By Starla Sampaco
Northwest Asian Weekly
In early May, University of Washington (UW) Student Life announced the Husky 100, a new award program that recognizes 100 students who embrace innovation, display a capacity for leadership, and understand and engage with diverse communities. One of these students is 22-year-old Amy Wang.
She graduated on June 11 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) and she is the second-term president of the UW’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Wang is passionate about creating a community of women pursuing careers in engineering.
“Traditionally, engineering is a very male-dominated field,” Wang said. “There’s a lot of pressure on women, and having that support network is super important.”
The three pillars of SWE are networking among members, community outreach, and career development. Some of the career-focused activities at SWE include discussions on writing resumes and negotiating salaries.
Keting Cen, the vice president of corporate relations at UW’s SWE chapter, said that Wang played a significant role in growing SWE’s presence on campus. Two years ago, Cen said, roughly 30 people attended SWE meetings. Wang now leads an organization of 462 members, including a team of six executive officers.
Cen, like several of Wang’s peers and instructors at UW, said she was impressed with Wang’s leadership. In addition to inspiring SWE members to “dream big,” Cen said, Wang recognizes the responsibility that comes with her position.
Cen mentioned an instance when miscommunication interfered with plans for a guest speaker to meet with SWE members. According to Cen, Wang later apologized to the speaker and took full responsibility for the mistake.
“If things don’t run as expected, a true leader takes responsibility,” Cen said.
Emily Johanning will take over from Wang as the SWE president for the 2016-17 academic year. Johanning, a UW junior studying civil and environmental engineering and currently the secretary of SWE, described Wang as a mentor and a positive influence in her life.
Although Wang is only one year older than Johanning, Wang provided guidance as Johanning navigated through college life and encouraged her to pursue her passions.
“It was really nice to hear from someone who was obviously very successful and who had been in the same place,” Johanning said.
Andrew Davidson, a senior lecturer in the HCDE program who taught two of Wang’s classes, added that Wang is a very careful thinker.
“I will remember her for those conversations after class when she would stay for half an hour to discuss her portfolio and plans about internships,” said Davidson, who is also the director of the HCDE Undergraduate Program.
Outside of class, Wang was an active officer in the HCDE Undergraduate Student Association.
“Amy is always willing to volunteer to help out whenever I’m needing student representation for a presentation and has been an amazing ambassador for the department and the college,” wrote Alex Llapitan, HCDE academic counselor, in an email.
Wang has also worked part-time as UX (user experience) design intern for UW Marketing & Communications. Her previous internships also include Liberty Mutual and Cisco.
In addition to her work on and off campus, Wang cites her travels as significant experiences during her time in college. Last spring, Wang studied abroad in Italy to learn about Italian culture. Although this study abroad program was offered outside of her major, the experience complemented what she learned in HCDE.
Students in the HCDE major, which only had 150 undergraduate students as of spring 2015, learn about and research the role of technology in human life. Wang described HCDE as an interdisciplinary engineering program that empathizes with humans and aims to understand their needs.
“Studying abroad gave me a really global perspective,” Wang said. “It helped me understand what kinds of people are out there in the world and what their needs are.”
Wang first learned she was part of the Husky 100 during spring break while visiting Helsinki, Finland to learn about Scandinavian design.
The first person she told was her dad. Wang’s parents, John Wang and Xiaochun Zhang, immigrated to the United States from China. They raised Amy and her brother, Michael, in Kirkland.
Wang recognizes that she and her brother, a UW sophomore studying computer science, grew up with many privileges because their parents raised them in the United States Her parents hoped that she and Michael, as first-generation Americans, would become successful. Wang’s recognition in the Husky 100 is a reflection of her parents’ efforts, as well as her own.
“It’s been a cool way to show my parents that I’ve come this far because they have worked very hard for us,” Wang said.
Starla Sampaco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.