Belinda Chiu

Principal, Hummingbird Research Coaching

Consulting, Durham, NC, 2009-present Executive Director, Zomppa, 2009-present

Career Trajectory

Duke University Talent Identification Program, Director of International Programs, Durham, NC, 2008-9

The Phelps Stokes Fund

Special Assistant to the President, New York, NY, 2006-8 Program Officer, Washington, DC, 2004-6

Equals Three Communications, Inc., Research Analyst, Bethesda, MD, 2004

Center for Applied Research, Project Consultant, Cambridge, MA/ Philadelphia, PA, 2003-4

Dartmouth College Office of Admissions, Assistant Director, Hanover, NH,2000-2002

Dove Consulting Group, Inc., Senior Research Analyst, Boston, MA, 1998-2000

Academic Background

Columbia University, Teacher's College, EdD (Concentration in International Education Development), 2009

The New School, Democracy and Diversity Institute, Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, Cape Town, South Africa, January 2007

Tufts University, The Fletcher School, MALD (Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy), 2004

Dartmouth College, AB (Government), 1998

How do you define your cause?

My cause, at its core, is unleashing potential: helping individuals discover how their natural talents can strengthen organizations and communities; encouraging others to perform as the best versions of themselves so that they can leverage organizations as platforms for inclusive social change and make a positive impact on the world; supporting others to craft their own career paths, aim for their own definitions of success, and challenge social expectations.

I have been very fortunate with my educational and professional opportunities, driving me to ask, "How do you offer everybody greater awareness of and access to life's opportunities? How do you create those opportunities?" I truly believe that when people are fulfilled, when they are pursuing the things they're most passionate about, change—real social change—begins. Perhaps that means they have to step "outside the matrix" and create their own mode of working.

In my own career, I've always looked for things I'm passionate and excited about. If I'm not excited to go to work in the morning or find a greater purpose, I won't do it anymore. If I'm not learning, I fall asleep. Interest and passion have always driven me much more than money. I figure money will follow when you're doing what you love.

What drew you to this cause and your field?

Being bicultural, I've always been aware that I straddle a couple of different identities. Code shifting happens all the time. Every day is almost a contradictory experience: simultaneously and effortlessly feeling very much a part of communities while fighting to prove a sense of belonging and not being "Othered."

Growing up, I became sensitive to people who are on the margins of society, whether it's due to their socioeconomic situations, the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation. There is a great deal of potential out there, but far too often folks feel restricted to explore their talents fully. Creating opportunities for people (and kids) to explore and take risks, to see how they can change the world for the better, is a pretty awesome process. Having awareness, confidence, and the support of others around us is so important. Providing these things for all people is my cause.

How would you describe your field?

Depends on the time of day or day of the week you're asking me! Maybe if I had to simplify it, I would describe my work as global human development. It encompasses working with kids to instill a curiosity and desire to live as healthy and responsible global citizens; researching how tribal colleges can best prepare their students for a global economy; identifying the next generation of global leaders; helping Fortune 500 companies create more effective leaders and teams; coaching individuals on moving past feeling "stuck" in their professional lives and taking ownership to craft a new reality instead.

How would you describe your career path?

Like an anthill or a beehive: tons of paths and ways to get around, but all toward a common center. Bumblebee was my nickname in college, actually (laughs). Bees seem to do the aerodynamically impossible. And that's my philosophy: we should always do the impossible.

A hummingbird is similar to a bee in that way. That's why I named my consulting company Hummingbird. Hummingbirds fly backward, forward, up, and down. They are small, agile, and powerful. Their wings make the infinity symbol—infinite possibilities. They go from flower to flower to pollinate. That's how I see what I do. I pollinate— help people find their authentic selves and, through that, a stronger connection with each other and the Earth, and recognize, "Yeah, this is possible!"

I decided not to follow the traditional academic route or development route. I needed a way to design my own path and define for myself what is meaningful in my efforts to contribute to the universe. This process is constantly evolving and very challenging. It requires a certain level of comfort with uncertainty and faith that things will work out. What I really enjoy is stirring people up! Maybe I should just say that I'm a troublemaker (laughs). But I like to think that, in my own way, I'm helping people and making a difference, however small.

Where did you "start" and how did it help you get to where you are today?

Family. My grandmother taught me the idea that if you are kind to everybody, the world will be kind to you. I try to approach life that way. You put good stuff out into the world and hopefully, that collective energy will help the world be a better place for all beings.

And then there's food. I just love food. I never thought of combining my passion for international development, equity, and social justice with food until later in my life. My cofounders of Zomppa are best friends from grad school. We are all committed to the role of international dialogue to drive positive change, the notion that such conversations cannot happen in silos, and the idea that food is a critical way to drive this process. One of the things I'm trying to do with Zomppa is not only to teach kids (ages four to eight) about healthy eating habits, but also to take them on a global journey in the process. While we focus on students from underrepresented communities, we embrace all kids. The key is to get children excited to learn about the world through experiential learning and play. In the process, they create healthy eating and living habits, develop greater curiosity about the world, and learn about their role as advocates. We're trying to create pro-social skills in young people and give them the sense that they have an active role to play in the world, that they have agency. They should never ever think that they are less than anyone else.

What are the major day-to-day activities of your current positions?

I'm not a nine-to-five office person. I need variety. That's why consulting has been really good for me. So it depends on what day of the week or time of year you're asking me.

Some days, I'm focused on the more academic side of my work: collecting and analyzing data; writing; presenting work at conferences; meeting other scholars and practitioners in the field to grapple with the nuances of global education.

Other times, I'm networking for Zomppa—finding community partners, figuring out ways to collaborate. I'm developing curriculum, designing programs, figuring out how to make it economically sustainable. Then I might switch gears to wear my college admissions hat, identifying promising young scholars.

Other days, I'm assessing the abilities of graduate students from around the world to handle conflict. Or facilitating a leadership workshop for upper-level managers at a global pharmaceutical company. Or focusing on some civic and community service engagements. I find myself at the airport a lot.

What is your best advice for developing effective networking skills?

Be authentic. If you're authentic about really wanting to get to know someone (not for what they can get or do for you, but for who they are and what they do), then folks respond accordingly. You never know who can "help" when you need it. Reach out. Talk to folks even if you don't think they are "relevant." A simple act that is often forgotten: thank them!

Take the time to talk to others who seek your advice. You'd want others to do the same.

People think that if they're more introverted or not good in crowds, then they're not good networkers. That's not true. You don't have to be the one who is shaking everyone's hand. Take the chance and start a conversation with the person standing alone at the cheese table—one person is all you need, and from that one person, who knows how many people you might get to know.

Do you have a mentor? How has he or she affected your life and career?

I have many. My first real mentor was Ed Dailey, an attorney and Dartmouth alum. He became, and still is, someone I respect very much. He's never let others define his path. In his "second life," he went back for a degree in divinity after decades of being a successful corporate lawyer. He consistently opposes things he believes are unethical. To have the guts to do this . . . even to this day, I wouldn't mind being fired as long as I know I'm standing up for something I believe in.

The former first lady of Dartmouth, Susan DeBevoise Wright, has had a great influence on me. Having her as a mentor was really important—to see a strong woman, leader, educator, wife, and mother who was comfortable in her own skin and made others comfortable in theirs. She encouraged me and pushed me to look beyond my self-imposed boundaries, to pursue what I loved.

Joan Gussow. She started the local/global food movement decades ago before it was cool. She is amazing. She is irreverent, bold, and speaks truth to power. She was the one that made me go "Aha!!!" and put all my interests together. I want to be her when I grow up.

Do you consider yourself a mentor to others?

I hope not (laughs)! When I was in my mid-twenties, I always thought people in their thirties knew exactly what they were doing. Now that I'm in my thirties myself, it still makes me nervous when people ask for advice. I want to say, "I don't know anything! Are you sure you want to ask me this?"

But I love working with younger people and emerging leaders. Nineteen- and twenty-year-olds are so idealistic . . . but at the same time, they're a bit scared because of the high expectations and because they don't yet know what they're going to do. Sometimes they're so stressed out about college or jobs . . . I love helping them see a broader perspective and challenge external expectations—that there is no one right path.

How have you maintained a healthy balance between your work and personal life?

It's a must! When you work for yourself, the work-life divide is less clear, so it's very easy to just work, work, work. I'm not always good about putting the work down, but I try. I like to play, too. I always make sure I eat well. Exercise. Watch my TV shows. Meet with friends. Take time for me. Last year, I took a month to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I thought, "why the heck not?" Talk about finding your own path. The 500-mile walk is a perfect symbol of how individuals must follow their own paths, and all those paths create a communal synergy. Each person walks alone, but no one ever walks alone.

What lessons have you learned as your career has evolved?

Learn who you are. It's so easy to get caught up in what other people say—your parents, your friends, your teachers. It's important to listen to others because they give you perspective, but at the end of the day, your gut tells you what's right for you.

Take risks. Don't let fear stop you. Be smart about it, but don't regret not doing something. I don't want to be fifty years old, look back, and say, "Damn, I should have done it." If something doesn't work out, so be it. But I'm not going to regret missing an opportunity.

Make sure your work is aligned with your personal life and values. If something or someone is working contrary to your values and you are questioning ethics, walk away.

Don't be driven by the "golden handcuffs"—the title, the salary, the prestige. It's shiny and beautiful, but you can end up tied down to something you don't care about. Be driven by the possibility that the world can be a better place.

Any final advice?

Tell your story. Find themes in your resume and your experiences. I want to say to a lot of younger people, "I know you're smart, I know you're capable, I know you're talented, but so are a lot of people. What is your story?" This not only sets you apart from others, but this also helps you find your focus.

Be irreverent. Be a nonconformist—but not for the sake of nonconformity. Being a true individual means being part of a larger collective. Stay young. Look at things as a child might. It sounds immature. But it makes everything so much more fun. And possible.

 
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