When Forbes announced that the applications for scholars to attend the 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit were open, three Seidenberg students jumped at the opportunity: Sammy Chen Li, Ezana Ćeman, and Debra Perlman. These three students were accepted to the summit and traveled to Detroit, Michigan in November to attend. We’re so proud of Sammy, Ezana, and Debra and we want to share their experiences with our community!
Both Sammy Chen Li and Ezana Ćeman are seniors who will graduate in May 2020. Sammy will graduate with a BS degree in Computer Science while Ezana will obtain one in Information Systems. Debra Perlman is a junior studying Information Systems who expects to graduate in May 2021. All three of these upperclassmen took the time to tell us about this prestigious conference.
Why did you apply for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit and how did you feel when your acceptance came through?
Sammy: For the experience and exposure! I wanted to experience a conference/summit that covered many industries featuring leaders from those industries (and not simply technology). Being in a room with featured 30 under 30’s and having an opportunity to meet them was my main motivation to apply. When my acceptance came through, I was ecstatic and honored to be selected among the many students across the country/world to attend. I knew that this would be [a] once-in-a-lifetime experience as a student preparing to take on the real world. This conference, I knew, would make me meet people from a spectrum of backgrounds and that intrigued me even more.
Ezana: Last year, I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the 2018 Forbes Under 30 Summit which took place in Boston through the Under 30 Scholars Program. I applied last year  right when the application came out and to date, this was the best summit/gathering of figures and role models in the world that I have ever been to. It was an amazing experience and I jumped to apply right away when I saw that the application for Forbes Under 30 Scholars for 2019 was live! I applied again due to the endless networking opportunities with both students and professionals within various industries. I was in love with this year’s selection of speakers and would truly be honored to be able to hear everybody speak about where they started out in life and how they got to where they are now. I was actually surprised when my acceptance came this year as I was unsure if Forbes would allow Scholars from last year to attend again this year. I was extremely excited and I was looking forward to meeting other people who shared the same passions as I did.
Debra: I applied for the Forbes Under 30 Summit for a couple [of] reasons. I was looking to travel while at Pace without studying abroad, and to be honest, the conference just looked really interesting and like it would be a good time. When the Pforzheimer Honors College posted the application, I applied on a whim, not thinking I would actually get the scholarship for the Summit. When I got my acceptance, I was feeling so many emotions: shocked, thrilled, surprised, excited just to name a few. But, after the shock set in, I was determined to be in Detroit for the conference as I did not want to miss out on this amazing opportunity.
What was the summit like? Did it live up to your expectations, surpass them, or miss them entirely?
Sammy: The summit was initially overwhelming but fascinating and eye-opening. It was truly a memorable experience to have as it lived up to my expectations. I learned something new from every talk or experience, whether it was from the tech track, or from experiencing new technology, or from the world of entrepreneurship, fashion, art, or design. Hearing from accomplished entrepreneurs and celebrities and their impacts through their work were inspiring, inspiring me to realize my potential to make a difference in the world. When I experienced Cadillac’s self-driving car experience, I truly realized the calling for innovation for the future, and this conference represented that. This conference engaged its attendees by offering so much insight over the 4 days and even gave us a chance to give back to the city of Detroit, the rising hub of innovation and design.
Ezana: The 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit took place this year in Detroit, Michigan which was quite the change from last year and overall, it was an amazing experience! There was a designated floor in the Masonic Temple just for Scholars which gave us a space for networking and Scholar-specific events such as resume workshops, interview tips and tricks, etc. The Summit lived up to my expectations as I was able to hear from a few of my actual role models which wouldn’t have happened elsewhere! Over the course of 4 days, I was able to connect with over a hundred students my age who study the same major as I do, and participate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences!
Debra: The summit surpassed my expectations. The venue, the Masonic Temple was modern, but also felt like it had a historical significance in Detroit. The panels, sponsored events, music festival, food and other opportunities at the summit were amazing! I was given the chance to meet celebrities, successful individuals and some of my personal role models in various fields and industries. Not only did I get to network with like-minded individuals and professionals already far in their careers, but, I was able to see and meet many of those who I have aspired to for a long time.
What was your favorite part of the summit? Can you explain what happened at this particular panel/event in detail?
Sammy: There were many amazing experiences throughout the summit, ranging from seeing Serena Williams to hearing insightful words from industry leaders to experiencing the future of self-driving cars from Cadillac to walking through the Startup Hub. My favorite part of the summit, however, was practicing yoga with Michelle Kwan, where I was able to recenter myself amongst the craziness of this summit. Having this session to practice self-care was important to me because it highlights how important it is to focus on mental and physical health while working towards future success. In addition to practicing yoga, I was able to meet Michelle Kwan, which was personally important to me as she represents success as an Asian American. Meeting her was truly inspiring and motivational to pursue my own success in my career.
Ezana: My favorite part of the summit was being able to see and hear my lifelong role model Serena Williams talk about how she is breaking through barriers in the business world which was extremely inspirational! I played varsity tennis in high school and was and still am obsessed with her. It was extremely inspirational hearing how a woman of color who is primarily known as a championship athlete throughout the world is investing in all types of small and big businesses and creating her own fashion line. Other notable parts of the summit that I wanted to mention were: being able to drive a self-driving Cadillac on the highway, hearing Kevin Durante, Sophia Bush, and Offset speak, and try out all of the company-sponsored activities.
Debra: I actually had two favorite parts of the event. The first one was being able to go to a panel session and do yoga with Michelle Kwan. This was a once in a lifetime experience where Michelle talked about her career as an Olympic athlete and her current political career with Joe Biden’s campaign, all while leading a group of us in a relaxing yoga session. She also after talked personally with many of the attendees, including me, and took pictures with all of us as a group and individually. The other event that was my favorite part of the summit was the panels with Sophia Bush and Nia Batts, the co-founders of Detroit Blows, a Detroit based non-toxic salon. Their company offers beauty services in the Detroit area and helps the redevelopment of the Detroit Area through their philanthropic section “Detroit Grows”. At their panels, they talked about their investment into the company, investment into Detroit Grows and about themselves in general, including their personal lives and careers which surround the business they own. This inspired me in a number of ways, making this an amazing, valuable, once in a lifetime experience!
Did you leave wanting to return to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in 2020?
Sammy: Absolutely! It also inspired me to one day be selected on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. I think this experience is truly special to have as a student and I encourage everyone to attend at some point within their student career.
Ezana: As I will be graduating this upcoming May, I won’t be eligible to apply again as a Scholar unless I go to graduate school, which is still something I am thinking about! I would love to go back to Detroit in 2020 but it comes down to funding at the end of the day! I highly recommend that all Pace students apply to next year’s Forbes Under 30 Summit as it is an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Speak to your professors, your advisors, etc. and learn how to receive Pace funding for these types of events!
Debra: I definitely left wanting to go back to the Forbes Under 30 Summit in 2020! It was an amazing experience and I would love to go again and experience not only the parts I missed the first time, but take full advantage of what the Summit has to offer all over again.
We’re so proud of these incredible student leaders and newly Forbes Under 30 scholars. Make sure to apply for the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit for an experience like this!