Q&A with this year's valedictorians
Valedictorian: It’s an honor that many of us come to college telling ourselves we’ll work for, but only two students — one per graduation ceremony — actually pull it off. The Beacon sat down with the Class of 2017 valedictorians, math major Parkes Kendrick and computer science major Christine Chen, to learn some wisdom from their successful years at UP.
The Beacon: What were you involved in at UP?
Chen: I was involved in the FISH Club, Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Club and the Society of Women Engineers, and that’s been really fun because I’ve gotten the opportunity for three years to mentor freshman girls coming in. I’ve recently been volunteering with an organization (the Global Emancipation Network) that uses data analytics to fight human trafficking and that’s been really eye-opening for me.
Kendrick: I run cross-country and track, and I used to play soccer. I have been doing research with a professor, Dr. Highlander, on campus, so I did that for a year and a half or so. We worked on a model of interpersonal violence in conjunction with the Green Dot program. I worked at Oregon Health Sciences University this summer, so that’s another research thing. And I do a lot of volunteer work at St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church and this place called Operation Night Watch, which is also for homeless patrons. The other main place I volunteer at is the International Refugee Center of Oregon, and I do tutoring for them. I also work in the Math Resource Center.
How are your speeches for graduation coming?
Kendrick: Both of us just presented for the deans today and got feedback. I feel like it’ll actually change quite a bit before I actually present it.
What are some words of wisdom you’ve received and found helpful during your time here?
Kendrick: The best advice I got that really stuck with me is that my dad read some article saying that you should pursue a field that you’re interested in and that you think you’ll remain interested in for your entire life, so there’s room for growth. That’s something I’ve kept in mind for sure.
Chen: I definitely echo that. I was in a research class with Dr. Dillon last semester and I really appreciated how she took two classes and talked about impostor syndrome and gratitude. On impostor syndrome, she was really urging us all that we need to be looking out for each other.
It’s really easy, and I see this in myself, to clamp down and not want to talk to other people if I feel like I’m not qualified, or I’m not doing the best work and this and that. I really appreciate that she and all of the faculty I come in contact with have been really keen on helping us see deeper and caring for each other as students, and looking at where we’ve come from and being so grateful to the people that helped us along the way.
What are you doing after graduation?
Chen: This summer I’ll be in Washington, D.C. for a little bit volunteering with the International Justice Mission, so I’m pretty excited for that. In September, I’ll start at the University of Washington for graduate school.
I’ll join the Security and Privacy Lab at UW, and I’m really excited because they’re doing projects in the intersection of humanitarian work and technology and I’m really looking forward to exploring in that area.
Kendrick: I will be starting a position in July for a couple years that’s a program through the National Institutes of Health that’s for post-baccalaureates to do research for a few years. I’m going to be in the D.C. area working in a lab doing bioinformatics, that’s like the mathematical applications to biology.
The lab that I’m working with works with candidates in a program for undiagnosed diseases. So, if they have a full work-up at a hospital and can’t figure out what’s going on with them, they can apply to be a candidate in the program. Half my time I’ll be doing work with gene sequencing and the other half will be other projects.
What are you most excited and most nervous about for graduation and what comes next?
Kendrick: Presently, short-term, I’m most excited about exploring a new place, but I’m also from Portland so it’s like a double-edged sword. So the thing I’m most nervous about is exploring a new place. I’m also nervous to be away from my family because I’m pretty close to them and we’ve all been pretty close, too, the past few years.
Chen: I think I’d have to agree with that, too, because I’m from Portland as well. I’m really excited to take all the things that I’ve learned and the passion for learning that I’ve gotten here from being with so many awesome people and start to see how it can do things in the world.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about making life count and not just letting it be words and like, I say I’m going to do all these awesome things, but actually doing that.
What do you want people to know about your time here?
Chen: I’m so grateful to have been here for four years. Not a lot of people have the opportunity that we do here at UP with so many people here that care about us beyond classes and school and grades, and that’s so neat.
Kendrick: You never really know when you’re choosing a school how it’s going to turn out. When I look back at my last four years here I feel like, ‘Whoa, I’m really lucky I ended up here.’ There were things when I was coming into UP that I liked, and now, looking back, there are things here I like that I never could have known I’d like, and that’s really cool.