Student receives esteemed grant

Amy Kao received $10,000 from Liberty Mutual’s scholarship program. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar/) Amy Kao received $10,000 from Liberty Mutual’s scholarship program. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar/)

Amy Kao, a junior business administration major, was one of five college undergraduates across the nation to win $10,000 from the Liberty Mutual Responsible Scholars program.

“I just got home, and all of a sudden the phone rings, and it’s Liberty Mutual,” Kao said. “I was really shocked and surprised, because I never expected this.”

The annual Liberty Mutual Responsible Scholars program awards five college undergraduates $10,000 scholarships applicable to the next academic year. According to the program’s website, “People get opportunities to do responsible things everyday. And when a small act grows into a big result, it deserves recognition.”

Kao was recognized in particular for founding the Carnegie Mellon chapter of People to People International (PPI), a non-profit organization that promotes international understanding through volunteer activities and international travel.

Since the chapter’s start in 2008, the student organization has engaged in a variety of service activities, including setting up benefit concerts, tutoring elementary school students, and holding leadership workshops for victims of domestic violence.

“Being responsible and doing the right thing often takes extra effort,” said Maura Quinn, University Relations Program Manager for Liberty Mutual Group. “Every day thousands of students make the extra effort to reach beyond themselves to make a difference in someone else’s life. This scholarship recognizes and rewards students like Amy for working hard to do the right thing.”

But for Kao, there is nothing “extra” about her effort. “You don’t have to be ambitious. You just have to be determined,” she said. “If you have the right attitude when approaching a problem, that attitude and passion will carry you through the entire process.”

This philosophy was ingrained in Kao as a child by her mother, who taught Amy how to play the piano.

“Playing a 25-page piece when you’re five years old trained a lot of my persistence and determination in life,” explained Kao, who played in Carnegie Hall at age 8. “Sometimes you don’t want to do it ... but you develop this flow that carries you through, and this flow has really helped me throughout life.”

Kao describes her philanthropic efforts as her own little twist on this flow, although she adds that she was taught how music and community service work hand in hand.

“My mom realized halfway through her college [that] it’s not healthy to always concentrate on bettering yourself for the next performance when you could share your love for music with others. That’s when she changed majors from music performance to music education,” explained Kao. “At a very young age, my mom ingrained in me this idea of helping others as a way of life.”

With this natural flow and goals of philanthropy, Kao sees her scholarship more as a means for further good than an end in of itself. “I’m glad that I’ve been recognized ... but I want this to be more of a celebration of what’s to come in the future,” she said. “Right now, I see Liberty Mutual making a positive investment in me ... and in the future, I hope to return this investment.”