Betty P. Chao
Ph.D., industrial and systems engineering
Class of 1983
Betty Chao went to University of Michigan for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in industrial engineering and operations research. During her graduate studies, she noticed a stiff competition between Michigan’s industrial and systems engineering and human factors department and Virginia Tech’s. “Since I had already received two degrees from Michigan, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. with Virginia Tech, so I would get the best education that human factors academia had to offer at that time,” Chao said. After receiving her Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from Virginia Tech, Chao went to work as a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, which later led to her own consulting work. This required frequent travel, which put her in touch with professionals from large government contracting companies at airports and in airplanes, who often advised Chao to visit the U.S. Small Business Administration to start her own government contracting business. Chao took the advice, which led her to start her own company, Westech International, Inc., where she currently serves as president and CEO. Since being established in 1995, Westech's revenues and staff have consistently grown. Its staff of 150 employees performs on various Department of Energy and Department of Defense contracts at 15 locations in 11 states. Chao has also served on several boards and advisory councils, including the U.S. Pan Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, and the Board Member for the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.