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In December 2021, Sam Kwei, ’14, established the Shang-Chien Sam Kwei Scholarship Fund, a $250,000 gift with a 1:1 match from the Boundless Scholarship Initiative, to support Chicago Booth students. Kwei, a staff technical program manager at Google, spoke to Chicago Booth about his experience growing up in an immigrant family, his time at Booth, and why he encourages fellow alumni to give back, especially in support of student scholarship.

From Taiwan to MIT to Booth

Kwei and his family moved from Taiwan to the United States when he was 12 years old. As entrepreneurs, Kwei’s parents inspired him to pursue a challenging academic path—he ultimately attended MIT to study engineering. In the field, he discovered his passion was actually combining his technical skills with helping people solve problems. He decided to pursue his MBA at Booth to gain the problem-solving skills that could complement his engineering degree.

Right away, Kwei felt connected to Booth and its community—especially its focus on giving back. Some of his favorite experiences included participating in the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge and being a Dean’s Student Alumni Representative, admissions fellow, and career advisor. The impact these teams made on his experience at Booth is part of the reason why he wants to give back to the school.

“My career advisor helped me quite a bit during my first year. The warmth of the admission officer made me want to give back to the admissions process. To thank all the people that gave me help when I needed it as a freshman, I want to do the same for current students.”

— Sam Kwei

Supporting Today’s Students

Kwei is amazed at what today’s Booth students are accomplishing and is driven to give back to them through scholarship. He believes giving back could make the difference between someone graduating from Chicago Booth and choosing not to go to business school at all.

“If a student could have attended business school but chose not to because of cost or because Booth gave a little bit less scholarship than another school, I would rather they have chosen Booth,” he said.

Plus, he said, the alumni community already has a culture of supporting each other. He pointed to the example of how one of his classmates, Elizabeth Abunaw, ’14, an Amy & Richard F. Wallman MBA Scholarship recipient, opened Forty Acres Fresh Market, a startup grocer focusing on selling high-quality fresh produce to Chicago’s West Side for an affordable price. He often sees the alumni community bonding together either on social media or in person to support her business, as well as other alumni ventures, and thinks they should use the same mindset to support current students.

The Importance of Giving Back

Kwei’s Taiwanese upbringing was a huge influence on his passion for giving back today. Growing up Buddhist instilled the idea of doing the right thing and that creating positive change will result in more overall positivity in the world. Further, his parents encouraged him to use the resources he has now to contribute to causes he cares about. They reminded him that anyone can give back at any time—even if they aren’t a billionaire or a millionaire yet.

Kwei sees scholarship as an opportunity to inject some positivity back into the world and encourages fellow Boothies to give back, in order to help future graduates succeed.

“You don’t need to worry about a gift’s amount or the timing. Just think about all the positive experiences the gift can help bring to someone. Think about the compounding effect we’re teaching about in business school: the effect of compound interest, for example. What about compound kindness?”

— Sam Kwei

Regarding his own scholarship fund, he just hopes students will be happy with the amount they receive and that they will be able to do good things because of it. Ultimately, he hopes his gift will in turn make the world a more positive place.

“I feel like the world just needs a pause and an injection of positivity,” Kwei said. “If we continue to think positively, we'll continue to do positive things.”

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