Melissa Chang, ’23, was anticipating a dramatic change when she decided to attend the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She had worked in professional and financial services for five years after receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia with a double degree in math and economics, and was hoping to move her career forward in Chicago after receiving the Spirit of 1976 Scholarship, which was established by members of the class of 1976. The scholarship gift initiative—led by reunion gift chair Charles P. “Chuck” McQuaid, ’76, in honor of the class’s 45th reunion—showed the power of a collective act of generosity.
Chang didn’t realize her career leap would be so theatrical. Along with friends Ali Abbas, ’23; James Jung, ’23; and Lauren Kasper, ’23, she founded a Booth club in fall 2022 to make it easier and more affordable for students to attend performing arts shows throughout Chicago. After graduating in June, Chang moved to New York City to take a job as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group.
We spoke to Chang about her journey and the origins of the Stage & Screen Club.
How did the club get started?
My friend James [Jung] approached me, knowing that arts and culture are very important to me, and they’re one of the reasons why I chose to go to Booth: downtown Chicago has a very strong arts scene. We created the Stage & Screen Club for students interested in going to see plays, concerts, comedy shows, and more. I think it’s great to find other people in our community who share these interests and create opportunities to connect with our classmates through these activities. We take care of the event planning and tickets, and you know that you’ll be able to show up and sit with people you go to school with.
How are you helping students who can’t afford tickets?
We found that a lot of organizations offer group discounts or student discounts. Usually a minimum of 10 people are needed to unlock that discount. That’s really important because the performing arts can be very expensive. Thanks to our time at Booth, we were also able to nurture relationships with some comedy clubs and a jazz club.
What’s your favorite show?
One that’s very special to me is the new musical rendition of The Notebook. I saw it at Chicago Shakespeare Theater as our first official Stage & Screen Club event, and now it’s heading to Broadway.
What are your plans for the future?
If there is a way to move professionally into this genre—the arts, and connecting people to theater—I’d love to do it. I took an arts leadership class at Booth last fall, and it illustrated some of the unique leadership and business challenges of leading a nonprofit. Before that class, I never considered working in that space professionally, but it helped me see some opportunities.
What role do the arts play in the business world?
The arts are great for community building. The club would plan preshow potlucks, and that was really nice for getting to know your community. The arts are also a great way to deepen connections with other people and with yourself, and with thought-provoking topics as well. Anything that forces you to be reflective or to consider someone else’s experience is helpful because at the end of the day, business is all about the people who are doing it.
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