Hong Chen often spends long hours working in the solitude of the computer lab.

Hong Yang Chen ’22 isn’t sure what it was that drew him to Syracuse University, but he knew it would be his college destination as soon as he set foot on campus. His family had moved to the U.S. from Fujian, China, in 2009, and during his junior year at Urban Assembly Maker Academy in New York City, the high school organized a tour of colleges in upstate New York. “Syracuse was our first stop, and it was finals week so there weren’t a lot of people out,” he recalls. “But as I walked around campus I got a very special feeling and knew this was where I wanted to start my next chapter. The rest of the trip just didn’t matter anymore.”

Chen officially committed to Syracuse after his second visit, during which he attended a College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) admitted student open house. “That’s when I really felt the meaning of school pride,” he says. “Syracuse also provided me with a very good financial aid package that made it affordable, and that closed the deal.”

Now a junior pursuing a degree in computer science, Chen hopes to complete a five-year program that will allow him to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then pursue a career in software development. Even COVID-19 restrictions haven’t held him back from moving toward his goal. “I think I have managed this pandemic well,” he says. “I was able to complete nineteen credits last semester, and I’m on track to graduate on time.”

Cheers for Orange Athletics

Six members of the Syracuse cheer team pose for a photo.
Hong Yang Chen (third from left) with members of the Syracuse University Cheer Team. (Image taken prior to COVID-19).

A focus on academics hasn’t kept Chen from pursuing enjoyable activities on campus. “I attended almost every home football and basketball game during my first year, and I thought cheerleading looked like a lot of fun,” he recalls. “A teaching assistant from my computer science class encouraged me to try out for the cheer team, and I made it! I really enjoy it, and the best part is that I get to represent Syracuse University at games and during community service outreach. It’s a nice way to take a break from coding and algorithms.”

This year, he is even more focused on being a positive force for his field of study. “I think the best thing about being a student is how much we ‘bleed Orange’ and how connected we all are as members of the Syracuse University family,” Chen says. “I joined the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers and the ECS Excelerators, a team of student ambassadors who assist with undergraduate recruitment.”

Normally, the ECS Excelerators chat with prospective students during open house events and invite them to shadow classes and have lunch on campus, but recruitment is entirely virtual this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The ECS Excelerators have been joining us for Zoom info sessions to talk about their experiences and answer questions,” says ECS undergraduate recruitment specialist Jonathan Hoster ’02, G’11. “Hong has been a very valuable member of the group. He is generous with his time, and he provides outstanding information and advice to high school students.”

An Ambassador for the Orange

Chen says he enthusiastically recommends Syracuse to anyone who is searching for a college. “I think Syracuse University has more to offer than just what people see on Princeton Review and other college ranking websites,” he says. “The staff here really care about the students and want to do what’s best for them.”

I think Syracuse University has more to offer than just what people see on Princeton Review and other college ranking websites. The staff here really care about the students and want to do what’s best for them.

When he envisions his future, he hopes his college experience is followed by a family and a meaningful career. Chen wants to be able to say he has taken advantage of every opportunity offered to him at Syracuse University. “I don’t want to have any regrets about the ‘what ifs’ after I graduate. When I think about what it means to be Orange, it’s that I respect, appreciate and am proud of what the people who came before me accomplished. As students, we should learn from them and do the best we can to honor their contributions. It also means that we’re proud of what we can do to support the people who come after us and all that they are capable of achieving.”

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