Coronavirus Updates

Ashwin Avasarala, ‘18, Analytics Engagement Leader at Koch Industries

Jasmine Kwong, ‘16, Associate Director of Labs and Programs at the Center for Decision Research at Booth

Tell us about your journey to Booth

Jasmine: I was already working at Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR) but decided I didn’t want to pursue a PhD, which people usually did in my position. So, I did some soul searching and listened to my heart, which pointed me to the arts. I thought about doing an MBA and getting the experience while I can. After all, I was already at arguably the best business school in the world.

Ashwin: I come from a family of engineers and my father has an MBA, so this was always on my radar. Over time, I realized I wanted to move into strategy and, as I explored schools, I connected better with Booth students than with students at other schools.

How did you meet?

Jasmine: There was an arts club at Booth when I started, but the baton was not passed on once those co-chairs left. So before I graduated, I started a new arts and culture club, which was a goal I wrote about in one of my admission essays.

Ashwin: I was starting the Creative Muse Group. I have a background in theater and improv and went to the Second City’s conservatory. I wanted to build community around performance and storytelling. There is a lot the business world can learn from improv and theater, so I also put in an application to start an arts club

Jasmine: The evaluation committee said that we had overlapping missions and asked us to combine forces. We met in one of the study rooms and combined our group names to form the Creative Culture Club (since renamed Studio Booth), which went on to win the Deans’ Prize for Best Community Programming.

Ashwin and Jasmine with Nike
Ashwin and Jasmine with their dog Nike

How did you end up together?

Jasmine: Ashwin asked me to lunch on the pretext that he wanted to learn more about the Social New Venture Challenge (to his credit, he did participate in the SNVC eventually). We had lunch at the Art Institute and I wondered if there could be something more.

Ashwin: Over time we realized we were a good fit for each other. We started dating but took a break for a while, including some time during which I had visa challenges and had to return to India for a year. We became a constant source of support for each other, even apart. I think that’s when we realized if our relationship was strengthened in this way even long distance, there must be something to it.

Jasmine: I said yes to a long engagement because we were still doing long distance at the time and I wanted to wait until Ashwin was back in Chicago. But then we entered lockdown, so we thought we should try for Summer 2020. As it became clear that a regular wedding wasn’t going to happen any time soon, we were inspired by friends who pulled off a wedding with a week of planning.

Tell us about the wedding

Jasmine: We decided to get married November 1, 2020, outside at Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown and pulled it together in two weeks. It ended up being an extremely cold day, but at least it was sunny. Our mutual Booth friend was our officiant, another friend provided music, and my supervisor was our “flower girl.” My mentor Professor Linda Ginzel did our champagne toast and her son (who was in town thanks to the pandemic) was our photographer. Most of our family could not come, so they watched a virtual live stream. We’d like to eventually have a casual reception in Chicago and then have a more traditional wedding ceremony in India; we might also have a banquet dinner in Hong Kong, where I’m from.

What advice can you offer couples balancing school, work, and relationships?

Ashwin: I saw how communication was a challenge with my own parents. I knew I wanted to be in a relationship where communication is unrestricted and I wouldn’t feel worried saying anything on my mind. Jasmine is the kind of person who will make you talk, even if you feel uncomfortable. We treat each other as fellow leaders who are both driven and ambitious, and we take the time and effort to build our relationship. During the pandemic we try to have lunch together, even if we are working in different rooms and have packed schedules.

Jasmine: I agree with everything Ashwin said. You need to recognize that managing a full-time job and part-time school will take over your entire life. Everything is very scheduled, including free time. That's why we have to get on each other's calendars.


Ashwin and Jasmine on wedding day
Ashwin and Jasmine on their wedding day

What is a favorite highlight of your time at Booth?

Jasmine: The lasting connections I made. Starting an arts club was my great achievement. I ended up getting an award for distinction, which was a surprise for me. I'm just really glad the club survived after we left. Building relationships with professors was also incredible. I was a TA for Linda Ginzel for the Executive MBA Program and—prior to the pandemic—got to travel with her to my hometown of Hong Kong.

Ashwin: Agreed. I was a TA for two courses and got to re-experience classes I had already taken, going beyond the surface to understand my professors’ thought processes. I enjoyed building a personal rapport with them; they helped me think very differently about my life. Personally, I felt I underwent a transformation. When I started I was anxious that, with so many amazing classmates, I would really need to establish myself as a leader and project confidence. Over time, I found my voice and really understood what is important for me, and how I could think strategically about achieving my goals.