Meet Four Honors Superstars
Major: Business Administration (Marketing)
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
What attracted you to the Honors Program?
I live for challenges: They make me smarter, stronger, faster, and they make me push myself to limits that I sometimes can't even imagine. The Honors Program, for me, served as a powerful vehicle to increase the intensity of the degree I was pursuing. It also motivated me, through my Honors projects, to take the subject material of a course to a deeper level and gain a better understanding of the real-world implications that it had.
What are some of the best academic experiences you've had at Drexel?
Academically speaking, Drexel is phenomenal. One particular experience that really resonated with me happened on my first day at college. My first class ever was Business 101: Foundations of Business lecture with Professor Dana D'Angelo. When we got in the room, she immediately started lecturing. She was a strong, serious, eloquent, and knowledgeable professor, but she didn't even introduce herself to the class. I was terrified, but I immediately realized that I'm a business student, and that's how business is. There aren't always polite introductions, you're just thrown into the fire, and you have to roll with it.
What are some of the best learning experiences you've had outside of the classroom?
Recently I participated in the 2011 Miss Philadelphia Scholarship Pageant. Prior to being part of this pageant, I was very skeptical of pageants, and didn't exactly think that they were positive, motivational forces for young women. However, I learned an incredible amount about myself throughout the months that I was a part of the pageant, and I had never worked so hard for anything. In order to succeed I needed to ensure that I was knowledgeable about current events, about my platform, and about trends in society in general. This took a tremendous amount of time and research. Additionally, I needed to be actively involved in the community, I needed to be an eloquent speaker, I needed to perfect my dance technique, and I needed to be comfortable enough with my body to be on stage in front of 500 people (in a bikini, at that).
What did you learn by participating in the Miss Philadelphia Scholarship Pageant?
I learned that I have an incredible amount of love and support from my family, friends, and the surrounding Drexel community: the LeBow College of Business, Pennoni Honors College, and the Drexel Athletic Center were all gracious enough to sponsor ads for me. I also learned that I am an incredibly driven and compassionate person. By the time I was done competing in the pageant, I didn't want to win for me anymore, but I wanted to win because I knew that it meant helping tons of Philadelphia youth through my platform, which was an advocacy for mentorship. I learned that beauty pageants are actually full of strong, smart, talented women. Finally, I learned that it's OK to not "win" all of the time. Despite not being crowned Miss Philadelphia (I placed third runner-up), I had one of the best experiences of my life, made some excellent friends along the way, and learned a lot about myself. I'm still working on executing my platform by engaging in an independent study with Dr. Charles William (assistant clinical professor in the Goodwin College) this term.
What was the most interesting Honors class you took?
While I haven't taken many strictly "Honors" classes, I have done numerous Honors Options. Perhaps one of the most rewarding was for my Marketing 301: Introduction to Marketing class. For my Honors project, I did independent consulting work for a business called AdviCoach. I developed a cohesive, full-scale marketing plan for my client that he could then take and execute. To have been given the opportunity to do small-business consulting while still an undergraduate student was wonderful.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a student?
My greatest challenge was financing my entire Drexel education. This was not an easy feat. I became a Ward of the Court at age 16, and therefore did not have any parental or family financial support when coming to college. While I was fortunate enough to be granted both academic and need-based scholarships, it was not enough. Therefore, on top of my typical 20-credit course load, I also worked a job (or two, sometimes even three) on the side. Working so many hours to pay for school, in addition to being a full-time student, resulted in many late nights, and many weekends where I had to sacrifice the social part of the college experience.
What are your plans after graduation?
Upon graduation I will begin full-time employment with Johnson & Johnson. I have been working in brand management there on various brands for the past few years, and I am excited to start with them full-time in the summer.
What most excites you as you think about your life after Drexel?
Drexel University has helped me become a competitive, intelligent, educated, and well-rounded young lady. The knowledge and skill sets I have developed here will remain with me for years to come and will help me reach success in my future endeavors, I'm sure. While I am feeling nostalgic to be leaving, and I know that there are aspects of Drexel that I will undoubtedly miss, I am excited to move forward to the next stage of my life as a prepared individual, ready to take on whatever challenge the world may hold for me.
Major: International Area Studies (Human Rights and Social Justice)
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
What are some of the best academic experiences you've had at Drexel?
Some of the best classes I have ever taken at Drexel revolved around the histories of minorities. Having grown up in urban settings my entire life, I have always received one way of looking at the world and I would call that the most traditional way of looking at things. Since being at Drexel, being in the major that I'm in, having taken classes such as Political Theory from Below, courses in Africana Studies and Women's Studies, I realize it is not easy to flatten the world into something so rigid. I literally have new, more cosmopolitan eyes for causes and effects pertaining to the world and to my own neighborhood.
What was the best learning experience you've had outside of the classroom?
Two words: International co-op. I did my co-op in Greece. It most certainly solidified the fact that as small as the world seems to be getting, it is still as different and difficult to understand as always. I had to overcome language barriers (no better motivation to learn a new language!) so that my six-month experience wouldn't be all Greek to me. More important, as I learned the language, I learned how their world was structured and what their working culture was: How to respect your superiors, how to offer solutions, how to calm down your boss (cookies are a universal cure-all). I also learned what it was like to live in a town that was not far removed from agricultural/village living. And last but not least, I also got to visit some major European cities!
What most surprised you about college?
At Drexel, if you want, you can go the traditional college route — which is very campus-oriented — or you can go what I call the Philly route, in which you explore Philadelphia's various scenes (food, art, fashion, immigrant communities, etc.) and how that impacts Drexel as well as how Drexel impacts those scenes. I definitely thought I was going to have a more Drexel-oriented college experience, more basketball games and the like, but instead I wound up going to more special lectures, more events outside Drexel (courtesy of Drexel), and getting to know my community as a means of better understanding myself.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I am applying for the Peace Corp and planning on taking TESOL classes over the summer, to see if I can position myself to become an English teacher abroad, hopefully (fingers crossed), in the Middle East!
What attracts you to the Middle East?
Growing up in Brooklyn, 9/11 was a huge part of my upbringing. It actually taught me more about tolerance and understanding than it did to be afraid of the things that seemingly make no sense. I was harangued at certain points simply for being brown and, worse yet, for my father's looking remotely Arab. Those first couple of years after 9/11 made me realize how strange it was that I'm being judged for something I had nothing to do with merely on the basis of appearance. So when I came to Drexel and started studying and exploring other cultures, I developed a certain affection for this sometimes misunderstood and misinterpreted culture. It is actually rich in language, religion, in its treatment of women and I have one way of looking at it — as a Westerner — but learning about it and hopefully living there will enable me to better understand it as someone on the inside.
What most excites you as you think about your life after Drexel?
We might be in a recession, but that doesn't mean the world isn't teeming with opportunities and multiple roads to any destination. My biggest goal right now is to explore the Middle East as a teacher, work on my Arabic, and position myself within the culture, which I had the opportunity to focus on academically at Drexel. Life after Drexel is meant to be a practical application and exploration of what I learned. As exciting as that is, it is absolutely nerve-racking as well, and I can't get enough of it.
Major: International Area Studies (International Business and Economics)
Hometown: Shamong, New Jersey
You were just selected to be a Fulbright Scholar. Congratulations! What do you plan to do as a Fulbright?
I'm going to China. The Chinese government has a program that sends recent Chinese graduates to rural areas to work with local officials. They want to groom this next generation of local leaders — educated leaders with stronger ties to national government and a more cosmopolitan outlook on the world. The development of rural China is one of the greatest priorities for the Chinese government over the next 20 years. Tens of thousands of students are doing this in thousands of villages. But nothing has been written about it in English. That's the gap I want to fill.
How did you develop an interest in this area?
In high school I was interested in philosophy. I really liked Taoism, and wanted to learn Chinese so that I could read it in the original language. I started learning Chinese at Drexel, where I learned that ancient Chinese is a completely different from modern Chinese.
But based on my interest in China, in Fall of 2008, I studied at Peking University. I then went back to China, to Shanghai from April to August 2010 to work at the United States Pavilion at the World Expo.
What did you do at the Expo?
I was a Student Ambassador for the United States, which was an incredible experience. The Expo was the largest peaceful gathering in human history and attracted 70 million people over six months. The United States Pavilion brought in about 40,000 visitors every day. Part of my job was to interact with the visitors and be a small representative of the U.S., to answer questions and take pictures. I also worked in the VIP section. Lots of high-level U.S. and Chinese officials came through, along with high-level people from the Pavilion's corporate sponsors. Chinese President Hu Jintao, Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madeline Albright, and Al Gore all came through. I even introduced the Pavilion to the President of Norway.
You've obviously done a lot of work abroad. What experiences did you have here on campus that contributed to your education?
Drexel gave me a lot of freedom to get involved in extracurricular activities in a way that would have an impact. I joined the Campus Activities Board and by my pre-junior year was on the executive board, which manages a $500,000 fund for student activities.
That experience led to my work on Global China Connection, which is student-run nonprofit across 60 universities that links Chinese and non-Chinese students. I started a chapter here at Drexel with some friends, and now I'm president of the entire organization.
Your interest in China and Chinese culture runs deep.
Being immersed in another culture is probably one of the most enthralling experiences, and I had never had that before coming to Drexel. Chinese culture is based on values so different from Western values, but there are also lots of similarities. It's interesting to see how they differ but also where they mesh.
What are your plans for after your Fulbright year in China?
That's really up in the air. I might work in China for a while or I might go to graduate school, maybe to study Chinese literature.
I'm still in dreamland trying to understand that I actually received the Fulbright.
Hometown: Lansdale, Pennsylvania
What are some the best academic experiences you've had at Drexel?
I started working in a physical chemistry lab the summer of my freshman year through the Maryanoff Scholars Program. Yes, I am a biology major working in a p-chem lab, but that work has provided me an awesome interdisciplinary experience. I can think like a biologist or a chemist and can communicate between the two communities. Believe it or not, the two worlds think very differently.
What kind of work did you do in the lab?
I have worked with Professor Reinhard Schweitzer-Stenner for more than four years. The lab is a biophysical lab where we analyze small peptides and cytochrome-C using various spectroscopic techniques. Basically, when molecules are excited by a light source — either a lamp or a laser — they start to move. This movement — which is either electrons or molecular vibration, eg: bending, wagging, etc. — can be monitored. Therefore, we can monitor biologically relevant proteins/peptides and try to determine their structural conformations using spectroscopy.
What have you done outside of the lab?
I did a study abroad program with SEA Semester. No, this is not the program where you board a cruise ship and think you are a sailor. I actually boarded a 105-foot brigantine sailing vessel, S.S.V. Corwith Cramer, and sailed up the East Coast for six weeks. That's more than 300 nautical miles, but who's counting? We learned how to sail and did some oceanography and a science project.
Wow. What took you out to sea?
I felt like I was in a rut. An email came through advertising SEA and I figured, Why the hell not it? It could be a lot of fun and oceanography fit into my biology major. So my parents drove me to Woods Hole, Massachusetts and dropped me off with 15 other students I had never met before. For six weeks we bonded, learned some oceanography and some history of sail, and took a crash course in navigation and sailing. We learned how to do everything: deploy our instruments, collect data, collect samples, sail handle, call commands, cook. Cooking on a rolling ship is not easy but it was the best food I've ever had. Everything is homemade!
That sounds like an amazing experience. Being on the water for so long must have had its challenges, though.
The biggest challenge was just adjusting to ship life. The schedule is so different on a watch schedule. You only get a full night's sleep every three days; the same with a shower. Fun fact: You start to smell the clean people since everybody is kind of dirty by the third day. Not only that, it was a sailor's shower since fresh water was a commodity. Basically, water on to get wet, lather, rinse, done shower. I don't mean to sound like it was torture because it wasn't — it was just a lifestyle shift.
But still, that must have been rewarding.
This was by far the hardest I have ever worked, physically and mentally. My favorite thing was navigating. We learned how to navigate using the sun and stars. I just love being able to say I can literally follow the stars, so much so that I have a tattoo of it on my arm. The food was amazing: Three solid home-cooked meals and three snacks every day. The bonds are hard to explain. In six weeks you have to learn to trust the person next to you with your life. If they happen to run the ship into the ground, well, we all go down. My fellow crew will be friends for life. I still think about them often and we all keep in touch.
Everybody should go abroad. In a perfect world, it would be a requirement to graduate.