Funding the Future of the Liberal Arts
Penny Wong ’15 just graduated (on May 9, 2015) from Southwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. While on campus, she also minored in sociology, was a member of the varsity women’s cross country team, and began her current internship with St. David’s Dental Program, which brings mobile dental clinics to high-needs schools and social services agencies in Travis, Williamson and Hays Counties. She also gave back to Southwestern by making a senior gift. Learn more about Wong’s Southwestern Experience…
How did you find out about Southwestern?
I heard about Southwestern’s Pirate Bike Program and when I checked it out, I found out that my friend Michael Au ’13 was a student here.
How did you “end up” at Southwestern?
After visiting and experiencing the homey nature of campus, I decided that Southwestern was one of my top choices. The excellence that is pursued in the programs, the integration of studies, and the financial aid package sealed the deal for me to matriculate at Southwestern.
What were you involved in on campus?
My first year, I was overeager to be involved in everything (but) I’m glad to have focused my efforts in my upperclass years. I was involved with Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) and Science and Math Achievement Teams (SMArT) for four years and was the recruitment chair and president of SHAC for two. Both SHAC and Student Foundation expanded my knowledge of mental health and politics while helping me build leadership and networking skills. These two groups of friends pushed me to learn and discuss topics I would have never thought about. I am grateful for the chance to include more perspectives in my thinking. Additionally, I have been a part of Women’s Intramural Lacrosse, the Varsity Cross Country Team, and the American Chemical Society.
What was your major?
I majored in biochemistry with a minor in sociology. For my biochemistry capstone, I participated in inorganic biochemistry research for two years with Associate Professor of Chemistry Gulnar Rawji. … I appreciate the experience learning the intricacies of scientific research, the biochemistry and organic chemistry techniques, and how to be patient and flexible with my time.
What is your favorite Southwestern memory?
My favorite Southwestern memory was presenting my first speech for my public speaking class. That’s where I first learned the value of stories and how I can express myself through them. It’s also where I met one of my best friends on campus, David Olson, director of communication studies internships.
In July, I start dental school at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. (Until then) I plan to continue my internship with the dental program at St. David’s Foundation, where I work on (mobile dental clinics) as a registered dental assistant, preparing and chair-side assisting dentists and dental hygienists with their procedures. I (also) capture x-rays, sanitize equipment, record patient notes and data, and contact families in English, Mandarin Chinese, or Cantonese. For fun, I plan to take courses in sculpture and creative writing and volunteer at the AIDS services of Austin this summer.
What part of the Southwestern Experience mattered most to you?
I really valued the strong mentorships with my professors and some staff, as well as the push to explore different fields.
Why did you make your senior gift?
Having small classes made it easy to directly interact with the professor and form a relationship. I hope future students have this opportunity and are also able to pursue the programs they are passionate about.
Did you receive any scholarships?
Yes, and I am forever grateful for them.
Did financial aid play a role in your choice to attend Southwestern?
I would not have been able to afford Southwestern if I did not have these financial gifts.
Do you have any advice for future students?
Entering college can be overwhelming with the amount of activities available. Remember, academics is always first and organizations are a supplement to your education. Make sure to take a fun or a “random” course each year, if not each semester. They will get you thinking in a different mindset and challenge you to have fun in a different way. Some of my favorite classes at Southwestern were Figurative Sculpture, Public Speaking, and 20th Century British Women Writers. At first, these (classes) were intimidating because (the topics) were completely foreign to me, but as I learned more, I grew to love them and to connect (them) to other classes and experiences. This is the best thing about the liberal arts experience.