“Everything I’m learning and experiencing now is something my parents never got the opportunity to do when they were growing up in rural Vietnam. I grew up listening to their history of self-sacrifice and transformed it into my passionate involvement with every opportunity I seek out… Computer Systems Engineering is my stage, and the College of Engineering provides the microphone, podium, and spotlights. As an avid performer, I recognize the importance of displaying one’s work to an audience. With my inextinguishable enthusiasm for the arts and technology, I know that I can make an impact on the world: by making multimedia easily accessible.” – Catherine Tan
Catherine Tan is in her second year in Computer Systems Engineering at UGA, and recently received the Chair’s Award for her Personal Statement of Purpose in the School of ECE.
Program of study:
Computer Systems Engineering
Why did you choose UGA?
I love how beautiful the campus is and the paths are very well laid-out. UGA is also conscious of its students who come from diverse backgrounds and will occasionally host events that I like attending with my friends. I also come from a Vietnamese immigrant family, so as a first-generation student, I had to consider the financial aid when applying.
When did you become interested in engineering?
Six years ago, my grandmother had a brain tumor removed that left her physically disabled. She spends her days watching popular Vietnamese dramas like Mui Ngo Gai and the occasional Paris By Night on her iPad, but she often has trouble navigating it and would habitually request assistance. Over time, she has become somewhat self-sufficient; however, the occasional digital obstacle arises, and she resigns due to the complexity of the system. As a result, I envision myself creating programs that will bridge such gaps in understanding.
Are you involved in any student clubs or organizations, and what are your experiences with this?
I am a cultural performer for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and Filipino Student Association (FSA). I’ve grown up being on stage and collaborating with many diverse groups of people. Being part of a community that fosters diligence, discovery, and a sense of purpose pushes me to spread these values to every subsequent community I’ll be a part of.
Growing up, I felt extremely integrated with the Filipino community, all the while being estranged from my Vietnamese culture. I wanted to participate in VSA so I could meet more people around the same age since I had trouble fitting in when growing up in my hometown. On the other hand, the uncles and aunties lovingly claimed me as Filipino. We spent the holidays together practicing for seasonal performances, and I found comfort in knowing I had a strong support system. I performed in the rhythmically demanding, bamboo-clapping Tinikling, the partnered Spanish-style steps set to bamboo castanets of La Jota Moncandeña, and the regal, flowy scarf dance of Kini Kini. Even with the spotlight on us, I think my smile outshined it while my body went through the motions of the choreography we had spent months perfecting.
Catherine is a Cultural Performer with the Filipino Student Association (above with green baloones), and the Vietnamese Student Association (above with red and gold balloons).
Have you learned anything new about yourself during your time at UGA?
I didn’t realize how much I was capable of until I had the chance to pursue these opportunities. I was able to work on engineering projects for my courses that seemed unachievable months prior. I figured out I was able to do anything if I worked diligently enough.
What are your plans after graduation?
I hope to become a software engineer or have a role in technology that pertains to improving the user experience.
What motivates you?
Everything I’m learning and experiencing now is something my parents never got the opportunity to do when they were growing up in rural Vietnam. I grew up listening to their history of self-sacrifice and transformed it into my passionate involvement with every opportunity I seek out.
What positive difference in the world do you hope to make through engineering?
Ultimately, my goal is to develop more inclusive and user-friendly multimedia for those who are unfamiliar with modern technology. Not only will this improve the human condition of the future, but also the present life of my grandmother.
What do you find challenging and what do you find rewarding about engineering?
The most challenging moment I’ve experienced in engineering was actually the first day of class in ECSE 1100. I did robotics in high school, so I thought I had a general idea of what engineering would be like. Boy, was I wrong. Throughout the 50-minute lecture, I questioned whether I was even fit to be an engineering major. It seemed like everyone around me was already exposed to the information from the slides whereas I couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around this electrical jargon. However, I’m glad I stuck with it because I was able to learn skills in my concentration that I really enjoy. I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to engage with engineering if I decided to switch majors.
Computer Systems Engineering is my stage, and the College of Engineering provides the microphone, podium, and spotlights. As an avid performer, I recognize the importance of displaying one’s work to an audience. With my inextinguishable enthusiasm for the arts and technology, I know that I can make an impact on the world: by making multimedia easily accessible.
What hobbies and activities do you like to do for fun?
I love exploring different music genres and constructing playlists from them. To name a few, I have playlists for Japanese Polyphonic Jazz Fusion, African Djembe beats, Bollywood, Kawaii Future Bass, and songs specifically with a 4/4 homorhythmic type beat. I also love designing graphics, especially typography. I created some concept art for my personal portfolio website, project DIVA, using Adobe Illustrator.
What is your favorite thing to do on campus?
Sometimes, I go to the Hugh Hodgson School of Music after hours and play the piano there. As an engineering student, I don’t have time in my schedule to take humanities courses, so this gives me the opportunity to keep music as a significant aspect of my life. I really enjoy music and I love to immerse myself in my favorite composers’ pieces. My favorite piece I’ve ever performed is “To The Moon” by Kan Gao.