The IPWS community has grown since we first started as an organisation in 1993, as a not for profit style group & volunteer Board of Directors, we aim to give back to our professional women through dynamic events and distinct opportunities throughout the year. But each year, we also stop and recognise women in our community who strive to be the best version of themselves and are graduates of the World Academy of the Future of Women.
IPWS each year supports the World Academy with fundraising events – like the White Party Fundraising Brunch this Saturday – and by supporting their graduates with paid intern positions working with the IPWS Board. The purpose of World Academy is to advance and accelerate women’s leadership worldwide, with a mission to empower women through the discovery of their passion, purpose, and path to success, calling forth the full expression of human possibilities through collaborative and inclusive partnerships.
Last year we shared a Q&A with our intern & World Academy Graduate Susanna Ma, and this year we’re so delighted to introduce Cecilia Zhang, our current IPWS Intern who also graduated from the World Academy of the Future of Women. You’ll see Cecilia at all our IPWS events, working the registration desk and being that friendly first smile when you arrive.
When did you first hear about the World Academy?
The first time I heard about the Academy was when I was in the military training, which every freshmen in Chinese college will experience. I saw lots of schoolmates who were only 1-2 years older than me, but they were much more confident and braver than me, which drew my attention and I just wanted to be part it of it with them.
What did you like best about attending the World Academy?
In the Academy, I was encouraged to become no one else, but to become who I truly am, which I never got the courage to become, or I wasn’t even brave enough to recognize. I was safe and free to share my ideas and bring up my concerns about my life and community service project that I was doing. I was inspired everyday by my facilitators (volunteers who commit 5 weeks of their time to teach at the Academy) and my sisters and brothers in the Academy.
How is your life different after graduating from the World Academy?
I born in a very typical Chinese family, and all my parents ever wanted was that their girl would live a stable life, which was how I pictured my life before the Academy. I probably would have become a bank clerk, married with someone my parents like, and spent the rest of my life in my little city. I can never imagine that I got the experience to visit the United States, and find a job in Shanghai while I was still a freshman.
The 4-year experience in the Academy totally opened up my mind. I am not in a leadership position, but I practice my leadership skills in every aspect of my life. I am much more confident, and I can see lots of possibilities inside of myself, and so does my family. Moreover, with the development and growth of myself, I care more about the people around me, as well as the world. The Academy taught me to be a global citizen, and give back at anytime, even when I am resourceless. So now I always do community service projects in my spare time. The Academy was a place for me to be reborn. The experience made who I am today.
What are some of your fellow graduates doing now after attending the World Academy?
I have some friends from the Academy who are now overseas for graduate school in the US. Now I am living with 5 other academy members who all work and thrive in Shanghai at different industries. There are about 40 of us Academy alumni in Shanghai. We also have an alumni named Acqua, who are part of the UN Peacekeeper Force in South Sudan. To view the alumni page at the World Academy website, please click here.
What career path do you envision for yourself?
I am still discovering about myself at this moment of my life. Now, I am passionate about helping people, especially young women, find their potentials, and become best and biggest versions of themselves. I would like to become a coach/career consultant in the future.
How is your career choice different from your parents?
They wanted me to have a stable job, like in the bank or government system, which is relatively easy and reliable. But I enjoy challenges and problem solving.
What advice would you share with younger students about the World Academy?
Just keep your word to go to the 10 hours additional classes adding to your own major class every week, fully participate in the community service projects, embrace who you are and be the best version of yourself, be a leader by leading yourself, and always give back to the community.
You can read more about the World Academy of the Future of Women here and join our fundraising event this Saturday!