Katie Huang

UC College of Arts & Sciences Honors Profile: Katie Huang

First-year International Affairs student looks forward to determining her own academic course.

Image of Honor Scholar Katie Huang standing next to one of the McMicken Lions

In Newark, Ohio, University of Cincinnati freshman and College of Arts & Sciences Honors Scholar Katie Huang was her high school’s valedictorian and student body president.

“Katie’s academic record in high school was phenomenal – that’s why she was selected for an interview,” said Lisa Holstrom, the College of Arts & Sciences’ Senior Assistant Dean for Academic Services.

Huang took the classes, then, that she was told to take. Like many gifted students, though, she said she chafed under a system that lacked academic flexibility. Now, she expects she’ll thrive in an environment that allows her to direct her own learning.

“I can focus a lot more on what I’m actually interested in,” she bubbled. “I can take any class I want, I can learn anything I want. I have the choices now that I didn’t have in high school.”

“I’m reading ahead in my textbooks. I’m taking notes. Because I’m really excited to learn what I’m learning right now.” She smiled. “This is what I’m passionate about.”

Huang said she’s most grateful that the Honors Scholars Program will afford her opportunities for immersive learning and international study.

“In order to get everyone’s cultural perspectives, you have to go experience them,” she said.

A future in politics?

Like several of her colleagues in the UC College of Arts & Sciences Honors Program’s inaugural class, Huang’s already declared an International Affairs major.

“We were fascinated by her passion for writing and how she connected that passion to her planned major,” Holstrom remembered.

“I don’t think you that you can shunt politics away from my mind. I’m constantly thinking about it,” she said. “You can’t define who I am without that.”

Of her courses this semester, Huang’s early favorite is a seminar on human rights and border issues; she has an eye toward a possible career in immigration policy or law.

This seems like a natural fit: she holds dual citizenship in the United States and Australia. The current national argument about immigration reform hits close to home. Huang’s concerned that changes in US immigration laws could adversely affect her family.

“I’ve followed the progress on that because my mom is a legal alien,” she explained. “I have family members in Australia. I have family members in Taiwan.”

In an interesting twist, though, Huang’s parents are conservative Mormons, who don’t always take a completely pro stance on open immigration. The realization of the irony therein drives her to closely examine the issues surrounding the immigration debate.

“I’m realizing that some of the beliefs that I was brought up with as a child, I disagree with now,” she said. “At some point, we have to start defining people as people, and not as numbers on a page.”

“You could be on the bus, reading an article about Charlottesville, and someone could [see that and] say, ‘Immigrants are stealing our jobs,’” she posited. “But maybe there’s an immigrant who’s sitting right there and hears that. And, in that moment, [the immigrant thinks], ‘Am I welcome here?’ All of these small actions — there are people who are around you and who are listening to you.”

“There’s a balance scale, and you either bring people up, or bring people down,” she said. “There are good interactions, and there are bad interactions.”

Still, having grown up in a conservative environment, Huang sees how people on both sides can suffer when a debate becomes particularly contentious or vicious, as both sides try to drown one another out.

“People don’t feel comfortable talking about their perspectives, or they feel like they’re hated, so they automatically retaliate,” she noted.

It’s that fear — of lacking a voice — that often gives rise to extremism, Huang observed. She hopes to change that by learning how to bring more people to the table and learning how to foster respectful debate.

“I think I can bridge the gap with empathy,” Huang said. “I want people’s lives to be better because I’m here.”

“Every small action can have a big impact,” she asserted. “With the spread of social media, we’re able to spread ideas further, faster.”

Driven to succeed.

Prior to declaring her major, Huang considered other options: psychology, sociology, journalism. She holds out the possibility of minoring in psych. Like many first-year students, she’s keeping an open mind.

Huang appreciates that, on campus, she can carve out a new social niche for herself. No one on campus remembers her from second grade, she chuckled, so she can focus her attention solely on achieving.

To that end, she’s happy to be in the Honors Scholars Program because she believes it will keep her more focused on her work.

“I like to be around people who are driven,” Huang said. “I should be constantly questioning myself. I should be checking in and making sure I’m doing enough.”