Charting a course toward service

Before Lisa Chen spent eight weeks in China, she thought she wanted to go to law school after graduation. But after a fellowship with Red Cross China, the junior from La Mirada, Calif., has decided to take her experiences at Cornell and try to effect change as part of a non-profit organization.


Chen, who’s majoring in women’s studies, international relations, and politics, interned with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. After that, she wanted experience working with a non-governmental organization. So she turned to Cornell Fellows, the highly-competitive program that’s given more than 150 students a chance to get practical experience over the past six years.

Chen found an opportunity to work with the Red Cross China in Beijing, proposed the idea, got funding through the Cornell Fellows program, and spent eight weeks last summer in China, working with the Red Cross on HIV/AIDS awareness and public sanitation.

In her post-Fellowship report, Chen wrote that her experiences in China changed not only her outlook on the world, but her plans for the future.

“I learned that I really enjoyed seeing how a non-governmental organization can have such an impact on a community, and I want to be a part of the change. I am no longer set on attending law school immediately after Cornell, but am looking at other options, such as Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. I am still certain that law school is in my future, but perhaps not as soon as I originally intended,” she wrote.