Amazing Students Profiles

Stephanie Tan

Stephanie Tan

From starting a chapter of Operation Smile to her selection as a Tate Leadership Scholar, Stephanie Tan, a junior majoring in biological sciences, has made the most of the wide range of opportunities available to her at UGA.


Peachtree City, Ga.

High School:

Starr’s Mill High School

Degree objective:

B.S.A. in biological sciences

Other degrees:

Minor in music

Expected graduation:

Spring 2016

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

When I walk under the Arch, I’ll be proud to say that I’ve graduated from the University of Georgia with unforgettable memories and a multitude of hands-on experiences.

During freshman year, I was pleased to be accepted into the music minor program from my piano audition and also selected to be part of the Franklin Residential College program. The FRC provided many of the social activities that I’ve enjoyed, including raffles to see the performing arts series, bonding with friends during cookie night, and engaging dean’s teas to become acquainted with prestigious faculty.

One of the great opportunities at UGA was the chance to pursue research as an undergraduate. With the advice of Marcus Fechheimer, who recommended professors I could work with as a freshman, I met Kevin McCully. As my research project mentor in the kinesiology department, he pushed me to pursue my own research project. He taught me that I could reach for the stars in doing research and that what I could do was limitless based on what my goals were.

I researched mitochondrial function using a near infrared spectroscopy device and had the opportunity to present in the CURO Symposium during both my freshman and sophomore years. After three semesters of research including summer semester, I wrote a thesis that’s available at the Honors College and earned my CURO graduation distinction.

During an English composition course, I also participated in the e-portfolio process and ended up winning the Moran e-Portfolio Award under Laura Weaver. Since this is published, I would encourage you to flip through a First Year Composition Guide for 2012-2013 to take a sneak peek at my work. Finally, I ended the year by being inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and was selected to be a Franklin College ambassador. This elite group has helped me to appreciate the duties that I serve to the university and also understand the behind-the-scenes aspects of hosting department head meetings, giving student tours and thanking donors.

Over the summer, I decided to take classes, and staying in Athens was the best decision I ever made. I became close friends with my “chem crew” as we called ourselves while we were all suffering together through general chemistry. A few friends and I founded Operation Smile to help fund oral surgery for children with cleft lips and cleft palates. It proved to be a challenge to get a new organization up and running, but I was happy to have been part of the first executive board for the establishment of the first public, collegiate chapter of Operation Smile and served as the chair for volunteering, a position that was always exciting and could make an impact on the organization.

As the semesters are all running together in my mind now, there was a sudden explosion of involvement for me at UGA: I was elected vice president of community service for NSCS, I was selected to attend LeaderShape this past summer, I became president of Operation Smile and was selected as a Tate Leadership Scholar and a Leadership UGA participant. I’ve realized that leadership is an important aspect of my life. It helps you to explore who you are and to realize you NEVER stop learning, growing and giving back to the community.

I just returned from my spring break IMPACT trip to Philadelphia for disability awareness, and I’m excited about the large range of new opportunities that still await me in the Bulldog Nation.

Current Employment:

Substitute teacher at the McPhaul Center (Child Development Lab)

Family Ties to UGA:

As much as I wish my family bled red and black, I’m honored to be the first Tan to be here at UGA and share my experiences as an undergraduate with them so … GO DAWGS!

I chose to attend UGA because…

… the music program is simply amazing and the campus has just the right balance of serenity for focused study and an exciting student life with lots of interesting events and activities. The first time I saw the campus I was participating in the UGA Summer Music Institute as a freshman in high school. I immediately loved eating at Joe Frank Harris and visiting the facilities that the Hodgson School of Music had to offer. I was honored to be selected as the principal flutist and met some very kind and helpful faculty. It was a wonderful experience and I made memorable friends that I still have ties with today.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… taking long walks around campus when the weather is gorgeous with the sun out and a slight, warm breeze, experiencing new fitness classes at Ramsey (shout out to Kickboxing and Drop It), bonding with amazing faculty/staff (Dr. Hubbard and Dean McDonald), and of course, exploring the historic downtown Athens with my closest friends.

When I have free time, I like…

… to break out into song, throw surprise birthday parties and give back to the Athens community by volunteering at the Sandy Creek Nature Center or tutoring public school students.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

… being interviewed by LOVE FM 76.1, a radio station in Fukuoka, Japan, to talk about my experience with the Asian Pacific Children’s Convention. Because Atlanta is a sister city to Fukuoka, every year, the Japan-America Society of Georgia is able to select children from ages 11-12 to participate in this all-expense-paid program. It lasted two weeks. The first week was at a Marine camp where you bonded with other children who were selected from more than 40 countries. The second week was spent with a preselected host family. I loved the experience so much that I continued to be involved in the program by applying as a peace ambassador and a Bridge Club International head office member where I eventually helped run main events. I had opportunities to give presentations about cultural aspects of the U.S, to network with global leaders such as Muhammad Yunus, and to build friendships all over the world by watching my host family grow every time I went back as well as Skyping and writing handwritten letters to past APCC participants to catch up.

My favorite place to study is…

… definitely my room in Rutherford Hall. I’d like to think that I’m very lucky to be living in a beautiful building with a wonderful roommate who can turn any room into a comfy place. Our room has three windows that look out onto Myers quadrangle, so it’s not hard to know what events are going on and watch people pass by between study sessions.

My favorite professor is…

… actually a list of amazing people including, but not limited to, Marianne Shockley, Richard Hubbard and Richard Zimdars.

Dr. Shockley has been my adviser since freshman year. From planning classes to talking about life, she genuinely cared about how I was doing and helped me plan my courses even when I was stressed out about my future. It was a huge comfort to have someone there who knew what my goals were and what I eventually wanted to do. I also admire her passion in entomology, which I may eventually pursue a minor in.

Dr. Hubbard taught me organic chemistry, and his willingness to help students understand the material is astounding. He really encouraged me to pursue my passion no matter how difficult things became and he always listened when I needed to talk.

Dr. Zimdars has taught me one of my favorite courses at UGA: “Piano Literature.” Dr. Zimdars always allowed me to audit his literature courses in music and his cheerful personality includes humor that he’d incorporate into class. With his optimism, it’s difficult to not enjoy his course—I wish him well with his retirement this year.

The way each of these professors teaches is unique not only in that they are passionate about the subjects they teach, but they care about their students. I see them not only as my professors, but also my friends, so it’s without a doubt that UGA hires the best faculty for its students.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… my godfather, Rome Wallace, because he’s a close family friend that I’ve admired since I was young. As a mentor and role model, he gives me the best advice when I have trouble making decisions and I learn a lot from him, so I wish I were able to see him more often.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… have two desires: first, to build Stewie Griffin’s time machine to explore the past and future, to possibly cause some fun mischief, and yet to learn so much at the same time. Second, to cure patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease to allow them to have normal diets and lead a comfortable life free of worry about the disease. My mother was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis last Christmas and I admire her strength and determination in keeping a strict diet; she often craves certain foods to eat and I wish she were able to.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… simply travel the world and take my friends and family with me. I love experiencing different cultures, learning about traditions and trying international flavors of food. If money was not in consideration, I would also love to share the wealth, support some charities and invest in worthy organizations. I’ve always learned that generosity goes a long, long way.

After graduation, I plan to…

… continue making people smile and become a dentist. Dr. Benjamin Patrick has been a huge inspiration to me. After many hours of shadowing at his office I’m reminded of the close patient relationships that I would like to establish in my own office one day. Because of my passion for Operation Smile, I’d also like to be able to be a volunteer to fix cleft lip and cleft palate and serve on medical mission trips.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… meeting wonderful, new people every day and having them become my closest friends. Whether it’s during odd circumstances, or being introduced to my best friend’s roommate, friendships are a magical thing. I may have met someone only a week ago, but the feeling that I’ve known them forever is one of the most unique feelings to have. Another rewarding aspect is watching each of them grow along with myself during these four years by enduring a class together or making life-changing decisions for a future career.