A three-part collage of people attending a talk in an auditorium

By Jessie Zhong, ISB Alumni Relations, and Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Grade 8 students at the International School of Beijing (ISB) benefited from ISB’s alumni network and the expertise and generosity in its parent community at the launch of a guest speaker series on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) this morning.

Rebecca Chen, an ISB science teacher and 2011 graduate of the school, organized the event along with colleague Ashlea Fidler as a way of inspiring her students through hearing about the real-life professional experiences of the speakers. They included Andrea Blackburn, ISB Class of 2010 and now a primatologist at Boston University; Watson Yim, ISB Class of 2011 and an award-winning tech entrepreneur and software engineer at Tesla; and Jesse Starger, a member of the ISB Class of 2012 who spent several years working for the pharmaceutical company Moderna.

Christian Benz of Beijing Benz Automotive and Junlan Feng of China Mobile spoke from the parent community, and ISB faculty member Laura Brown, a former medical scientist, also gave a presentation.

Dr. Blackburn spoke about what we can learn by studying wild orangutans, Mr. Yim about technology and startup culture, and Mr. Starger about the timely issue of vaccine development. Ms. Brown’s talk was entitled “From Biopsy to Diagnosis,” and the students heard about artificial intelligence and Covid’s impact on the car industry from Dr. Feng and Mr. Benz.

The students were enthusiastic in asking questions during Q&As with the guests.

ISB values providing students with real-world learning, and it regularly takes advantage of expertise from outside the school. Who better to help students find their place in the world than the many inspiring people in the parent community? And with more editions of this talk series planned for 2021-2022, this is also the latest example of ISB’s alumni network giving back.

The ISB Alumni Association, established in 1995, continues to grow. Over 1,600 former students, parents, and faculty members have created profiles on the Alumni Network website, with most of them volunteering as mentors for current students and other alumni.

The Elementary School Theater, one of a number of new facilities opened at ISB this year, provided the perfect venue for the whole of Grade 8 to enjoy the talks. Most of the speakers appeared live, while the alumni took part from abroad via teleconferencing.

Referencing this event’s appeal to students considering future careers in STEM, Middle School Principal Jon Hill said in his opening speech, “Our Mission statement says we are thinkers and leaders who find our place in the world. The idea of finding our place in the world is not just about finding our place someday, it’s about finding our place today and perhaps finding our place again tomorrow because the world is changing around us.”

Annie B, Grade 8, said she enjoyed many of the talks, especially Mr. Yim’s. “I am really interested in coding and engineering. His speech was mind-blowing; he gave a lot of advice about how to design and build a successful product.”

A big thanks from ISB to all the guests who took part in this event!

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