Alumni Feature: Nina Chelidze (PPE ’14)
For Nina Chelidze (PPE ’14), the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics major at King's served as the perfect complement to her life-long ambition of working in business.
The daughter of two entrepreneurs, Nina Chelidze (PPE ’14) had dreamed of entering the business world since childhood. By the age of fifteen, she was working for a globally-facing import company while still completing her studies. Tbilisi, Georgia, was her home, but she had her eye on New York City, because her sister was already living there. Her endgame was to earn an M.B.A. from the NYU Stern School of Business, and then continue working at a firm in New York City.
For her undergraduate degree, Nina was considering several well-known universities on the East Coast, including NYU and Babson College. She was also looking at one relatively unknown option—The King’s College—and was particularly intrigued by the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) major. She saw PPE as her chance to study something that wasn’t business and to see what other fields of study were open to her. She had never looked into Christian schools before, but Nina was raised in a Christian country, and the College’s Christian identity seemed promising.
Nina was accepted to the big-name East Coast schools she applied to, but she chose King’s. King’s offered a more competitive financial aid package, and that, along with the draw of the PPE major, helped to make up her mind. “I liked the idea of the PPE major, and the idea of being in Manhattan was attractive to me, so I decided to give it a try,” she says.
When Nina began at King’s, she only knew a handful of other international students, and she was the only one in her circle of friends who hadn’t already been living in the United States for several years. Facing both language and cultural barriers, she had to fight to keep up with the demanding King’s curriculum.
Nina took a campus job working with Admissions during her junior year in hopes that she would learn more about the culture of the school and get closer to the student body. From this new vantage point, Nina discovered that there were many international students already on campus whom she simply hadn’t met. She saw this as an untapped opportunity. That year, she started a club that brought international students together weekly to support and encourage one another. (Today, international students have two receptions at the beginning of each academic year to help foster these important connections, and a student organization, The Celebramus Cultura Society, exists to “learn about, engage with, and celebrate people from foreign countries and cultures in our community and New York City.”)
The international students club gave Nina a community of like-minded people and she began to feel more connected socially. Meanwhile, she was growing by leaps and bounds academically. She fondly remembers Prof. Brian Brenberg’s Business Communications class, which taught the kind of writing and public speaking she would need for interviews and professional presentations. “I came so far from the beginning of that class to the end it,” Nina says. “It really empowered me to be more diligent in my job search because I felt more prepared to go into the real world and face the challenges unknown to college students.” She adds that she wishes every student at King’s had the chance to take the class. “I think it should be part of the Core Curriculum!”
Nina found inspiration from even the most difficult of her classes. In the first semester of junior year, she had registered for Dr. David Tubbs’s course in Constitutional Law, a required PPE course. When she saw the reading list and heard stories about Tubbs’s strict grading, she immediately dropped the class: “I thought there was no way I would manage it.” Once she finally took the class a year later, she wished that she had taken it sooner so she would have had more opportunities to study under Tubbs. What she had heard about Tubbs’s standards was true—he wasn’t generous with his A’s—but “he was an example of what a great professor should be like. He just made me fall in love with Con Law!”
Near the end of her senior year, as Nina began to pursue full-time positions, she received a LinkedIn message from the managing partner at H.I. Executive Consulting, a search firm that helps companies hire c-suite executives. He had recently heard of King’s in a magazine feature on the sixth president, Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury. He was interested in the idea of a Christian school in New York City and widened his search to include King’s alumni like Nina. Nina’s strong work experience and faculty referrals, along with the attitude of honesty and curiosity she showed in the interview process, made her a compelling candidate. Nina was hired in 2014 and still works at HIEC, five years and one major promotion later.
Nina did eventually earn her MBA at Stern; she just completed the program this May, and says that the business-specific education helped to fill in some gaps in her knowledge. But after five years in the business world, Nina appreciates her PPE degree all the more. Studying politics, philosophy, and economics helped Nina develop a flexible way of thinking that has had rich payoffs. “Working with other new hires and interns, I see the difference between people with my [liberal arts] background, and people with a business background alone. The PPE degree has made it easier for me to adjust to the real world, to think outside of the box,” instead of trying to follow predetermined steps to a solution.
As an example, in the first week on the job Nina was asked to research the salary of one of the executive candidates. A search on the traditional salary websites yielded nothing, but Nina found some legal paperwork that showed that the candidate had manipulated share prices to give himself a higher salary. “This gave me some idea of his salary,” Nina laughs, but more, “It showed that he was a fraudulent executive.” This kind of information was vital for HIEC to know, and she would have missed it if she hadn’t approached the problem creatively.
Nina is in a position today where she hires staff and interns, including a few interns from King’s. Nina reflects,
The one thing that has really impressed me about the students from King’s has been their writing skills. Writing was such a strong emphasis in my experience at King’s, and when I compare the writing of King’s students to that of others, I’m glad to see it’s stayed that way! I see students from other colleges getting high grades on papers that I would have failed with at King’s. You start to appreciate the sweat that we put into writing.
Her advice to current students is to dream even bigger: “King’s students are extremely smart, diligent, and hardworking. They need to aim high, because they are excellent and in many cases far better prepared than those from big name schools.” Nina says that pursuing the PPE major at King’s turned out to be a wonderful decision. It served to complement her lifelong ambition to work in business, and she says, “PPE was perfect for me.”