the classroom – are recognized in an award ceremony. Each student is presented with a HK$1,000 book coupon, a certificate of achievement and a set of The Americans, a trilogy by Daniel Boorstin.


Charitable Foundation trustees (from left) Gage McAfee, Mark Michelson, Jon Zinke and Tom Gorman present local high school students with the annual Prize Book Awards.


2017 Recipients of AmCham’s Prize Book Awards