Julie Zhu came to Teachers College with the goal of combining her background in and passion for economics and education, something she developed in her undergraduate years studying business and volunteering in the education field. When thinking of how to bring these experiences together, the Economics and Education program at TC quickly made itself a frontrunner.
Zhu visited TC during her undergraduate program while on a trip for the Harvard UN and had the opportunity to meet and speak with Professor Henry Levit. She says that this experience really drew her to look more into the program for her graduate education. By the time she had to make a decision, Zhu was between TC and one other institution. She had received scholarships from both, but what sealed the deal for her was the location of Teachers College. “ I really love New York. With the location of TC itself, you get to enjoy all the convenience and all the possibilities of New York, but also have the sort of calmness and academic atmosphere that a university can provide.”
Once on campus, Zhu found that being in New York really helped her to kick start her career, crediting her receival of multiple internship offers to the plethora of opportunities available in the city. She ended up taking a summer position as a First to the Top Fellow at the Tennessee Department of Education as well as a semester-long internship at the Robin Hood Foundation, the largest poverty-fighting foundation in New York City. Not only did TC help her find these positions, but she also got her first full-time job through an information session with Ivy Labs that was hosted at the College. “I don’t think I could have made a better choice, and TC really helped me in many ways, both in terms of my career and as a person.”
Since graduating in 2013, Julie Zhu has held a variety of positions across the private, higher education, and government sectors but the one thing that has remained the same is her motivation and passion for her work. “My biggest motivation is to make a difference in students’ lives and students’ equal access. I’m big on connecting people, especially communities or students with disadvantaged backgrounds, lack of resources in special education, or English-language learners to give them better access to education resources.” Zhu is working in this capacity now in her role as a data analysis manager at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in the District of Columbia. Her project is funded by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and focuses on course data collection with the goal of getting students access to high-quality coursework and teaching.
For future and current students, Zhu says to “take advantage of what TC can offer. Make friends, enjoy your time at TC, expand your network, and just try to make the best use of the resources you have.” This includes, of course, what she has been missing most about her time at the College: discounted Broadway tickets. “TC often had discounted tickets to Broadway shows from the Graduate Student Life and Development Office (GSLD). I have lots of good memories from them.”