Growing up as a Chinese-American in the Bay area inspired Jaclyn Wong to pursue a major in sociology so that she could better understand how people develop different worldviews.  Specializing in social inequality while an undergraduate at UCI, she conducted honors research on returns of physical attractiveness in the labor market, a topic for which she received funding from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and pursued further through the UCI Education Abroad Program in Hong Kong.  She is a past recipient of the Carole Creek Bailey Award for Excellence in Sociology and the sociology department’s Robin M. Williams Award for Best Undergraduate Paper, and she is this year's recipient of the Charles Lave Paper Prize and Alumni Excellence Scholarship.  She spent nine consecutive quarters on the dean’s honors list and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Kappa Delta National Sociology Honors Society, all while actively being involved with The Joyful Foundation, Irvine Students Against Animal Cruelty and the HLC Community Service Club.  For her academic excellence and community involvement, Wong was selected as one of this year’s undergraduate commencement speakers.  Read on to find out more about her path to UCI, campus activities and future plans.

Q: Why did you choose to come to UCI?
A:  My family makes annual road trips to Southern California, and I have always enjoyed the weather and the relaxed atmosphere.  When it came time to choose a college, I wanted to make sure I chose a location where I felt I would be able to live happily for next few years.  I visited San Diego, Santa Barbara, and several other places, but none of the locations really stood out to me.  When I came to UC Irvine, I just felt at home.  Once here, I fell in love with the campus, especially Aldrich Park.

Q: What interested you most about your major in sociology?
A:  Growing up as a Chinese-American in a diverse city inspired me to try understanding multiple worldviews in order to understand social inequality.  After taking Sociology of Gender with Marnie Dobson, sociology seemed a good fit for my interests.  I have pursued research through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and the Sociology Honors Program on gender and social inequality.  My first paper was about the returns to physical attractiveness, and my current project is about inequality in interracial marriages.  Andrew Penner and Sam Gilmore, two of my sociology professors, have been instrumental in my research, serving to both motivate and push me to work hard.

Q: What is your best UCI memory?
A:  Studying abroad in Hong Kong. It was a totally eye-opening experience and a welcome change from Orange County.  Living in another country taught me more than I could have learned in a classroom.  Every day was a learning experience.  I got the chance to exercise my native tongue, eat different foods, and learn a completely different way of life.  I met new people from all over the world and made some of the closet friends I will ever have.  My classes at the University of Hong Kong were really challenging because they were really different from UCI, but I am glad I was exposed to different styles of pedagogy and learning.  The whole experience opened me to new ideas that I will take with me as I continue my education.  I am so glad I had this opportunity.

Q: What do you plan to do after finishing your degree?
A:  In the fall, I’ll be enrolled in a Ph.D. program in sociology at the University of Chicago where I plan to continue researching gender and inequality.  Eventually, I’d like to move back to the Bay Area.

Q: What advice do you have for underclassmen at UCI?
A:  Try new things, get involved with activities you truly enjoy, and connect with those who can help you develop your interests.  I came to UCI as an undeclared major in the School of Social Sciences, and I understand that it is hard to know right away what you want to do.  However, I found that through trying different things, I have come to understand my likes, dislikes, and larger life goals.  I learned to trust my instincts, and once I figured out my passion, I was able to meet people, like my friends, classmates, and professors, who helped me excel beyond what I never even dreamed possible when I started college.


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