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How the Silver Scholars Program is Preparing Me for a Thriving Career in Life Science and Healthcare

Wilbur (Ziwei) Zhou ’24 reflects on what he’s learned in the unique program, which gives recently graduated college students the chance to pursue an MBA while developing their careers during gap years.

Ziwei (Wilbur) Zhou headshot

As an international student with a passion for business, I have always been interested in combining my global mindset, quantitative skills, and business knowledge in my professional career. After I earned a bachelor’s degree in statistics and mathematical biology and worked for a year as a part-time data scientist for a medical device company, I started searching for MBA programs. SOM’s Silver Scholars Program stood out to me. 

The Silver Scholar Program allows recently graduated students to spend their first year in the MBA program taking the core curriculum with the regular MBA students, and then take gap years to gain professional experiences before returning to SOM to finish the second year of study. Gaining an MBA education was one of my goals; I was thrilled by this opportunity to immerse myself in the environment sooner. 

After I enrolled in the program, the experience was much more fruitful than I could have imagined. First, the MBA coursework has been a great education. The integrated core curriculum allows me to study fields from different stakeholders’ perspectives (customers, competitors, innovators, etc.). Besides the core classes, I’ve taken interesting courses such as Interpersonal Dynamics, where we can learn interpersonal communication skills to become more effective leaders. I also participated in many case competitions to further hone my business sense and knowledge. 

Second, the Silver Scholars Program allows me to connect with wonderful classmates, faculty, and alumni and greatly broadens my horizons by allowing me to try different things. I co-created my first startup company with two other SOMers during my first year of the MBA program. We greatly benefited from the SOM network, resources from Tsai CITY and mentoring from entrepreneurship courses. At the same time, I leveraged the school network and skills I learned inside and outside the classroom to enroll in the fellowship program at a venture capital firm. Working in the VC field, in which I did not have much experience, allowed me to understand an investor’s perspective, which informed my startup development, and explore the most cutting-edge discovery and business models across different industries.

For my gap years, the Silver Scholars Program helped me to build the platform and the skills to land my first full-time job after college at Monitor Deloitte in Shanghai. During this time, I explored the fast-growing opportunity of electric automotive, hotel and resorts, and e-commerce in the Chinese market before I found my passion and joined the life science and healthcare team. The skills and knowledge I learned at SOM not only help me to have a better grasp of developing business strategy for pharmaceutical and medical device companies, but also a better understanding of how to build a collaborative working environment and communicate effectively with the team members and clients. 

I am on a path of positioning myself to thrive in the business aspect of the life science and healthcare industry thanks to the Silver Scholars Program. It creates endless opportunities for me and empowers me to pursue my passion. Upon my return to the program, I look forward to bringing my professional experience to the classroom, and beginning the next adventure along the path toward my goal.