Olivia Chen

ESPP Student

"I appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of ESPP. In fulfilling concentration requirements, I have completed coursework in biology, chemistry, and geology, as well as mathematics, economics, and government. Each of these disciplines holds important perspectives on the environment. When starting university, I was more interested in the social sciences, but this major has given me the structure to step beyond my comfort zone. My natural science courses were challenging for me, so I learned to take full advantage of professors’ office hours and extra help, and now feel more capable in harnessing information from different sources.

My focus field, sustainable urbanisation, has been crucial in grounding this broad academic work. Born and raised in Hong Kong, and well aware of the enormous potential in Asian megacities for improving people’s quality of life and shrinking carbon footprints, I decided to focus on sustainable urbanisation. My focus field has included an East Asian Studies course on the Global Cities of East Asia, a social studies course on the Politics of Environment in Asia, and a Molecular and Cellular Biology course on applying biological concepts to innovative urban design. Finally, I learned about humanitarian needs in cities through Professors Leaning and McCarthy’s junior seminar on Environmental Crisis and Population Flight. This seminar was a particularly rewarding experience in learning to unify different perspectives, and meeting classmates with overlapping and related interests. For these four courses, I had the leeway to define research questions for my final papers or projects, and could consistently draw connections back to my focus field.

After graduation, I aspire to become an urban planner, to address the pressing needs of cities in the global south."
-ESPP '17