Watch Our Women: Nika Soon-Shiong '11

A tenacious advocate and researcher, Nika Soon-Shiong ’11 has dedicated her career to helping end inequality in the developing world – a passion fostered by Marymount’s emphasis on social justice.
At the World Bank Group – which lends $65 billion a year to developing countries to achieve its goals of ending poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity – Nika works on strategies to incorporate technology-enabled solutions that solve critical development challenges.
“We are harnessing the power of disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and 3D printing to unlock countries’ development potential.” Nika said. “For example, a signature project is the Famine Early Action Mechanism, the first AI-driven predictive model of famine risk that can trigger humanitarian aid more quickly and effectively than ever before.”
Nika said long conversations with her former Marymount Religious Studies teacher, Mr. Klein, deeply influenced her perspective on social responsibility.
“Marymount engrained in me the importance of listening to others. It protected my curiosity for why and how inequality persists,” she said.
Nika earned her bachelor’s in international relations and master’s in African studies from Stanford University, later working in South Africa and Botswana where she managed five community-based participatory research projects. She recently published a report on school infrastructure delivery in South Africa, which led to the Department of Education’s public commitment to implement her four policy recommendations. Nika’s work with unemployed youth, activist movements, and communities affected by HIV/AIDS informed her desire to understand how technology might unlock new approaches to protect the poor and marginalized groups.
“An exciting part of my job is that I get to assist the development of partnerships with global technology leaders whose innovations, data, and expertise are expanding the very nature of what multilateral development institutions can achieve at scale,” Nika said.
Inspired by stories of her South African parents’ personal experience under apartheid, Nika has always been motivated by the history and politics of inequality. Her experience at Marymount was instrumental in charting a desire to find her voice and amplify the voices of others.
“Marymount has always been a place that encourages students to speak out, and that is something that has helped me develop a critical approach to thinking about the world, and my place in it,” Nika said. “What is so special about Marymount is its emphasis on instilling different concepts of success that embrace multiple registers of social and cultural difference.”
Nika understands that, although there is tremendous urgency for change, charting a unique path will require a mix of independent analysis and intellectual guidance moving forward.
“I try to remind myself that there is no perfect path to follow, if only someone would tell me where it is! I’m inspired by my female friends who are constantly looking beyond history for solutions to today’s problems.” Nika said.
When asked what she would say to Marymount students who seek to be future leaders of social change, her response was simple: “Don’t wait to challenge the small and large injustices you see. Marymount students – and young people all over the world – are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and the change starts now.”