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President's Club scholar looks to parents as inspiration

August 13, 2013

At three-years-old, President’s Club scholar Winnie Lau immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong with her family. Her parents were not well-educated and struggled to speak English. Essential tasks such as communicating with doctors, bankers and the mailman proved to be difficult.

Despite the challenges, her parents wanted a better life and the shot at a college education for their children. Their determination and persistence inspired Winnie to achieve her dreams of attending a university.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to have hardworking and brave parents who always have my best interests in mind,” says Winnie. “Following my parents’ mentality, I work hard in academia. Often times I think to myself if my parents, who cannot speak English and have no high school education, can somehow help me get into college, then I, who can speak English and graduated from high school, can study hard to achieve a college degree.”

It seemed like a no-brainer for Winnie to find a job when she started college. In high school she worked as a secretary in a podiatrist’s office to make things easier on her parents, financially. Her freshman year of college she became a part-time tutor for America Reads/Counts and was a server for a Japanese restaurant. Soon, the fatigue of maintaining two jobs and school caught up with her. That’s when she discovered the President’s Club scholarship program.

“I quit both part-time jobs and I was able to truly just focus on being a full-time student,” says Winnie. “It's hard to express how satisfying the feeling was to not have to constantly worry and be stressed about finances, and just focus on school for the first time in years.”

Winnie is now an honors student pursuing a degree in chemical engineering with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. She hopes to be accepted into ASU’s accelerated program in which she can receive her master's. She is particularly interested in energy use and preserving the environment.

“I think there are a lot of worthwhile and interesting sectors, such as finding novel ways to generate energy, maximizing the efficient use of energy and maintaining the environment by using alternate means of energy,” says Winnie.

She participates in a research lab under Mary Laura Lind, assistant professor in the School of Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. Members of the lab study advanced membrane materials used for water purification, energy production and environmental remediation. Previously, she interned for the City of Phoenix Water Services Department, volunteered for a non-profit called Vive Peru and was a community assistant at Barrett, the Honors College.

While the President’s Club's primary focus is transforming education by supporting ASU President Michael M. Crow through intellectual and financial resources, the group also supports funds, separate from those directed to Crow, that provide scholarships to a select group of students.

Winnie says being part of the President’s Club has improved her communication and public speaking skills. She also receives advice about possible careers and interesting places to travel. Winnie admires President Crow’s belief in an inclusive university.

“Hearing his words and seeing the support from not only the President's Club members, but also from ASU faculty members gave me a great sense of pride to be a part of ASU,” says Winnie. “I really enjoy being a President's Club scholar and I truly believe it's a positive and important contribution to my experience at Arizona State University.”