On a summer night in 2017, Kathy Le (Biology, ’21) boarded the light rail in Littleton, where she lived, and made her way to the Tivoli Student Union. She was alone for this, a first-generation banquet, because both of her parents worked. She took a seat at a table by herself and watched the room fill with excited families and students.
Seeing that Le was alone, Soyon Bueno, CU Denver’s Director of Asian American Student Services, came over to introduce herself, learn about Le’s interests, and connect her with information about various student organizations that might be a good fit, including the Council of Asian Student Leaders.
It’s the type of introduction that Bueno does frequently, but for Le, she felt comfortable and welcome at CU Denver. In that moment, she knew she made the right decision. Le would go on to become president of the Council of Asian Student Leaders. And, as a first-generation student, biology major, and ethnic studies minor, Le was also a McNair Scholar, tennis club member, Minority Association of Pre-Health Students member, Peer Advocate Leader, and volunteer for the Equity Task Force.
Now, as an alumna, Le is still excited to keep connected with CU Denver’s campus community. This month, she is on campus as the March Alumna-in-Residence, a program run by the Office of Advancement that facilitates alumni on-campus office hours for one-on-one and small group career and industry advice. We sat down with Le during her first day of one-on-one sessions to discuss her time at CU Denver, her post-graduation journey, and her hopes for future CU Denver students.
Why did you choose CU Denver?
Not only did I see people who looked like me, but I was exposed to a large population of people of color such as Latinx, African American, Asian Americans, and more. I applied to two other Colorado universities, but CU Denver became my number one choice for undergrad due to diversity and inclusion and best financial aid packages.
Did you have a favorite professor and class at CU Denver?
Dr. Dennis Green’s Ethnic Studies class in fall 2019. Since I was already involved in the Asian American Community, I wanted to continue to diversify myself with other ethnicities. After taking Intro to Ethnic Studies, I was passionate to pick up a minor in Ethnic Studies, so I ended up finding myself in Dr. Green’s class. His class was a mix of readings, discussions, and him sharing his own personal stories. I reconnected with him at the Cultural Diversity Festival last week at the Ethnic Studies table. He remembered my face, so I reintroduced myself, and started talking. He’s an amazing professor and I would recommend anyone to take a class with him.
Why did you want to be an Alumna-in-Residence?
I submitted a story for the 50th anniversary, so when Lauren Jacobs reached out, I thought this was a cool opportunity to continue being part of CU Denver’s history. We had connected before, and I decided to schedule a meeting with her to talk about the program. She explained I would be talking to students, one-on-one, and giving advice on procrastination, study tips, becoming involved with organizations. I knew this was up my alley. I want to help to support students the best I can, especially when I can see myself in them. I was a freshman that struggled so much, even with just finding my classrooms, so I thought it would be great to share my tips!
What is one piece of advice you have for prospective and current students?
Network, network, network! It can lead to so many opportunities down the line. Bueno is still so supportive of me, and I still connect with her, even two years after I graduated. The more people you network with and the more connections you establish early on, the better off you are. You can continue to follow up and build those relationships. Then they are established when you are looking for a job or internship or need a letter of recommendation for professional schools. Networking helped me succeed in my undergraduate program because without being able to connect to these different communities, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is as simple as sending a follow-up email from a workshop presenter, guest speaker in class, or even emailing a professor or classmate.
What’s next after you finish your month as Alumna- in-Residence?
I spent a year in California at UC Riverside working as a Research Lab Assistant. Now, I am back in Denver and working at Unify Health Medical Supply. I want to be in a career that requires me to be out in the field interacting with people, not just sitting at a desk, talking to my colleagues, and focusing on my research. I applied to MSU for the Master of Social Work program*, and I am waiting to hear back from them. If I’m accepted, I’ll start school this fall, and it will take about two years. If I love the program and social work, I will most likely find a job in that field. Of course, the MCAT and medical school are never off the table.
*Editor’s Note: After publication, Le learned that she had been accepted into the program.