Sasa Tang: The Greatest Promise
In a high school class, Sasa Tang learned about student activism on college campuses in the 1960s. That earlier generation’s commitment to principles and courage to act made a lasting impression on Sasa. She wanted to be as committed and courageous in her own college career. So when she stepped foot on the UNH campus four years ago, she was motivated to make an impact. She just wasn’t sure in what way.
“When I came to UNH I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, ” says Sasa; “I was talking to a friend who asked me, ‘Who or what does your heart break for?’ And that got me thinking. Who or what does my heart break for? For those who don’t have a voice, for those who are oppressed, for those who don’t have the opportunity to even get a chance at life.”
Answering her friend’s question gave Sasa focus and started her on a path of activism for social justice. She became heavily involved in student organizations and eventually declared a dual major in political science and international affairs.
Now in her senior year, Sasa has accumulated a long list of accomplishments both academically and in extra-curricular initiatives, a record that recently won her the prestigious University Women’s Award. One of only a dozen university-wide student awards, the University Women’s Award recognizes the senior woman who shows the greatest promise through character, scholarship, leadership, and usefulness to humanity.
Sasa has been involved in a number of campus groups that address social justice issues, including the UNH chapter of STAND (a national antigenocide coalition focusing on Darfur, Burma, and the Congo), Oxfam UNH, the Native American Cultural Association, Model United Nations, the UNH Peace and Justice League, and Alternative Break Challenge, for which she traveled to New Orleans twice for post-Katrina relief.
With so many activities, not to mention a full course load, sustaining a high level of involvement across groups might seem challenging. Sasa meets the challenge with energy. “I know from interacting with Sasa that her commitment to these organizations is not superficial,” says sociology professor Cliff Brown, who met Sasa in a course he taught on social mobility and change; “She continuously encourages fellow undergraduates to become more involved. I watched her make meaningful connections with students in my class that made a difference in the way they thought about important social and political topics like poverty, globalization, and genocide.”
Academically, Sasa is equally accomplished. She is on track to graduate this spring summa cum laude. She’s taken full advantage of academic opportunities at UNH, including studying abroad in France and successfully pursuing an International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) grant to conduct research in Tanzania. Sasa’s IROP project was transformative. She spent 10 weeks researching nongovernmental organizations and their interactions with the Tanzanian government, a project that grew out of her work with STAND.
“IROP was the best thing that happened to me at UNH. Just think about a 10-week paid research experience. That’s so incredible and I can’t think of any other school that does something like that,” says Sasa; “But also just being in Tanzania by myself. I didn’t know Swahili. I went to the markets and used my hands to indicate what I wanted. It was just a completely different experience. IROP not only helped me academically but helped me to grow as a person. That was really amazing.”
Sasa is now finalizing plans to enter the Peace Corps after graduation. She’ll be leaving in September for Sub-Saharan Africa. She hopes to gain valuable front-line experience before she pursues graduate work in political science or international affairs. Eventually, she wants to teach at the college level, inspiring a new generation of students to action.
Given the motivation she’s shown thus far, she’ll likely succeed. As one of Sasa’s former professors, Alynna Lyon of political science, notes, “Her intellect is keen, her drive impressive, and her leadership ability consistently inspiring. I am quite sure Ms. Tang will go on to do amazing things with her life’s work.”
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