Featured UCSC History Student

June 09, 2010

By Vicki Bolam, University Relations 

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Students here can see past materialism and embrace their passions, which I think is unique to UCSC.
—Huijun Katherine Chen

Degrees: B.A. history; B.A. economics; B.A. math (interdisciplinary triple major)

UCSC college: Nine

Age: 21

Hometown: Palo Alto, California

Huijun Katherine Chen drew on UCSC’s interdisciplinary tradition to create a triple major tailored to her planned career in international economic development. By meshing history, economics, and math, she has gained a broad perspective on that complex field. Chen’s UCSC experience has influenced her future in other ways as well: “My goal when I started college was to find a job on Wall Street and be financially secure,” she says, “but now I feel that my education would be better used to help improve the lives of others.”

Your favorite class or professor and why?

That has to be Cold War and the Mediterranean, a seminar with Professor Terry Burke, which gave me a better understanding of the history behind present-day conflicts in the Middle East. My senior essay for the class was one of the most difficult assignments I'd ever completed; Professor Burke really pushed me to think critically and craft an original thesis, and to become an expert on my research. I met with him multiple times to refine my thesis and it nearly drove me crazy, but I'm so grateful that someone believed in my ability enough to challenge me and push me to a higher intellectual level.

Most surprising thing about UCSC?

The dedication and maturity of the student body. It seems like everyone is involved with an activity that they truly care about, and many of them work or intern without pay. They can see past materialism and simply embrace their passions, which I think is unique to UCSC.

Your favorite place to study on campus?

I usually study in cafes, but I've certainly spent a good number of hours in both libraries. My favorite spot is probably the fourth floor of McHenry Library since it's not very crowded and the windows provide good natural lighting.

What are your future plans?

I plan to take a year off and work abroad with an NGO, hopefully in Latin America or Africa, to learn a new language and get some work experience. Then I will come back to the States to attend law school and get a master's degree in international affairs. I want to round it all off with a Ph.D. in economics, then work on economic development in Third World countries.

Biggest accomplishment or proudest moment at UCSC?

Being selected to present my research at the History Department Undergraduate Research Symposium, and receiving the 2010 History Department award for Best Trans-Regional Undergraduate Essay. Also, receiving an A+ for my Economics 142 class—we wrote weekly 10-page papers and a 20-page final, and it was nice to be recognized for putting in all those hours of work!

Other honors and awards

  • Regents Scholar
  • Founder, 2010 UCSC Class Council (promoting student philanthropy)
  • Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program