"Do what makes you happy; be what makes you proud."
Amy Ma's geographical path from Dover High School to the University of New Hampshire was a short one, but her parents faced a much longer journey in the 1980’s as they moved from Canton Province, China. "My parents moved here with nothing but their dreams and a plan, and that was very influential growing up," says Amy. "My parents are very motivated, hard workers who really value education. They did very well in school in China, but didn't go to college as they couldn't afford it." The oldest of three children, Amy states, "My grandmother tells me that I have to be a good example, since I'm the oldest cousin born in the U.S."
"I chose UNH because of the cost, but also because it seemed like a good place to live with a real community. I loved the campus, and I wanted a place with trees and grass," explains Amy, a senior in Occupational Therapy (OT). She decided to major in OT because she enjoyed the psychological aspects of the profession incorporating the mental, physical, and spiritual components of wellness and health. Amy has cultivated two strands of focus for her undergraduate research. Her first project examined the impact OT might have on stressed pregnant women's perceptions of their social networks. Her second study gathered data on upper extremity injuries and client satisfaction with various therapeutic interventions. Through these investigations she says, "Dr. Barbara White has been a significant influence and has really taken me under her wing. She's been my professor, research mentor and honors advisor—and she’s a life coach for me!" Amy's professional goal is to become a hand therapist, but she hopes to start her career in a hospital or skilled nursing setting.
OT - CONNECT - OMSA - SSS - McNAIR - SURF - ETS. This string of acronyms might seem like an unusual code, but each one represents a powerful, engaging, and significant experience in Amy's life and education. CONNECT is an orientation program for first year students from diverse backgrounds. For many, it becomes an important centering experience throughout their UNH years. Amy joined the CONNECT Program to meet new people and ended up forging friendships that are still her support system today. “We’ve all become very close; they really are my ‘family of choice.’ I never thought I could have a group of friends quite like this, and it’s all because of CONNECT.”
If it wasn't for CONNECT, Amy also wouldn't have gotten involved with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA). OMSA organizes the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Summit, an intensive weekend experience designed to create a greater sense of community, explore critical issues related to social inequality, and expand students' own potential for multicultural leadership. "The MLK Summit opened my eyes to everything," says Amy, with her excitement level rising. While she thought she was comfortable in high school exploring ethnicity and culture, the Summit helped her realize she had illogical fears of the unknown. After learning more about other identities, she became passionate about social justice. “Gay rights and civil rights are especially important to me, so I joined the student staff in OMSA and also became a Safe Zones facilitator during sophomore year. Social justice is justice for everyone, and I am so fortunate to be involved in something bigger than myself." When asked specifically about things that get her excited, her reply is, "I don't know what DOESN'T get me excited!"
Amy has also been an ongoing participant in TRiO Programs since high school. TRiO is funded through the U.S. Department of Education to encourage and support low income and first generation college students to attend and succeed in college. Amy started with the Educational Talent Search (ETS) Program at Dover High School, which led to the UNH Rising Scholars Program, and then to the McNair Program to prepare individuals for graduate school. Amy is grateful she was given the support she needed. “It’s another domino effect. If I didn’t have ETS in high school, I never would have known about the Rising Scholars Program. Then I wouldn't have met Kate Fukawa-Connelly, who encouraged me to do research with the Hamel Center and to become a McNair Scholar," she claims. "Without all of these wonderful opportunities, I wouldn't be sitting as comfortably as I am now, looking forward to the future." Amy is poised to graduate with highest honors in May 2012 and has been accepted to Occupational Therapy graduate programs at Tufts University and UNH.
Looking calm and centered, Amy Ma describes her life path as a journey rather than a destination. "You only get one chance, and I don't want to leave college thinking that I didn't experience everything I wanted. I want to squeeze everything out of my time at UNH because being here is a privilege, and I don’t want to waste it. Lots of people would want to be where I am today."
2011 - 2012 CYOS Honorees: (left to right) Amy Ma, Michael Vidal, Eliza Mackintosh, Chris Foss, Stacey Hoang, Theresa Lewis, Charlie O'Connor, Katie Lantz, Sunya Yakovleff, Harrison Roakes