WISS Today Article

Alumni Feature – Cooper Vardy 

“There are many reasons why people teach.  But one motivation that is shared by every member of the teaching profession is a desire to make a difference.  We, teachers, will look back at the students we taught with pride, and think about how we really made a difference for those individuals.  Once in a while, though, if a teacher is lucky, they get to teach a student that will have a noticeable effect on the wider world.  For me, Cooper Vardy is a student like that.  He is my former student that is going on to make a difference.  Cooper’s high school dream was to work for the US State Department, to be one of the people that shape US policy.

I remember the day he got his acceptance to university.  Walking into my classroom, and asking if I had time to read something over for him, then showing me the acceptance letter from Georgetown.  Cooper was on his way to State.  Cooper is finishing up his bachelor’s and starting on his master’s now.  I am confident that in a few years he will be working towards his Ph.D.  Whether or not he ends up at the State Department, at a Washington think tank, or teaching at a university, Cooper is going to be one of the go-to people in his field when the US government has an intractable problem or a hard choice to make.  

It was a pleasure to have Cooper as part of my IB history class, and I am proud to say that he was once my student. ” Shared Curt Farnham, Head of Humanities at WISS.

Cooper at the Western International School of Shanghai
Cooper at the Western International School of Shanghai

Name: Cooper Vardy 

Years at WISS: 2014-2017 

Graduated: Class of 2017 

Hometown: Gilford, Connecticut  

Currently: Washington, D.C. (Georgetown University)

What impact did your time at WISS have on you?  

WISS had a high caliber of teachers that were instrumental in getting me where I am today. The international setting gave me lots of opportunities that I would have never gotten if I wasn’t at WISS. Being exposed to so many languages, cultures, and radically different chains of thought made me way more adaptable and better at crisis management.  

What were the highlights of your time at WISS?  

The field trips were definitely a highlight. There was a diving trip to Malaysia that was super cool. I got my advanced diving certification on that trip. I also look back fondly at all of the International Days as well. Those were always a highlight of the year. I loved seeing what aspects of peoples’ cultures were the most enjoyable and experiencing and getting to know our diverse community.  

Cooper during International Day celebrations at WISS
Cooper celebrating International Day at WISS

What are you doing now, and what are your career goals?  

I am currently finishing my senior year at Georgetown University, majoring in International Politics and Security. I am simultaneously completing my first year of graduate school in the Georgetown Security Studies Program.  I hope to work in a federal intelligence agency in the future. More specifically, I am a Brazil specialist, so I have worked in the consulate there, and I’m fluent in Portuguese. I’ve spent time in San Paola and hope to return to Brazil! 

Cooper and his friends at WISS
Cooper and his friends at WISS

What advice would you give to current WISS students as they’re looking ahead to college and careers?

What has generally been a guiding factor for me is finding my niche and carving it out. I think that when you discover something that A) you’re good at and B) you enjoy, and C) you can make money with that not many other people are doing, then you’ve found a career.  

My greatest shame in high school was not taking language classes more seriously. Living in China was such a great opportunity to learn Mandarin. Take advantage of those opportunities when they come. Don’t squander those opportunities because you’ll regret it.  

Cooper at the Western International School of Shanghai.
Cooper performing at the Western International School of Shanghai

What would you tell a parent who is considering sending their child to attend WISS?

My time at WISS was a fundamental springboard to further my academic career. The academic staff there was the best bar none, and always ready to push you towards your maximum potential. The community there is more grounded than a lot of the other international schools in Shanghai. As a new family that moved to Shanghai, the community is a very homey place and easy to fit in!