Class of 2007
LSA graduate to share passion for education with underserved
Grace Chen has fond memories of the hours her mother spent reading to her as a child. It gave her mother, Shuchen, an immigrant from Taiwan, a chance to practice her English and an opportunity to teach her daughter how to read.
Those early memories sparked a lifelong passion for learning with Chen. A campus campaign manager with Teach for America, Chen plans to spend two years working with underprivileged students in rural North Carolina after graduation.
The national teacher corps recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved rural and urban schools. U-M leads the nation, with more than 300 students volunteering for the program and 110 graduates currently teaching, according to corps data.
Chen, 21, will graduate Phi Beta Kappa with Bachelors of Arts degrees in organizational studies and psychology. She says working with Teach for America will give her an opportunity to use her organizational skills and further her passion for education.
A Shipman Scholar and member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, Chen says she first learned about Teach for America at a recruitment event when she was a freshman. Two years later she was asked to be a campus campaign manager to recruit students to the corps.
Growing up in Solon, Ohio, she saw the difference education made in the lives of her parents. Her father, Injazz Chen, grew up in a Taiwanese fishing village, put himself through college and learned to speak English while he was serving in the country's military, Chen says.
After immigrating to the United States in the mid-1980s, he earned a doctorate in operations management and now teaches at Cleveland State University. Her mother does volunteer work for community organizations.
"Teach for America is not a detour for me," Chen says. "Education is an issue I'm very passionate about. A lot of societal problems can be solved through education. Every child deserves a good education. They shouldn't be denied an education because of where they live.
"My dad has spent his life teaching people who are struggling to get an education," Chen adds. "Teach for America aligns very well with what he is doing."
After completing an intensive teacher training program this summer Chen says she will be teaching high school mathematics in a rural school system northeast of Raleigh-Durham.
Although she is not sure if she will stay in the classroom after her two-year commitment ends, Chen says she wants to pursue a career in education. She is considering earning a doctorate in organizational studies, a field that allows her to combine her interests in business, psychology and economics.
Working to improve the management of school systems is a possible career path.
Her father's dream is to write a research paper with his daughter. "I think that's a possibility," Chen says smiling.
Adam Grant, a professor of organizational studies in LSA and of management and organizations in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business Administration, has taught Chen in class and supervised several of her independent study projects.
"Where ordinary people see obstacles, Grace sees possibilities," Grant says. "It has been a joy to watch her inspiring those around her to become more energetic, intellectually curious and caring. She challenges her peers and professors to think more deeply and creatively, enthusiastically takes on leadership roles, and creates vibrant relationships by providing advice and support to others."