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Updated 3:00 PM May 2, 2006




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Class of '06: Electrical engineering graduate
plugged into campus life

It was 4:30 p.m. and time for a short interview near Café Mujo on North Campus with electrical engineering senior Jack Li, who had not eaten lunch. So when a staff member with whom he was on friendly terms rolled by with a cart of boxed meals, Li snagged one.
(Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

It quickly became apparent that Li, 21, was on friendly terms with more than just the employee who gave him the meal. While talking about his time as an undergraduate at U-M, Li waved and smiled, or nodded to passersby every few seconds, and received two phone calls.

"I'm sorry about this," Li apologized, reaching again for his cell phone to check the caller ID.

Li will graduate this May and plans to attend the U-M Medical School in the fall, unless he's accepted at John's Hopkins, where he currently is wait-listed. It would be a shame to lose him—he is the type of student whose leadership improves the University in countless ways, says director of engineering undergraduate education Jeanne Murabito.

Murabito knows Li through his extensive volunteer activities within the College of Engineering (CoE). Without active students like Li, the extracurricular resources that so enrich the educational experience would not exist, she says.

Li, of Canton, is the engineering senior class president; co-founder and president of the Society for Prehealth Engineers (SOPE); president of Tau Beta Pi (National Engineering Honor Society), as well as a six-term Angell Scholar—he received straight As for six consecutive terms. He also does research at the Medical School.

His volunteer and extracurricular activities took off once the boot camp that is typical of freshman and sophomore years in the CoE was behind him.

"I had so much extra time I needed to do something with it," he recalled. He elected into Tau Beta Pi, gaining experience as a tutor then as the tutoring chair.

"Being around that group of people who saw that there was more to engineering than just doing the homework problems, I was really inspired to be a part of that," Li said.

Things escalated. He began SOPE with two other students when, as an engineer who wanted to go into medical school, he was unable to find adequate advising help. North Campus would send him to main campus for guidance, and vice versa, he recalls.

So SOPE was formed to help students on that dual track figure out what careers are available to them and classes they need, and other support services. It has 40-50 active members.

He moved up in Tau Beta Pi and became the external vice president, coordinating the Engineering Career Fair and CoE Honors Brunch. The U-M chapter of Tau Beta Pi is one of the country's largest, and is involved more than 90 community service projects annually. It also hosts the only all-student run job fair on campus, Li says, and uses revenues generated there to support community service projects.

As current Tau Beta Pi president, Li has a challenging job because it's the chapter's 100th year. The chapter hosted a special initiation and banquet in which 5,000 alumni were invited back to campus. It also kicked off a new initiative where the chapter has pledged to raise $100,000 for an endowment to commemorate the chapter's anniversary.

Li said his activities are fueled by a desire to give back to the University, especially North Campus. He isn't sure how the coming years will play out, although he'll continue in leadership roles and community service projects if he has time. He acknowledges, however, those activities may have to scale back when he enters medical school, and the 150-200 e-mails jamming his inbox daily will dwindle to the couple dozen most students receive.

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