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Freshman seeks to impact the world via service

portrait of Jenny Chen
September 27, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

Much like every college student, Jenny Chen, a freshman at Arizona State University, has a long "to-do" list. She has to attend classes, study and – of course – change the world through service. Alright, maybe that part isn’t as typical.

Chen, a Phoenix native, selected biomedical engineering after a family friend told her about the curriculum shift within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to be more focused on industry preparedness upon graduation. The in-state tuition discount solidified ASU as an attractive college option.

“We learned about a device that uses neurons in the brain to facilitate artificial vision. It would be awesome to give people in need the chance to see through technology. I’m really interested in looking into similar devices that can restore natural senses,” she said.

The busy freshman is still learning to balance her schedule of 19 credit hours. She is also looking into campus clubs that fit her interests, such as Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) and the Biomedical Engineering Society. She hopes that a stint with EPICS will allow her to follow her passion for volunteering and giving back to the community.

When she was in the seventh grade, Chen began volunteering in an English language learner program hosted by her church that assisted international students at ASU with the transition to America. For her, the reality of being a non-native speaker hit close to home, as her parents had moved to the United States from Taiwan and spoke little English.

“They were misunderstood everywhere they went and it became very frustrating for them. When you come to the U.S. to study, you don’t understand the basic idioms of life in America, like how to order food or how to navigate a job interview. I speak Chinese so I can act as a translator for those coming from areas of China,” she said.

The highly coveted skill has also taken her to Taiwan where she taught in a middle school for 10 weeks during the summer. She says that seeing others learn and succeed ignites her devotion for helping others.   

In the future, she would like to travel to South America and revisit Europe. For now though, this Sun Devil is hard at work planning for her second semester at ASU and adjusting to the course load of university life.