Meet the Johnsons: Stephanie Chung ’18
“Before I even came to college, I knew that there were people here who had my back and would help me succeed in what I wanted to do.”
Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?
It’s a very funny story – you know how you get all those emails from colleges after taking the SAT? I was trying to delete them from my Gmail and accidentally clicked outside of the little box and opened the email. In big letters, “Last day to apply to full-ride merit based scholarship!” I had a few hours to kill, so I wrote the essay and submitted the application.
Q: Were you considering other colleges when you applied to W&L?
I applied to way too many! I had full rides from UT Austin and Case Western Reserve that I was considering, and I was admitted to UPenn, Wellesley, Johns Hopkins, and about six others.
Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?
I chose W&L because I thought I could succeed here. Professor Novack convinced me that he and the sociology and anthropology department would have my back during my four years here and the rest of my anthropology career. The Johnson Scholarship gave me both financial stability and financial resources to pursue opportunities. The campus was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the professors were fantastic.
Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?
Through its financial support, the Johnson Scholarship has given me academic opportunities I never thought I would be able to take advantage of. The summer after my first year at W&L, I spent nine weeks in Europe, including three weeks doing my own ethnographic research in Malta. Now the results of that research are close to being published, and I have found myself with real-life experience that informs my experience in the classroom and in my academic field.
Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?
I think my favorite story about W&L is actually how I found my girlfriend. I had heard stories about how there is a man on campus who hand-matches all of the first-year random roommates, and so I put myself in his hands! My roommate instantly became my best friend, and then a year and a half later, my girlfriend. It was a complete coincidence that we were put together, and we would never have been close enough to fall in love if we hadn’t been roommates!
Q: Do you have a mentor on campus? Faculty, staff, or another student?
I know I’ve already done a lot of raving about Professor Novack, so now I’m going to have to rave about Professor Bell! She has been nothing but supportive of my goals. Every opportunity she has to help me, she does it without hesitation. Every time I’m stressed out about applying to grad school or becoming an anthropologist, she’s there to both reassure me and get me on the right track.
Q: What extra-curricular are you involved in right now that you are extra-passionate about?
Project Horizon is the domestic violence shelter in Lexington, and they have a sexual abuse and domestic violence hotline that is partially run by volunteers. Through the Shepherd Poverty and Human Capabilities department, I did a service learning course through volunteering at Project Horizon, and I haven’t left since! Playing with the kids in the shelter, talking with women staying in the shelter, and being a resource for those who call the hotline has become an important part of my life in Lexington. It is work that is extremely difficult and extremely important. I say that I want to stand up for women’s rights and against injustice, and this is the perfect volunteer site to get experience doing so.
Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?
There is a statue on campus that is quite close to Lee Chapel. Every year I see so many tourists posing for pictures with the statue, and it cracks me up every time. Why? Because it’s not the famous Robert E. Lee… It’s Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper.
Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?
Don’t be afraid of not knowing what to do – you are 18 and you have time to figure it out! Spend some time enjoying college and spend some time taking fun classes. You can worry about the hard stuff later!
Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?
The honor system. You can get small class sizes, incredible professors, and an elite student body at other schools. The honor system as it applies to academics especially pushes each student to their academic best. You know that you can trust your classmates to be honest, the trust the professors have in you means that you are taken at your word, and overall, it encourages us all to be more hardworking and more honest human beings. You are given respect and responsibility, and you have to do the right thing with it, which is excellent practice for the “real world” after college.
Thinking about W&L for college? Why not apply for the Johnson Scholarship?
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A little more about Stephanie
It’s a bit complicated! My family moved a lot, and I didn’t spend much time in any one place – but my parents are in Arizona right now, so that’s home.
SHAG, Muse, The Stone, General’s Unity
Literacy Tutoring, Project Horizon
Why did you choose your major?
I wanted to find a way to combine my many interests. I felt like I had too many to choose from! But anthropology is awesome because it’s the study of humans and therefore anything that humans can do!
What professor has inspired you?
Professor Novack. He is a constant example of the need for introspection and self-evaluation. He is never afraid to use his personal life as an example of needing to think critically about one’s preconceptions, prejudices, and privileges. He’s been at this school for such a long time that he’s very good at reminding me that life goes on and the little problems can be solved. Also, he’s believed in me from day one – actually before day one – when I wandered into his office during Johnson Weekend and he told me he would be my advisor.
What’s your personal motto?
Always go above and beyond.
What’s your favorite song right now?
“Hey Mami” by Sylvan Esso
Best place to eat in Lexington?
Napa Thai – definitely order the Pad Seew.
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
You don’t need to be perfect in order to succeed.
A Ph.D. in medical anthropology followed by working to improve the material health of women somewhere in the world.
Favorite W&L memory:
Walking into Professor Novack’s office during Johnson Weekend before I ever came here and talking with him for an hour and a half. When I left, I knew I wanted to make this school my home for the next four years.
Victorian Britain and the World with Professor Tallie (This is not your average history class – this is a savage critique of British imperialism that has extraordinary implications for the modern day.)
Favorite W&L event:
The Equality Gala!
Favorite campus landmark:
The little courtyard to the side of Newcomb.
What’s your passion?
Fighting for what’s right – be that better standards of health care, treating our fellow human beings better, or making difficult decisions to stay honorable.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have a black belt in Tung So Doo.
Why did you choose W&L?
Before I even came to college, I knew that there were people here who had my back and would help me succeed in what I wanted to do. I saw the Johnson Scholarship as a sign that W&L was willing to invest in me, and I knew that would push me to do better and prove them right.