Encouraging the Curious Mind: Young Alumna Creates Scholarship to Help International Students Broaden Their Horizons

June 11, 2015

Elisabeth Dong C’08, W’08, knows what she says when it comes to having a curious mind. The graduate of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business completed four majors at Penn: international studies, French, and political science in the College, as well as business at the Wharton School.Elisabeth Dong C’08, W’08, knows what she says when it comes to having a curious mind. The graduate of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business completed four majors at Penn: international studies, French, and political science in the College, as well as business at the Wharton School. She also found time for a minor in comparative literature just because she was interested. Now, as a vice president at the global investment firm Bain Capital, she’s created a scholarship for international students who are driven by that same curiosity.

She recently established the Elli Endowed Scholarship Fund for the Curious Mind through a matching fund designed specifically to augment gifts from alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years. Elisabeth, who grew up in Germany and now lives in London, says she was able to attend Penn only because she received a scholarship. “The cost doesn’t allow all international students to contemplate a Penn education,” she says. “Particularly for students of my background, who have attended public high schools around the world with little knowledge about what a Penn education may offer, Penn is truly transformative and empowering.”

The most important things Penn taught her were to be curious about how the world works and to authentically connect with people—things she believes are essential to a career in global business. And she definitely should know. She has made investments in Europe, the United States, and Latin America. “Every time we invest we need to learn about the company. I’m constantly learning about new industries and new business models, and meeting new people—management teams, owner-entrepreneurs, corporate sellers—and I’m trying to figure out, ‘Why does this company have an edge? What can be done differently? What drives these people? What makes us good owners?’ As an investor, I’m always in the learning process. You learn from each investment opportunity and develop judgment about what could go better and what could go worse in an investment, which is more of an art than a science. To develop that judgment you have to be curious about how the world works and how people tick. It’s something I believe is a valuable quality whether you are an investor, an entrepreneur, or a researcher,” she says. “The scholarship is really about supporting international students who have a curious mind to broaden their horizons with a Penn education.”