Economics senior Inga Hao is a young woman of two countries. A first-generation Chinese American, Inga’s parents worked hard to instill a deep appreciation for Chinese culture, history, and values. Inga’s mother and grandmother were particularly crucial in her not only learning the language, but also developing a thriving sense of community; celebrating Chinese holidays complete with ethnic food and decorations forming some of her favorite memories. She also learned the importance of advocating for herself in the face of adversity from her grandmother who encourages her to persevere with a positive spirit while reminding oneself “I am capable.” Inga says growing up surrounded by her grandmother’s “boundless energy, selflessness, and emotional compassion” inspires her to perform above and beyond with a gracious heart.
With these key influences in her life, Inga has also come to deeply value giving back. As someone who actively seeks opportunities to volunteer and engage in collaboration both on a local and international scale, Inga arrived on the U-M campus excited to work with like-minded, driven individuals. Already knowing she wanted to create a lasting social impact with others passionate about effecting positive change, Inga found a concentration that could put this dedication into action in quantifiable ways: Economics with a minor in Applied Statistics.
Inga first encountered the study of economics in high school learning about the interaction of households and firms in the U.S. economy. She became fascinated by how economists use models to explain human decisions and came to see it as an interdisciplinary field applicable to nearly every aspect of daily life and quickly declared her major. Economics provided Inga a better understanding of how society is structured and ways in which systems can be improved through exploring the dynamics between multiple factors present in our world—even when intersections aren't necessarily intuitive.
Carrying this intersectional perspective into her extracurricular pursuits, Inga’s volunteer work with the Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP) aimed to help local communities in Detroit and Ann Arbor strive towards more environmentally sustainable alternatives without compromising economic growth. Through working alongside those directly affected by issues caused by resource inaccessibility and the wealth disparity, such as food insecurity and a lack of clean water in marginalized communities, Inga’s eyes opened to the magnitude of these problems and found herself motivated to contribute towards closing such equity gaps.
As a growth strategy intern consultant for Aurora Tights, a black- and woman-run company that sells inclusive athletic-wear for athletes of all shades and sizes, Inga spent her summer in 2020 helping a company that shared her values of diversity and inclusion create an environment in which children and adults could feel comfortable in their own skin. In addition to the technical skills she gained performing internal strategy work, knowing her work supported diversity in the world of skating, dance, and so many other sports was incredibly rewarding for Inga.
During her last 3 years at U-M, Inga’s involvement with the Economics Investment Committee at U-M, where she first joined as an analyst and later became Vice President, fueled her curiosity about the various world markets. This exposure to different industries and the ways in which consumers respond to change provided Inga not only an understanding of industry breadth from observing member and committee analyses and investment choices, but also examples of economics in action in both global and domestic climates.
In addition to her other extra-curriculars, Inga also began working as a research assistant focusing on the applications of behavioral game theory through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) in Fall 2019. Already having an interest in how firms and customers interact in a market, as well as how they strategize to optimize their payoffs, Inga proposed the idea of applying game theory to an issue many people face: ride-sharing. Was there a way to predict whether a consumer would choose to accept or deny a ride with UberPool, and what were the odds that Uber would offer or not offer a ride to customers at varying times of day? Alongside a team of students, Inga set out to create a model to derive these probabilities and produce a research paper at the end illustrating their findings. Though the research was disrupted with the emergence of COVID-19 that winter semester, Inga was able to continue with the project with her mentor and one other student, meeting weekly for several months through Zoom to produce a research paper and render it in a publishable format.
Though it has been an undoubtedly challenging past 18 months—adjusting not only to being alone after always being someone who is engaged in and surrounded by community, but also learning, collaborating, and researching remotely through the stress of the pandemic—Inga has learned a great deal about interpersonal problem-solving from patiently listening to others’ perspectives. She’s gained confidence in her ideas and passions, as well as her communication skills for impactful work. Inga has also taken her new solitary time as an opportunity to explore hobbies, including painting different U.S. national parks (since she could not visit them due to travel restrictions), and push herself to build new skills, such as by learning Python through a 5-week Stanford University coding class.
After graduation, Inga will work to make a positive social impact as an M&A strategy consultant in the consumer goods or environmental sector. She also intends to pursue an MBA after some more experience working with clients in the business world and looks forward to meeting other passionate people from different backgrounds to exchange ideas and new perspectives.