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Happy Well Beyond Her Comfort Zone

Headed to Oxford University, Ivana Lam looks back on a very fruitful four years.

By Barbara Melendez
      USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (April 30, 2015) – Armed with not one, but two bachelor's degrees – one in English literature and the other in history – and following four years of whirlwind activity at USF, Ivana Lam's next stop is Oxford University and a very bright future.

The Honors College graduating senior is the recipient of the Frost Scholarship, which funds current students in Florida's State University System to work towards a master's course of study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

What brought this humanities-focused student to the world of STEM?

“During the course of my research in history, I stumbled upon this interesting aspect – the history of science,” she explained. “This intrigued me and made me curious about learning more about history and science together because I saw that the two subjects are very intertwined.”

As an example, she points to the Third Pandemic of the bubonic plague that happened in Yunnan Province in 1855, which affected many parts of Asia. “Although this event is science-based in nature, it caused political changes and raised questions about racial issues in Hong Kong that can be studied as a part of Asia's history,” she said.

Supported by the generosity of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Philanthropic Foundation, this scholarship will allow Lam to complete a master's degree in the history of science, medicine and technology.

“Completion of this course will enrich my understanding of Asian history and culture and strengthen my ability to succeed in the field of history,” Lam said. “It will also introduce me to the growing STEM field and expand my knowledge in order to effectively study East Asian medicine with a focus on modern China and Japan.”

The Frost Scholarship comes on the heels of receiving the Freeman-Asia Award which supported her education in Hirakata, Japan with the Kansai Gadai University Exchange program.

“Studying abroad in Japan has allowed me to hone my knowledge of the Japanese language, history and culture overall,” Lam said. “But it has also given me the chance to grow as a person. It made me appreciate the diversity of cultures and see that the exchanges of ideas and communication are the keys to understanding one another despite cultural differences and language barriers.”

This past year her undergraduate research focused on how the Western media portrayed the protests and student activists at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Her Honors College thesis demonstrates that the tradition of protest and the meaning of democracy in Chinese was rooted in China's traditional culture and beliefs that varied quite drastically from the West's understanding of democracy.

“It is important to always be keenly aware of global events and to complete thorough research before jumping to any conclusion,” she learned. “The Tiananmen Square protests can serve as a model on how historians and the media can avoid partial misconstructions when examining foreign political events like the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong last year.”

Inspired to Lead

As a College of Arts and Sciences student, Ivana was selected to be a part of the first cohort for the Dean's Student Leadership Society, a group of CAS students that works closely with Dean Eric Eisenberg to promote a liberal education and help strengthen the identity of CAS and USF. She describes it as “a rewarding and thrilling experience.

“I have had the chance to interact and listen to many great, inspiring leaders such as Bawa Jain, USF Trustee Jordan Zimmerman, and many more amazing leaders,” she said.

As part of her responsibilities, Lam has been involved in representing the College of Arts and Sciences at events, some where she's had the opportunity to meet USF alumni and donors. Impressed by their devotion to USF and the Tampa Bay community, she said, “This experience has inspired me to work hard and to participate in community service. I have also learned the value of teamwork and good leadership by being able to meet many different people outside of my majors.”

Lam made a strong impression on Dean Eisenberg as well. “I have been very impressed by Ivana since our first meeting.She can be quiet at first but she is deeply thoughtful and supportive of her fellow students.I have seen her grow since joining DSLS. The Frost opportunity at Oxford will be transformational for her and her family.”

Her plans are to become a leading historian in the field of East Asian medicine, particularly as it relates to modern Chinese and Japanese history. Lam hopes her research will serve as a guide that allows people to reflect on the events and atrocities that happened in the past in order to prevent them from occurring again in the future.

Not stopping at a master's degree, Lam will go on to pursue a doctoral degree in Chinese and Japanese history before becoming a professor.

Studying took up only part of her life at USF. Lam traveled to New Orleans to help restore a church affected by Hurricane Katrina during a Bulls Service Break, served as an Academic Foundations peer leader, Globull Ambassador and participated in the USF Health Orchestra. The former correspondent for The Oracle newspaper also conducted research with Associate Professor Golfo Alexopoulos for her forthcoming book, “Human Raw Material: Health and Inhumanity in Stalin's Gulag.” An internship with the Mailer Review Society gave her, "the experience of knowing what it was like to work for an academic journal,” she said.

Overall, Lam is satisfied that her four years were well-spent.

“I am proud that I chose USF because the university has provided me with a lot of amazing opportunities to research and explore a world beyond my comfort zone. I have met many great professors, staff members, and faculty members who have reached out to help me throughout my entire four years here. USF has not only nurtured me to become a successful student, but to also become one of tomorrow's leaders.”

Lam's parents get a lot of the credit as well.

"While I was growing up, my parents always told me to view life with great persistence, determination and courage," she said. "This is exactly what I have done and am still doing. Many times, it seemed impossible to accomplish certain tasks in front of me, but then I always thought back to that set of principles to carry me through."

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

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