From Powerhouse construction project to forecasting data analyst

Shujie takes on her amazing ride as an international student, amid the language/cultural barriers to having a major contribution to the Powerhouse construction project and realizing her passion for energy efficiency programs.

Before Beloit

What drew you to Beloit College?
Honestly, I did not have any particular criteria when applying for colleges in the United States. I applied to several national/state universities and only a few liberal arts colleges. However, after attending an intensive English campus program to get myself qualified for study in the States, I wanted to have my college experience in a tight-knit community with a rigorous academic program. At the same time, I would love to attend a school where students would be encouraged to express themselves and have close relationships with faculty and staff. That’s why among my school list, I found Beloit College to be my perfect fit.

Year 1

As an international student, did you find it difficult to navigate your very first semester at Beloit College? If yes, who helped motivate you to come out of your comfort zone and start adapting to the new environment?
I don’t know about others, but in my case, it was a tough transition from my Chinese high school to the United States college for the first couple weeks of my freshman year. The language barrier and cultural barrier, those things kept me inside of my shell, even though I tried really hard to communicate and be open to others. At that time, the thought of giving up actually came up. However, Beloit professors were the ones to keep me stay and help me gradually gain my confidence. I remember talking to my FYI advisor, Professor James Ian Nie, and then he introduced me to Professor Daniel Youd. Professor Daniel encouraged me to come out of my shell by participating in clubs/activities that I was interested in so that it would be easier for me to start having my own community and gaining the confidence to express myself within my new comfort bubble. And it worked. I joined the December Dance, where I connected with like-minded people and luckily got them accompanied throughout my 4-year at Beloit College. The International Orientation, which Beloit College offers for international students, was another factor in keeping me connected with the Beloit international community. My host family (Beloit’s program) was always there to cheer me up every time I felt down and lost; they were truly my second family in the States.

What one piece of advice would you give to first-year students to help them navigate their college life, especially for international students?
I would say that try everything, as much as you can. Beloit offers numerous opportunities, and the professors, students, and staff are there to support and encourage you to create your success. So do not limit yourself and hesitate to seek out help.

Year 2

Speaking of opportunities, do you think Beloit College has supported you in pursuing your academic goals?
Honestly, I wasn’t interested in any particular majors when coming to Beloit. So after my freshman year dedicated to exploring and trying various courses from different departments, I narrowed it down to declare my major in Business Economics and minor in Physics in my sophomore year. What I’ve always valued from my experience at Beloit College was the opportunity to translate my classroom learning into real-world examples. After taking Accounting and Money and Banking courses in my sophomore year, I got a chance to practice my knowledge with an on-campus internship where I carried out the cost-benefit analysis and found myself fascinated by the project cycle concept. Also, being a part of a special project with the Physics Department and later conducting my own project to support Powerhouse construction in my junior and senior years helped me grow and mature as a thinker and doer.

Year 3

You mentioned the special project with the Physics department in your junior year. Could you share with us a little bit about it?
It was a group special project with the Physics Department from the spring semester of my junior year to the fall semester of my senior year. We worked together on evaluating the cooling/warming method for the Powerhouse building utilizing natural resources such as the sun and the water river near the building. By using the sun reflection, we calculated the needed amount of time to heat the building while at the same time figuring out the maximum number of people staying in the building given the temperature. Following the special project, I carried out my own research in my Honor Term (senior year) to evaluate the value of each recommended option and came up with a financial plan for the school to get a return on investment.

How about your non-academic involvements? Do you think that you have found yourself a sense of belonging while at Beloit?
Definitely, after the involvement with December Dance and Chelonia in my first and second years, I came out with much more confidence and a sense of belonging to the campus. I have met and been friends with many like-minded people to that I’m forever grateful. Besides dancing, I was also a part of the Field and Track team in my junior and senior years. I remember that my junior schedule was always tight, filled with concentrated courses and heavy training plans. Still, I indeed enjoyed every single moment of them.

Year 4

How did you balance your senior year between maintaining your academic performance and hunting for jobs while making the most out of your college experience?
In terms of academics, I managed to graduate 1 semester early. Therefore, I did not find it hard to balance my senior year. In the first semester of my senior year, I became the Residential Assistant (RA) as I wanted to provide all new students (especially international students) with guidance to make the most out of their college experience like I used to. And in my second semester, I focused on doing my Honor Term project and only took 2 courses, so I could spare time looking for jobs.

Throughout your 4-year at Beloit College, how do you think that Beloit has prepared you for life after graduation?
From my perspective, I think Beloit has prepared me with ample soft skills to thrive in any path. I have learned and gained leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Coming out of Beloit, I’ve been able to talk confidently, take the initiative, and never hesitate to ask questions. Regarding technical skills, I actually wished that I had taken my academics more seriously. During my time at Beloit, I was just working on what the courses/professors required but not seeking chances to leverage my knowledge. I did not realize the importance of this until attending graduate school. The gap between undergraduate and graduate was huge as you will need to figure out everything on your own, so it is better to prepare yourself well during your time in college. Also, I wished that I had more confidence in myself to take on opportunities and leadership positions while at Beloit. Everybody was supportive back then, but it was me being shy and staying behind.

After Beloit

What paths did you take from graduation to your current position?
I would say I was confused about what career path I should take. I got my first job in the accounting field after graduation through an alumnus and Professor Diep Phan. However, it didn’t turn out well since I did not like the job as much as I used to when taking the Accounting course with Professor Phan. I found my work a little tedious as I had to work on the same tasks every single day. So, I quit and went back to China after my OTP. But, deep inside, I’ve always wanted to work on something innovative and environmentally related. I went back to the US to pursue a Master’s degree in Environmental Science & Policy at the University of Chicago. After graduate school, I landed several jobs. And currently, I’m working as the Forecasting Data Analyst at ICF, a global consulting firm.

Could you please walk us through a day of your work and share a little about why you chose to work in this field?
As the Forecasting Data Analyst working with clients in the utility industry, I’m working on the Energy Efficiency Programs by collaborating with our engineers to report on how much money and kWh the projects have saved and conduct the forecast reports for the next period. I’m also responsible for improving the workflow with automated reports and PowerBI dashboards for other stakeholders. Honestly, I did not plan to work in this particular field. After graduate school, I was looking for analyst positions to incorporate my quantitative skills and knowledge into my job, such as an evaluation or programming evaluation position. However, it just happened that I found this role that combined my quantitative skills and my interest in energy conservation, so yes, here comes my journey in this Data Analytics field.

By: Ojaswi Dhakal'25
January 01, 2023

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