Justin Wright ’95 grew up in Winchester, Virginia, and decided to attend Shenandoah University to remain close to home and pursue his studies at the same time. When Wright came to Shenandoah, there were only about 1,300 students. Throughout the course of his time as a student, there was tremendous growth at the university. Some of Wright’s fondest memories of Shenandoah were seeing the new library open, watching Gregory Hall be remodeled and welcoming a number of newly hired professors. These were all clear indications of the administration’s commitment to education and to this day, Wright still feels he was part of this journey of growth at Shenandoah. One of Wright’s favorite experiences at Shenandoah was his trip to the Hell Creek Formation near Jordan, Montana, to search for dinosaur fossils. “Through this experience, I learned how foundational science can play a crucial role in solving and unlocking complex problems,” said Wright. Although Shenandoah is small, he believes it is very mighty and holds a global reach. “Shenandoah teaches the value of connections… with people, and how your studies can make a difference in the world,” explained Wright.
Wright now works as the global head of innovation at Novartis International AG. Novartis is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company, and one of the largest in both market capitalization and sales. While based in Basel, Switzerland, they are renovating medicine and reforming cancer treatment across the globe. Wright is responsible for leading the global enterprise innovation system across the drug development process for all of Novartis’ pipeline. This includes activation of the innovation strategy and leading cross-functional innovation governance internally and externally to Novartis. Key areas of focus include process development, formulation, digital solutions, drug delivery, clinical supply and integrated product system commercialization. Wright says the most rewarding part of his career is having the opportunity to work with incredible people from all over the planet and at the same time, help bring life-saving medicines to people all across the world.
Wright feels the smaller classes at Shenandoah allowed him to engage with his professors and other classmates in a much more intimate way than if he had attended a larger university. The intersection of the scientific and clinical programs also provided great perspective in transnational science that still benefits him today. Two professors in particular, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion John Copenhaver, Ph.D., and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry John Happ, Ph.D., impacted Wright’s educational career and also his life. Their engaging teaching style brought him forward on his journey, as well as instilled in him a sense of curiosity and respect for the views of others, which is helpful in his career today. Wright says this not only gives him an edge in his profession, but has made him a better scientist and person as a whole.
Wright’s advice to students is: “Two things: 1. Always ask lots of questions and never lose your hunger to learn something new. 2. Learn how to zoom out and see how your work connects across other disciplines and fields of study.”