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Campus News

EOP’s Zhang Wins Link Scholarship

By Greta Petry (October 8, 2004)

Siqi Zhang is a winner of the UUP Link Scholarship.

Siqi Zhang is a winner of the UUP Link Scholarship.

UAlbany senior Siqi (pronounced See-kee) Zhang, 22, taught herself English by reading grammar books while growing up in China. Then she practiced pronouncing the words by watching American movies over and over until she could repeat the dialogue along with the movie stars. She also read British novels in English in her home town of Harbin, in the People’s Republic of China, near the border with Russia.

English can be a tricky language, Zhang discovered on her first day of American high school, when she angered her English teacher by calling her “Lady.” Having read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where there were many “ladies,” Zhang thought the word connoted respect.

Zhang did not let this momentary embarrassment stop her. One month later she took the New York State Regents exam in English and passed it. Now she knows Russian and Japanese in addition to her native Chinese.

The same tenacity that Zhang showed in playing those movies over and over led her to enroll at the University at Albany, where she is a student in the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), and where she is the newest campus winner of the United University Professions (UUP) Link Scholarship award.

The Link scholarship is given by UUP, the faculty union, and honors the memory of Eugene Link, a professor emeritus of history at SUNY Plattsburgh, in recognition of his more than 50 years of devotion to the pursuit of knowledge, service to youth, and leadership in academic unionism. Zhang, who has a 3.94 GPA, was one of four Link scholars at SUNY campuses this year. The award carries a $2,000 scholarship, she said.

“I have to put double the effort into my academic studies,” said Zhang, who has a double major in accounting and Japanese studies and a minor in statistics. “When I read textbooks, I have to read complicated sentences over and over because the context is not that clear,” she said. Noting that some professors will test students on exactly what the textbook says, Zhang says she has to pay close attention so as not to miss the one sentence that may be the key to the whole paragraph.

Zhang wants to take more math classes so that she will be adequately prepared for graduate school. She has been taking 19 to 21 credits per semester since her freshman year, and finally dropped a course this semester to make her work load more manageable while she also studies to take the GMATs later this month. This exam is needed to apply to graduate programs at business schools.

Why has she taken so many credits?

“Since English is not my first language, it is my responsibility to put in double the effort if I want to do well academically,” said Zhang. Her younger brother attends Virginia Military Institute.

“Originally, it was my dream just to get into a college,” Zhang said. “I couldn’t get into any regular university with my high school record and SAT scores. My guidance counselor told me that my English was not good enough. She told me to go to a community college. But UAlbany gave me a chance through the EOP program.”

Zhang was not discouraged by the guidance counselor’s words. If anything, this experience lit a fire in her to try even harder to learn English and gain entrance to a university.

“My first goal is to do well. If I did not do well, my parents would be disappointed. That is more important than having fun,” said Zhang.

Her dream now is to be accepted by Princeton University’s master’s degree program in finance.

Zhang, who lives off campus to save money for graduate school, and who has a scholarship through the East Asian Studies program, also works as a tutor in the EOP program.

Having Carson Carr, Jr., Ph.D., as her mentor has encouraged Zhang to continue on to graduate school. “When I was a freshman, I would meet with Dr. Carr every Friday,” she said. “At first, he didn’t want me to take 21 credits my very first semester. But I audited the course anyway, and when he saw how well I was doing, he gave me permission to add it to my course load.”

Carr is associate vice president for Academic Affairs and director of the EOP program. He said, “The University at Albany has been a major player in helping Siqi to complete her dream of college graduation. Surrounded by a supportive environment, Siqi used all institutional and EOP academic resources to accomplish her goals. She makes us proud. If not for the EOP program, this student would not be here at the University to be competitive.”