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ValueChampion Student Interview Series: Betty Pu, Yale-NUS College

ValueChampion interviews top university students in order to help prospective students and their families learn more about the university experience. In this article we interviewed Betty Pu of Yale-NUS College.

Betty Pu, who hails from Canada, is a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major at Yale-NUS. Betty is a high achiever. In 2017, she co-founded and was the inaugural president of Yale-NUS Women in Business, Singapore’s only undergraduate Women in Business organisation. She has also established collaborations with Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, Point72, and 100 Women in Finance, and organised highly successful events such as the Women in Finance conference.

Did you ever consider studying in Canada?

Yes. I was admitted into Canada’s top two business programs – Western University’s Advanced Entry Program (AEO) into their Richard Ivey School of Business, and Queen’s University’s Commerce program.

Why did you ultimately choose Yale-NUS?

My ultimate two choices were Western University and Yale-NUS College. When I thought about my life attending Western University, I could picture exactly what I would be doing, studying, and working from Year 1 to Year 4. The path was well-paved and well-travelled by several of my peers, and I knew exactly what would wait for me at the end—if all went well, a finance/consulting position in the heart of downtown Toronto. On the other hand, I had absolutely no idea what would be in line for me if I went to Yale-NUS. In fact, I could hardly picture what my life would look like the first few weeks of university, let alone my four years.

The desire for adventure and challenge made me choose Yale-NUS. Within the first few months of university, it was incredibly clear that I had made the right choice. My experiences in the classroom, on field trips, late-night conversations with my batchmates over takeout Singaporean foods, were unforgettable. I could get nothing similar at any other school. I’m glad I chose not to pass up on the privilege to study here.

How would you describe your academic experience at Yale-NUS?

My major is Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I switched my major half-way through Year 3, and certainly fortunate to attend a university that allows that flexibility. I really appreciate the openness of the major – I can tailor my experiences to my own intellectual interests and passions. While being able to take full advantage of the various expertise of the PPE faculty at Yale-NUS, I have also been able to choose other courses during study abroad that fit my interests. When I studied at the University of Pennsylvania for a semester, I took a graduate course in Power, Sexuality and Feminist Theory, a course that was not offered at Yale-NUS, and I was easily able to map that onto fulfilling my major requirements.

What has been your favorite course so far, and why?

This is a hard question for me to narrow down. One that comes to mind is called “Emotions and Politics”, which is taught by Associate Professor of Social Sciences (Political Theory) Christina Tarnopolsky. The course content was interesting on its own, but I was surprised to find that I was using Adam Smith’s notion of the impartial spectator in my own life - evaluating instances where I am confronted with a moral dilemma. I was super surprised to find how helpful such philosophical concepts were for disrupting and re-evaluating my past ways of thinking, and this inspired me to pursue the PPE major.

How did you decide to found Yale-NUS Women in Business? What were the most challenging/rewarding aspects of getting this group started?

I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Dean of Students Office that subsidized my travel to attend Harvard’s Undergraduate Women in Businesses’ Intercollegiate Business Conference in my first semester of university. I lead a delegation with me to go to Boston, MA for a week and ask the student organizations (which included other American universities, like Duke, Stanford, Wellesley College, Ithaca College, among others) how they structure and plan their organization. When we came back, I co-founded the organization with fellow Yale-NUS student Chandler Beyer (Class of 2020).

The most challenging aspect for the group was trying to distinguish ourselves from the other business groups on campus, and to make it very clear to the administration and other student groups that the underrepresentation of women in business industries is a legitimate reason to exist as a separate organization.

The most rewarding aspect was the reception – being thanked by our members for creating a separate space where they felt comfortable talking about their ambitions and insecurities, and where they can get direct access to recruiters. Our efforts culminated in being awarded the Kingfisher Award for Outstanding Student Organization by the Dean of Students Office at the end of our first year.

What other types of extracurricular activities are you involved with?

In my first two years of university, I dedicated most of my time to building Yale-NUS Women in Business. When I studied abroad at the University of Pennsylvania in Year 3, I played on their women's rugby team. Now, back at Yale-NUS and in my final year, I split my time between powerlifting, playing for a local Singapore women's rugby club, and offering any advice I can to this year's Yale-NUS Women in Business students.

Have you had internships? If so, how did you search for internship opportunities?

Yes, I have had two. I found my Year 1 summer internship at the Royal Bank of Canada Wealth Management division through our school’s career services portal. I applied to my Year 3 summer internship at Credit Suisse directly through the bank’s website.

What are your career aspirations?

I will be starting as an investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse in August 2020, upon graduation. My career aspirations are quite open-ended at the moment; in the short-term, I am interested in a career where I can learn strong technical skills and how businesses operate and grow. I value learning and being exposed to different environments, and so I am definitely interested in working in different cities/countries over the course of my career. In the long-run, I would be interested in being an entrepreneur, operating a business that creates a positive impact on the communities it serves.

How has Yale-NUS helped prepare you for this type of career?

As mentioned earlier, I knew that had I gotten an undergraduate business degree, I would have ended up at a career in finance. That was my goal in high school; now, as a Year 4 in university, I am humbled to have achieved it. But by choosing to go to Yale-NUS, I certainly had chosen a roundabout, somewhat unconventional route to this end goal. And I greatly, greatly appreciate it.

During my time at Yale-NUS, I was exposed to just about everything except business. I learned ancient Greek philosophy, studied English and French realism and naturalism movements, discussed China’s rising political and economic influence in the 21st century, debated feminist philosophy, and analyzed data using various econometric models. I can confidently say that none of these came up during my investment banking internship, but I can also say that it didn’t matter. My supervisors knew I had a non-technical background, and valued that I was able to learn quickly and diligently during the internship. They also assured me that they would provide training during the job, and that within a year I would have caught up with their other analysts with business backgrounds.

There are a plethora of studies and news articles arguing for the merits of liberal arts degrees and interdisciplinary thinking, especially in our fast-changing world. I will not reiterate the same claims here, because I would be inclined to agree with these claims anyway. What I can say is that even though I tailored my experiences at Yale-NUS to be highly theoretical and intellectually stimulating non-business topics, I felt prepared and valued in pursuing a technical finance career anyway.

How are you financing your education? What resources did you use to learn about financing options?

Due to the generosity and needs-based system of Yale-NUS Financial Aid, I received the Yale-NUS Study Award. My four years at Yale-NUS College have been fully funded by a combination of the university’s financial aid and the Singapore government’s Tuition Grant Scheme (TGS).

William Hofmann

William is a Product Manager at ValueChampion Singapore, helping consumers and SMEs find the best banking products through comprehensive analysis of data. He previously was an Economic Consultant at Industrial Economics Inc, where he conducted a variety of research and economic analyses. He graduated from University of Vermont with degrees in Economics and Psychology. His work has been featured on a variety of major media such as the Straits Times, the Business Times, the Edge, DailySocial, the Entrepreneur and more.