Yuan Gao: ESTEEM Student Says Real-World Work is the Highlight of the Program

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM


Yuan Gao came a long way to study at the ESTEEM program at Notre Dame. 

Originally from Fuxin city in northeast China, known for its abundance of mineral resources, notably coal and agate, Gao received his undergraduate degree in engineering from the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing.

After university, Gao found a position with Accenture, the international business intelligence firm. In his four years with Accenture, he worked with clients on consulting jobs and managed Accenture’s Enterprise Resource Planning information system. Gao says the opportunity with Accenture allowed him to travel China and southeast Asia extensively, and experience high-stakes work for important clients.

While Gao loved the work at Accenture, it piqued an interest in him: to learn more about business. Gao wanted to be able to see the big picture of a business, and understand the mechanisms that really make it tick, from the ground up. 

In short: he wanted to learn the skills of a successful entrepreneur.

Gao came across ESTEEM after a simple internet search. After the application and acceptance, Gao made his way to Indiana to begin a daunting task: a new level of education in a new country. He has loved the experience so far.

“It is a great experience to live in such a different country,” Gao says. “Different language, different food, and different culture.” The transition wasn’t without problems however — he says that he was surprised by how inconvenient it is to try to live in the States without a car.

However, Gao says that the ESTEEM program, particularly his professors and classmates, help smooth the momentary difficulties.

“My favorite part of being in the ESTEEM program is the opportunity to work with my advisors on my thesis project,” says Gao. The work he’s doing with Prof. Nitesh Chawla (Department of Computer Science and Engineering) and Prof. Kasturi Haldar (Department of Biological Sciences) has been the highlight of his experience.

For his thesis project, Gao has the opportunity to work on evaluating the commercialization of the Rare Health Exchange (RHE), a collaborative effort of undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame, which empowers the rare disease patient community through personalized healthcare record management services and the aggregation of medical information in a secure database. RHE creates secure electronic copies and clinical summaries of patients’ medical records, establishes the natural histories and clinical outcomes for rare diseases, and helps connect patients with each other.

This work with real, living people excites Gao. When asked what he would tell a prospective student to get them interested in ESTEEM, he cited the hands-on approach of the ESTEEM program. “Trips to startups and the interesting dialogues with entrepreneurs” are just a few of the real-world experiences that stand out.

Like all ESTEEM students, Gao’s work in real-world business situations can only pay dividends. And for this particular student, who has travelled so far, immersed himself in a culture entirely foreign to him and prospered at ESTEEM in spite of any obstacles, the unique experience gained has been well worth it.


Also see:

Mark Hubbard: ESTEEM Professor Gives Students “Commercial-Grade” Experience

Notre Dame receives $3-million Lilly Endowment grant to support enFocus program

Notre Dame Rare Health Exchange Website