Andrea Chen’s global outlook comes from an international childhood, her time at Northwestern and a career that has taken her across the world. By the time she arrived at the University in 2003, she had already lived in California, where she was born, as well as Taiwan, Singapore and Beijing. Now a Hong Kong–based corporate strategist for Royal Philips, a global health technology company, Chen reflects on how her cross-cultural upbringing shaped her identity and desire to give back to the University. In October she received the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Club Leader of the Year Award for helping to revitalize alumni clubs in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
What brought you to Northwestern?
In Beijing I went to an international school, and all my friends were embassy and expat kids. That set my foundation for wanting to be a bridge between the United States and China and helped shape my identity. The liberal arts and Chicago attracted me to Northwestern. I came in as an economics and international relations major, but college is a way to explore your interests. I switched to communication studies because my father told me, across any industry, you have to communicate — in the end, it’s a people business.
On campus, I was co-president of the Chinese Students Association and joined the Treblemakers (an East Asian–interest a cappella group). I was also part of Kappa Phi Lambda, an Asian-interest cultural sorority, because a lot of members had international backgrounds and I wanted to do service.
In 2010 you moved back to Beijing to get your MBA at Peking University. How did you get involved with the NAA?
President Morton Schapiro was in Beijing for an event, and I met some people there who wanted to recharter the alumni club. They welcomed me. Then one of my political science professors, Victor Shih, spoke to the club. I found it exciting to see Northwestern in my city. We planned one event after another and started recruiting more alumni.
I moved to Shanghai, and my involvement kept rolling from there. Planning events was second nature after my time with the Chinese Students Association and Kappa — but I got involved because there was a need to be filled due to the growing alumni base in China.
A decade later, what has kept you connected to Northwestern?
There’s a Chinese saying wèi rénmín fúwù that means “serve the people.” I interpret that as you serve the community, your friends and family, and even customers with their best interests in mind. That’s something that I’ve been passionate about in both work and life. I feel fortunate to have grown up in China and blessed to see the country’s growth. With Northwestern, I want to give back to the community that has helped shape me.
Learn more about NAA volunteer opportunities.