Cy-Fair's Rhodes Scholar has world view
She loves Harry Potter, her mom's Korean food, and hanging out near Willy's Statue on the Rice University campus.
That, and Ye-jin Kang wants to dedicate her life to world health issues. Houston's newest Rhodes Scholar aspires to work for the World Health Organization (WHO), helping impoverished nations gain access to the same care as developed ones.
She leaves in October 2011 for two years of studies at the University of Oxford in London, where she'll pursue two master's degrees-- in Global Health Science and Global Governance and Diplomacy.
"It's mid-terms, so my friends and I haven't been able to celebrate," told UltimateCyfair.com Sunday afternoon. "We'll have a big Thanksgiving party. We'll go to Harry Potter (movie) and then I'll take them all out to dinner."
The 13 Texas nominees were interviewed in downtown Houston Friday and Saturday morning. The Rhodes Trust told Kang she had been selected yesterday at 2 p.m.
"I spent all last night talking with family and friends," she said.
Daughter of immigrant engineer
Kang says her father, Chang Ho Kang, an offshore engineer who has long organized charitable efforts to send food and medicine to North Korea, opened her eyes to global health as a profession.
"My sister and I have always dreamt of working together on this," Kang said. "Health issues in impoverished countries don't get enough attention."
One particular interest of Kang's is tuberculosis, a leading problem in North Korea. After her freshman year at Rice, she traveled to South Korea to volunteer at a hospital treating tuberculosis patients. She plans to study global solutions to the disease at Oxford.
Ye-jin and her older sister, Cindy, both grew up in Westbrook Lakes, attending Labay Middle School and Cy-Falls High School. Cindy headed to University of Texas-Austin, then dental school in San Antonio. Ye-Jin headed to Rice, where she studies biochemistry and cell biology, founding a research journal for students her freshman year.
She credits her motivation to her parents, who emigrated to the U.S. from Korea two decades ago. Her mother, In Sook, is a volunteer at the Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Memorial.
"I owe my parents everything," said Kang.
When they arrived in the U.S., where her father would pursue his master's degree (UT-Austin) and Ph.D (Texas A & M), she was two years old.
"My dad came here to study. We thought we'd eventually go back," she said.
Cy-Fair public schools product
But the Kang family stayed. Ye-jin says countless teachers in the Cy-Fair schools fostered her interest in science, including Amber Urban Steely and Sharon Anderson at Labay and Jennifer Wuellner, Lisa Williams, Valerie Sims, David Hallmark, Tammy Baggett, and Holly Vacek at Cy-Falls.
Baggett and Vacek were faculty sponsors for the Science National Honor Society. Kang started the Cy-Falls chapter. And Ricarte was her music teacher-- Kang also plays the cello.
Required for Rhodes applicants, Kang finally gained her U.S. citizenship in February. She says she first thought about applying while at Cy Woods, after reading Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life."
Clinton details his personal experience with the Rhodes selection process. He studied at Oxford in 1968-69.
Kang says she is anxious to meet her fellow scholars. She plans on taking in a Manchester United soccer game while she is in London (favorite player: Ji-Sung Park), and she is looking forward to living in a different climate than Houston.
"I love snow. I hope it snows while I am there," she said.
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