Two photos of U-M alumnus Danny Dang (BBA ’15, BSEComp ’15): A photo from his U-M graduation is on the left and a professional portrait is on the right.
Two photos of U-M alumnus Danny Dang (BBA ’15, BSEComp ’15): A photo from his U-M graduation is on the left and a professional portrait is on the right.
Two photos of U-M alumnus Danny Dang (BBA ’15, BSEComp ’15): A photo from his U-M graduation is on the left and a professional portrait is on the right.

Leading by doing

U-M alumnus Danny Dang isn’t waiting to give back

By Eric Gallippo

Of all the lessons Danny Dang (BBA ’15, BSEComp ’15) learned while studying at the University of Michigan, one was critical to setting his path toward academic success and, eventually, philanthropy: failure. Even as an undergraduate, Dang was an aspiring entrepreneur. But when his first business venture didn’t take off, he didn’t get discouraged. Realizing he had a lot more to learn, Dang pursued dual degrees in business and computer engineering.

Born and raised in China, Dang traveled from Shenzhen to metro Detroit to complete his high school education. There, his host parents—a biomedical researcher and a U-M physics professor—helped inspire his interests in science and engineering and introduced him to U-M’s campus.

Dang interned with larger firms before focusing on startups to learn how they’re built from the ground up after earning his degrees. Today, he works as a senior software engineer for Snowflake Marketplace, a cloud-based data platform in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he also serves as president of the local Michigan Ross Alumni Club. Juggling a young career and family, Dang is already passionate about finding ways to give back. In 2021, he launched the Dang Family Scholarship, offering merit-based support for international undergraduate students with cross-disciplinary academic pursuits, and he also volunteers as a mentor to college students in China through the Visionary Education Foundation.

In a recent interview, Dang discussed the importance of staying connected to U-M, his passion for education, and why, for him, the best time to get involved in philanthropy is right now.

How did you get involved with the Bay Area’s Michigan Ross Alumni Club? What drives you to not only stay connected with other alumni, but also volunteer in a leadership role?

The Michigan community has been a big part of my life—from the comradery of football games to alumni who are willing to lend a hand—and I always try to give back to this community. For someone coming from a different country, a sense of community is fairly precious and important. I have an internal drive to lead, because I want to do my best once I decide to commit my time and energy.

What inspired you to start your own scholarship at U-M, and what has that experience been like?

Pursuing a double degree in college requires a lot of time, commitment, and courage. For international students, it is especially hard to get out of one’s comfort zone and push to explore one’s potential. Looking back, my pursuit of degrees in business and engineering broadened my vision and helped me to see more perspectives in both work and life. I created the Dang Family Scholarship to encourage more international students to pursue cross-disciplinary studies. I want this endowed scholarship to be the catalyst for others to find the courage to do the same. It has been humbling for me to be part of this scholarship knowing I’m making a positive impact on others.

Your passion for education goes beyond U-M, including mentoring underprivileged students in China. Why is education so important to you, and why is philanthropic giving critical in this area?

My parents are first-generation college students, and I have seen firsthand how education helped them get where they are today. In addition, they put a lot of effort into my education, but focused on what I wanted to do rather than forcing me to follow a path. I also believe in paying it forward and giving back. So many friends and mentors have helped me through good and tough times. For that, I always feel thankful and try my best to help others. One of the best ways to do so is through mentorship. I have not only felt joy when my advice helped others, but also found growth by learning from my mentees. Mentoring others has taught me the power of listening and empathizing.

Philanthropic giving is critical to education in three ways. First, tuition is still a major expense, and having that financial burden relieved can help students finish their education. Second, donors create role models for the students who receive support and, to me, having role models in life is as important as having personal goals. Last, philanthropic giving creates a positive feedback loop that gets more people involved to make education possible for even more people.

It wasn’t that long ago that you were in college yourself. Why is it important to you to take on these causes and give back to them now at this early stage in your life and career?

I used to think I needed to be someone influential first, then I could help others. Gradually, this view has changed, and I realized that there are two ways to help others: time and money. I’m action-biased, so once I realized that, I started always looking for opportunities to do more. I recognize that being where I’m at today is not easy and luck has played a big role. I want to help others achieve their goals. Simply, seeing others benefit from my advice or help just makes me happy.

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