-- Queens College Watson Fellow Michelle Chan Plans to Be a Public Interest Lawyer and Fight for Human Rights --
FLUSHING, NY, June 14, 2011 – Whenever Queens College sophomore Michelle Chan ,19, of College Point finds herself “losing her way,” she always recalls the advice of one of her mentors, “Find your values in life, always live by them and never stop learning.” This advice has helped shape her career goals. “More than anything I want to be a public interest lawyer and advocate for human, civil or women’s rights,” declares Chan, whose parents emigrated from China 20 years ago.
Chan, an English major and Business and Liberal Arts minor and member of the Macaulay Honors College, is also a 2011 Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship winner. Watson Fellows receive paid internships over three consecutive summers which provide high-level work experiences and the opportunity to participate in leadership seminars. Chan has already begun her first Watson summer internship at the Gotham Gazette, a leading online daily newspaper that focuses on New York City policy and politics. Her first assignment, part of a new series on poverty in NYC, is to research and write an article on the city’s war on hunger and programs – such as food pantries – that are in place to fight it .
Chan will also be involved in expanding one of the Gazette’s latest initiatives called “Councilpedia,” which encourages readers to track and share information about elected officials, the bills they sponsor and the organizations that contribute to their political campaigns. She anticipates that this experience will provide greater insight into political and policy issues, improve her writing skills and develop relationships with professionals in the non-profit, government and private sectors. “It’s an amazing opportunity to meet and work with other fellows who have already accomplished so much.”
Chan’s interest in public service began in her freshman year when she took a Macaulay Honors course called “The Peopling of New York,” which focused on the difficulties immigrants face adjusting to a new country. Because she had spent much of her childhood in Chinatown visiting her grandmother who lived there, Chan was particularly interested in the course’s exploration of the hardships faced by the female Chinese garment workers and the effect their living and working conditions had on their children.
Motivated by everything she had learned in the course, Chan decided in 2010 to spend her summer working for Project Asian Health Education and Development (AHEAD) – part of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center – to develop and implement a community health initiative among teenagers in Chinatown. It was through this experience that Chan was introduced to the field of public interest law, and she then realized her career path was set. “It’s an area that will give expression to the values I hold dear – defending the rights and bettering the lives of the underserved and oppressed.”
In addition to her keen interest in public service law, Chan says she is passionate about the English language. She is an avid reader and is trying to finish as many classics as possible this summer. “A lot of my English professors at QC have been inspirational role models for me,” she says. “One day I may even pursue a master’s degree in English.”
Chan is fluent in English and Cantonese, and at home, her parents insist on conversing with her and her two sisters exclusively in their native tongue. “Like most immigrants, while they struggle with the challenges of life in another country, they feel it’s important to keep their traditions and culture alive,” says Chan. “It’s given me another perspective of the Asian community that I’m sure will be useful in my career.”