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Sophomore wins grant to study around the world

April 02, 2008

A 20-year-old ASU sophomore from Tucson, Ke Wu, has won an around-the-world study trip from the Circumnavigators Club Foundation. The $9,000 grant is given to just four students in the country each year.

This summer, Wu will embark on a solo, 35,000-mile journey through eight countries, traveling from Columbia to Ecuador, then to Mongolia, Romania, Thailand, India, Tanzania and Liberia.

She’ll be visiting schools for AIDS orphans, street children, child soldiers and outcast children of the Roma population in Romania. Wu designed the trip herself before she applied for the grant, hoping to study how to teach disadvantaged children and motivate them to stay in school.

“My interest stems from working with children in Camp Sparky, a program where students in Barrett, the Honors College go to Title I schools to try to instill a love of learning in the kids. Children are really inquisitive and want to learn, but they’re sometimes branded as ‘bad kids,’ or they can’t see the point of going to college if none of their family members have attended college.

“I want to study alternative education projects around the world, to scrutinize their mistakes and their triumphs. I’d like to discover the best teaching methods for creating an environment that helps them learn and encourages them to stay in school.”

Wu was 5 years old when she immigrated from China, entering school in Tucson without knowing a word of English. Her first grade teacher realized she was good at math, so he worked with her and gave her extra problems to do, encouraging her love of learning.

She graduated from Tucson’s University High School in 2006 and entered ASU as a Flinn Scholar. She is a biochemistry major with a 3.95 grade-point average, planning eventually to go to medical school and study pediatrics.

Having discovered a love of teaching, however, Wu plans to join Teach for America after graduation. She hopes her research from this summer can be used to benefit children in America who are socially or economically deprived, or are growing up with violence in the home.