For Connie Shih, volunteer work proved as much a learning experience as the classroom while earning her degree from Emory College. Shih, a Humanitarian Award winner, plans to "use what I've learned volunteering and my degree and apply it to real world experience."
Before she does that, however, there's still a bit more university teaching in store for her. She plans to attend the University of Tennessee in her native Knoxville next year to pursue a master's degree in educational psychology.
Shih jump started her undergraduate career with volunteer work. As a freshman, she helped develop a group called ESEA (Emory Students Enabling Association) to bring attention to the concerns of students with disabilities. Although the Emory campus "still has a long way to go in terms of accessibility issues," said Shih, who has cerebral palsy, the now-defunct group "did make the campus aware of issues facing students with disabilities."
Always mindful of other's challenges, Shih finds pleasure in volunteering. "It's the satisfaction of making [people's] lives a little bit better than they were before I encountered them," she said. Her volunteer efforts at Emory ranged from working in soup kitchens, staffing homeless shelters and cleaning up the community. "Every time I saw her she was putting up a new banner, promoting community service to other students and extending her gift of friendship," Assistant Dean for Campus Life Bridget Guernsey Riordan wrote in Shih's Humanitarian Award nomination letter.
She also spent a great deal of time tutoring low income students. "You could just see in the expression on their faces that they appreciated what we were doing," Shih said.
Although she hasn't definitively decided on what she'll do after gaining her master's degree, Shih hopes to work eventually for a human services agency or in the public school system. "My [undergraduate degree] has laid the foundation for a professional career," she said. "Getting a master's will just build on that."
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