Impact Stories: Andrew Shao

Andrew Shao

Andrew Shao

Class Year:

Years of volunteer service: 6 years, Current Alumni Association Executive Council Vice President, speaker in Jim Tillotson’s Health Claims Class, Career Mentor

Years of philanthropic support: 8

Please explain your motivation(s) for giving to the Friedman School:

To give something back to the school to help students afford the opportunities that I did not have as a student.

I was somewhat "disgruntled" as a student, and openly critical of the school. Whether it was a syllabus that was poorly hand-written and then photo copied for the class or the fact that we had to play "musical lecture rooms", because we had no official place to hold classes and had to defer to the med or dental students. I was barely experiencing what one would think should be a professional atmosphere. I was not silent about it, and made it known on evaluations, etc… I think I had every right to be disappointed, but looking back I realize I was short-sighted and naïve. I had little clue about what it took to establish organizationally and administratively all the things to make the school top notch. I had little appreciation for the sacrifices that some, like Lynne Ausman, made for the school and the students. I don’t regret voicing my concerns; I do regret not expressing enough appreciation for what the school did do well.

Obviously, many (but not all) things have improved, so that is evidence that it can be done right. One important reason for my involvement now as an alumni is to give back and help the school improve even more; put "my money where my mouth is" so to speak. Also, I want to help provide students with direction and resources that were not available when I was a student, like career counseling. I know an office has been set up there to address this, which is fabulous, but students need guidance from those who have actually taken the journey – that is the best resource for them, in addition to a career guidance counselor, in my opinion.

How has the Friedman School impacted your life (personally and/or professionally)?

Tufts in general, not just the Friedman School, carries a stellar reputation in all professional circles. There is no question that I have leveraged the name, and will continue to do so, for professional gain. This certainly applies to most, if not all Friedman alumni. That said, we cannot continue to leverage the name without ensuring that the stellar reputation remain fully intact. It is incumbent upon each and every Friedman alum to ensure that the reputation of the school remain intact and not be eroded by competition, and certainly not by alums who are indifferent, now that they have received their degrees and moved on into their careers. We all leverage the Tufts Friedman name in our professional lives, every day. If we ignore the "goose that laid the golden egg", we will find that one day, the name does not generate the same kind of respect that it once did, and we will all lose because of that. Stay involved!

What have you found to be most rewarding/exciting about reconnecting with the School?

Given my professional responsibilities and affiliation, it simply makes good sense strategically to be involved with and visible within the Friedman community. To that end, I try to do as much as I possibly can to be active. Involvement in the Alumni Association is the obvious point of contact for me, but I don’t believe it has to be limited to that. I would be open to and interested in being involved in other ways as well. I could even see myself (dare I say it) being faculty there some day.

What is your fondest memory of the Friedman School?

The doctoral process was rigorous, demanding and it felt like I lived in the lab. I can’t say I have fond memories of studying in freezing apartments during the Boston winters, but I can say that ultimately it was a rewarding process. I formed lasting relationships with professors and my classmates that I leverage today in my professional life.

Based on your experiences to date, what do you think makes the Friedman School special or unique?

Over the years, various researchers and faculty from Tufts, and specifically the Friedman School have had a substantial impact, either direct or indirect, on nutrition policy. The School and faculty continue to be held in high regard in the nutrition science/policy arena.