Lin Shi ’11 has been awarded a grant from the Fulbright-Schuman Program in European Affairs, which provides scholarships for postgraduate research on European Union affairs or U.S.-E.U. relations to scholars with at least two years of relevant work experience.
“I will study the effects of pension policy and potential pension reform in Europe, where the growing pension debt and aging demographic shift are having devastating consequences on the economy,” said Shi, who will conduct research with professors in Belgium and the Netherlands for nine months beginning in September.
Since graduating from the USC Marshall School of Business with a major in business administration and a minor in financial mathematics, Shi has been working as an actuarial analyst at Towers Watson, a global benefits consulting company, where she assists clients with valuing and restructuring their pension plans to alleviate risk.
“The field I’m working in — retirement benefits and solutions — has been under a lot of scrutiny over recent years due to its large effect on a country’s debt and comfort of elderly living,” Shi said. “I found myself being interested in the long-range effects of retirement policy. The economic situation, my actuarial background and my passion for solving complicated puzzles joined with my desire to explore, and this directed me to the Fulbright.”
Shi learned about the Fulbright-Schuman Program during her time at USC Marshall and was reminded about it through the Marshall Voices email newsletter in which a fellow graduate discussed the project he was pursuing with a grant. She received feedback, guidance and encouragement from her friend and former adviser Sean O’Connell, the head of global programs in the Undergraduate Student Services office, and faculty members Ayse Imrohoroglu and Selahattin Imrohoroglu, both professors of finance and business economics.
“With help from professors Imrohoroglu, I was able to get a sense of what it really meant to do research, having little experience in that area,” Shi said. “They linked me to different data sources and showed me models of health and retirement studies, which I’m using as inspiration in designing my own surveys.”
Ayse Imrohoroglu was impressed with Shi’s passion for the endeavor.
“Lin was so very enthusiastic about the topic she wanted to research that I felt like she would make a great researcher,” she said. “Her background as a Marshall undergraduate, together with her enthusiasm for research, seemed like a great combination that would lead to a successful career.”
While a student at USC Marshall, Shi took on numerous leadership roles with a variety of clubs and organizations, including Teach for America, the USC Business Film Festival, the Delta Omicron Zeta leadership fraternity and the USC Traditional Chinese Dance team. A trustee scholar who participated in the thematic option honors program, she was also a resident adviser and a pro bono consultant as part of Los Angeles Community Impact.
Shi said she was grateful for support from mentors and colleagues who motivated her to pursue an opportunity she thought was outside of the path of a typical actuary.
“I can’t see myself applying for this grant without the experiences I had at USC,” she said. “One of my recommendations was written by a former writing professor, and another was my manager and mentor with whom I’d worked in Shanghai through the Global Leadership Program my freshman year. I started working at Towers Watson because a USC alum who was already there found me.”
Shi plans to finish her actuarial exams and work in the pension and health field, developing ways to bring more satisfaction to people’s lives, particularly in their later years.
“My ultimate career goal is simply to be doing something I love that utilizes my specific skill sets and also serves others,” Shi said. “My Fulbright experience will provide me a much wider global perspective for the pension work I do.”
The Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States and Belgium administers the Fulbright-Schuman Program in European Affairs, which is co-financed by the directorate-general for education and culture of the European Commission and the U.S. Department of State. This program allows for American professors and advanced graduate students to travel to E.U. member states for study and research on topics relating to E.U. affairs and/or E.U.-U.S. relations. Academics, professionals and policymakers from the European Union may pursue similar courses of study at American universities and colleges.
The Fulbright program, the flagship scholarship program promoting international exchange between the United States and 155 countries worldwide, fosters and promotes academic excellence and cross-cultural exchange.