Don’t let her diminutive stature fool you. Roslyn Chao has actually never stopped growing as her multiple degrees and broad experience prove. Seeking rather than skirting challenges, Roslyn has channeled her earlier rebellious streak as the youngest of three into productive avenues that align social responsibility with civic engagement.
Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, the daughter of two Chinese immigrants, Roslyn straddled “two diverse yet wonderful cultures.” Her work ethic stems from her father who moved to the States to pursue graduate studies while simultaneously holding three jobs so that he could afford to bring Roslyn’s older brother and mother to the States. Roslyn stresses that “he shaped me into the person I am today” – an avid sports fan, an athlete, a proponent of the arts, and an eternally curious and active citizen of the world.
Her curiosity influenced her academic choices. After graduating summa cum laude in Finance from the University of Tennessee, she attended CWRU Law School where she founded the Asian American Law Student Association and served as an editor of the Journal of International Law. She took her interest in business and law and parlayed it into the nonprofit sector. Her first job after law school involved working as the Admissions and Development Director of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity for the American Bar Association in D.C. She devoted herself to a nonprofit project dedicated to “diversifying the legal profession by expanding legal education opportunities for members of under-represented groups.” Some of these under-represented groups included indigent students seeking access to and placement in law schools nationwide.
One of Roslyn’s biggest challenges surfaced when she returned to work after spending eight years at home with her two sons. In her role as a research assistant for a boutique investment firm, she had to learn the essentials of marketing, sales, and corporate analysis, and the unfamiliar arena of media and telecommunications. As she observed the evolving financial sector, she began to wonder “how the nonprofit sector could benefit from best business practices and innovative forms of investment capital and financing.”
Relishing new challenges, Roslyn moved on to manage both grants and events for after-school enrichment programs in under-resourced neighborhoods, then served as Director of Development for a neighborhood center in the Broadway/Slavic Village community, and now serves as the Foundation Grants Manager for The Mercy Foundation. Wearing two hats, she both seeks support for community health and medical programs and provides grant funding for various internal programs. By sitting on both sides of the table, Roslyn is uniquely sympathetic to the needs of grantees and grantors alike. She’s also “excited to integrate her experience and energies to finding disruptive innovation for social change.”
In retrospect, Roslyn observes that every job she’s ever held has taught her critical skills upon which she’s built. And now Roslyn is coming full circle as she prepares to get her MBA as part of her lifelong quest for “continuous improvement” as an analyst, strategist, and community leader. Although she claims to be “a recovering perfectionist,” her accomplishments say otherwise. And we at Social Venture Partners are thrilled to have Roslyn apply her resourcefulness and expertise to our capacity-building cause.