August 23, 2016 – History major Melina Hsiao (C’18) plans to tell newcomers at New Student Convocation August 28 to “take a breath.”
“I want to tell the first years to really slow down enough to enjoy their time at Georgetown and soak up all it has to offer," says Hsiao, who will speak to new students as this year’s McTighe prize winner.
The prize, named for late longtime faculty member Thomas McTighe, is awarded every year to an outstanding undergraduate who has demonstrated achievement in scholarship and service to Georgetown and the surrounding community.
Hsiao, of Woodinville, Washington, says she was one of the students “freaking out” at NSO in 2014.
“I want those people to know that it will be OK and that it will all work out, even though it might take a bit longer than expected,” she says.
While at Georgetown, Hsiao worked with a research and policy center called In the Public Interest through Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, looking at the privatization of public education.
“I was researching the financial networks of the charter school industry,” she says. “It was a really great experience to see what it would be like to do research on a larger scale.”
She also serves as a tutor for the Georgetown Writing Center.
“I get to work with such a wide variety of students," she says, “first-years, ESL learners, graduate and medical students. Everyone at Georgetown is pretty impressive and interesting and working at the Writer’s Center I get to have conversations with individuals I’d never encounter otherwise.”
She works as a manager for the student-run The Corp., serves as a peer leader for Young Leaders in Education About Diversity (YLEAD), is on the board of the Georgetown University Farmers Market and participated in Georgetown's OWN IT Summit.
Race and Personal History
Hsiao says her favorite course at Georgetown so far was Sex, Love and Race in American Culture with history professor Marcia Chatelain.
The course, Hsiao notes, traced the history of inter- and cross-racial romantic relationships throughout American history.
“I kept the textbook and still go back and read it every once in a while,” Hsiao says. “It was an incredible course that everyone should take.”
The Georgetown student says she has a personal tie to the course – both her parents and grandparents represent interracial marriages.
Her grandfather, for example, is Chinese and her grandmother is German, both immigrants to the United States who settled in California.
“We read several pieces discussing the anti-Asian racism which existed several decades ago in California and the impact it had on the interracial couples who lived there at the time,” she explains. “I realized that when my grandparents got married their marriage was actually not considered legal in many states, as it was years before the Loving vs. Virginia ruling that declared bans against interracial marriages were unconstitutional.”
‘Anything is Possible’
Chatelain says she appreciates how Hsiao “has decided to approach her Georgetown education with a broad stroke.”
“She spends time in Washington, D.C., she has built friendships with students at other area schools, and she thinks about the way that she can make an impact on campus and beyond,” the professor says.
Despite her current success, Hsiao says she had a difficult time during her first year at Georgetown.
“To see that with the help of an amazing and supportive group of people around me I could turn it around to a point that someone wanted to give me an award like this in just a year floors me,” she says. “It goes to show everything, really anything, is possible.”
Hsiao hasn’t settled on what she wants to do after graduation, and is considering careers as a professor, lawyer, journalist or social entrepreneur.
“But there’s honestly a large part of me that wants to open a farm-to-table restaurant in a food desert and provide jobs and access to healthy food to a community lacking these things,” she says. “I want to improve people’s day to day lives – I just have yet to figure out how I can do that best.”