Throughout her life fourth-year Human Biology student, Stephanie Tu has been driven by two interconnected passions. The first, is to be a “Renaissance woman,” learning for the joy of learning, whether the topic is the significance of the Ain Sakhri Lovers Figurine from 9000 B.C., or the possibilities of programmable matter. What especially excites her is applying an interdisciplinary lens to knowledge, as often one field can shed light on another. Her second motivator is using her strengths to have the greatest benefit on society, which in her case, is sharing her knowledge and experience with others to inform and empower them. Stephanie’s passions have led her to seek out various volunteer community service positions outside her academic curriculum, including serving as a visiting international student mentor, a lead in the Conversation Hour program for UCI Summer Session, a peer academic advisor for the Undecided/Undeclared Program, and a patient educator at the UCI outreach clinic.
Nowhere is the unity of her two passions more apparent than her tenure as the Biological Sciences Success Program liaison for the Undecided/Undeclared program. Through her research for a policy-making paper, she learned about the myriad of ways—some overt, some subtle—that education was actually maintaining social stratification in America, not a pathway to social mobility. She experienced this phenomenon first-hand working as a peer academic advisor. As hopeful students who were excited to pursue competitive majors like Engineering or Nursing entered the University behind their peers and needed to take prerequisites to the introductory classes. Consequently, she combined her background in Biology and her experience advising to help implement the Biological Sciences Success Program, which aimed to equip first-generation students interested in health professional majors with the skills to tackle the introductory Biology class, Bio 93, which often served as a barrier to entry. As their content instructor, Stephanie focused on teaching them not only content but also problem-solving strategies. All of her students successfully passed and are well on their way to achieving their dreams, while the program has continued to evolve and grow in its second year.