A Q&A With Shelby Wu: The Triple President

| May 9, 2024

The 2024 graduate of the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering led three major student organizations simultaneously.

Graduating ISE student Shelby Wu has been serving as the simultaneous president of three leading engineering student organizations. Image/Shelby Wu

Graduating ISE student Shelby Wu has been serving as the simultaneous president of three leading engineering student organizations. Image/Shelby Wu

Shelby Wu is accustomed to stepping up. The Class of 2024 graduate from the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering has been keeping herself busy as president of not one but three key student organizations — all at the same time. She has been leading the USC chapter of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, the professional engineering society Theta Tau, and the industrial engineering honor society Alpha Pi Mu.

Wu was recently recognized for her extraordinary service and commitment to student life with the USC Viterbi Outstanding Achievement in Leadership Award, as well as the Outstanding Achievement in Leadership Award from the Epstein Department.

We spoke to Wu about her college journey.

Shelby Wu
Hometown: Chino Hills, California, USA
Degree: B.S. Industrial and Systems Engineering / M.S. Product Development Engineering

What first inspired you to study engineering?

My inspiration for engineering came from my love of robotics in middle school and high school. I enjoyed the multifaceted nature of engineering and how applicable it was to the problems I wanted to solve. Robotics revealed how engineering combined the dimensions of technicality with creativity. I came to realize this limitless ability engineering had, and I wanted to continue creating better opportunities for others in my future. I was also inspired by the people around me. The robotics team I led surrounded me with strong and powerful women who inspired me to show the different perspectives women can bring to the table. I want to make change and continue to pioneer this path forward.

What is something you’ve achieved while at USC Viterbi that you’re most passionate about?

I’m most passionate about the leadership award I received from the ISE department. It might sound a bit odd, but my pride isn’t about the leadership positions I’ve held at USC. What I’m most proud of is the amazing community of people I’ve been able to meet, work with, and become friends with throughout my leadership journeys. This award, for me, symbolized the leaders who came before me and taught me the skills and abilities to lead a group of people. It symbolized the people I’ve worked with throughout my leadership experiences, such as my own classmates, my lifelong friends, the ISE department, other organizations on campus, and other industry leaders. I’ve learned so many incredible and invaluable experiences from these positions and have gained so many relationships and friendships that have changed my perspectives and nurtured my growth. I am forever grateful to all of those I’ve worked with throughout my leadership journey, and what I achieved would not have been possible without everyone who supported me throughout this journey.

Tell us about some of the research you have been working on that made an impact on you.

The research I’ve done that’s made an impact on me was during my freshman year. I signed up for the CURVE program at USC, and one professor, Najmedin Meshkati, took a chance on a freshman to join his research team. Our research analyzed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response to COVID-19 through an AcciMap Framework. This Chernobyl event demonstrated so clearly the gravity of the threat to our health and well-being. I was given the opportunity to research in different fields, such as international relations, international health regulations, and how different organizations mobilized and dispersed information. What’s unfortunate is that if COVID-19 was handled a week earlier with enforced social distancing and masks, 36,000 lives would’ve been saved, and 700,000 fewer infections would’ve occurred. I learned so much from the political sides of handling a pandemic to how to write a diplomatic research article. I did more research with Dr. Meshkati when I was in his ISE370 class, and from that paper, was able to take that project further and win a data science award on Nuclear Power Plant Human Safety Search through Python Machine Learning. These experiences led me to be a well-rounded person not only in industry, but to take part in USC’s academia space, which I am thankful to have been a part of. Through research, I met an incredible professor who cares so much about his students and pushed me to succeed further than I believed.

Tell us more about the student leadership roles you’ve taken on during your academic career.

I have been a part of Theta Tau, the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, and Alpha Pi Mu on campus. I’ve had the honor of holding the position of president for all three organizations at the same time during my academic career. On paper, Theta Tau is a professional engineering society with the pillars of service, brotherhood and professionalism, but it’s more than that. It’s community, and, honestly, my family at USC. Theta Tau has nurtured me to be professionally confident in myself and achieve offers from companies I could not have imagined. It’s aligned with my goals of helping the community, planting trees throughout schools, and making packages for people experiencing homelessness. More than anything, it’s blessed me with lifelong friends that I could not imagine doing college without and has allowed me to connect with so many beautiful people at USC. The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers is an organization that encourages community within ISE and helps students develop their skills professionally. I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing individuals to put on numerous events with professionals, companies, and the department who have shaped my professional experiences. It’s an organization that wants to see the best in you succeed and will do its best to give you the skills to achieve the professional goals you want. Alpha Pi Mu is the ISE honor society on campus. I’ve had the privilege to work with faculty on maintaining this organization and welcoming the students who have worked hard to be in this society.

What are your plans post-graduation?

My post-graduation plans are to move to New York and start my full-time position at PwC in technology consulting. I will be working in their Cloud & Digital Platform, under their engineering division. There, I hope to continue the intersection of people and technology, growing my skills and learning from relationships.

Based on what you know now, what is your best advice for other students?

My best piece of advice for other students is to meet anyone and everyone because there are so many beautiful people at this school with experiences and stories that will inspire you. There are bountiful relationships and friendships to be made (or to be lost), but at the end of the day, you learn and grow from these connections, whether good or bad. Your perspectives of people or ideas will broaden, and I think it’s critical to grow an open mind. To immerse yourself in a diverse space of people and cultures and widen your capacity to ideas that even challenge your own. Meeting numerous people during my college experience has educated me in other areas, fostered my own beliefs, and helped me understand the opinions that I may not necessarily agree with. Learning starts with people, and it’s a space where understanding can still mean disagreeing with someone’s opinions, but it allows for a more inclusive and forward tomorrow.

What’s an area where you feel like you’ve really grown between your first semester of college and today? What have you learned along the way?

I feel like I’ve grown very sure of myself and who I am from my first semester of college to today. I have learned who I am and who I want to be, who I want to surround myself with, and what impact I want to create. I’ve learned to not care about what other people think or say if you feel it’s right. I’ve learned to stand up for what I believe in and what matters to me, even if other people disagree. I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet and what it means to believe in yourself. I’ve grown more and more sure of who I am and have unshakable confidence in what I want and will achieve in the future. I have learned about what it means to have Trojan spirit, and that is to fight on for what we believe in, even if others don’t agree.

Published on May 9th, 2024

Last updated on May 9th, 2024

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