Q&A with Erin Saybolt and Min Son
Hear from our Senior Alumni Award winners about what this recognition means to them, how Ursinus has prepared them for their career aspirations and how they plan to stay involved as alumnae after graduation.
Why was getting involved important to you as an Ursinus student?
Erin: Getting involved at Ursinus was really about following my passions. It was really easy to get involved in clubs and activities since many of them are student run. I also was able to apply for many jobs on campus and work in different roles. This has helped me build critical communication and time-management skills. I knew going into college that I wanted to get involved with the campus, and Ursinus gave me the perfect opportunities to do so. Getting involved on campus really involved me in the strong Ursinus community and helped make my Ursinus experience the best it could be.
Min: The only way to learn more than what the textbook offers was for me to get involved on campus. To become a leader, I tried leading multiple organizations; to understand my community, I served; to place biology textbooks into real-life perspective, I was involved in research. And as a student, it was permissible to make mistakes, and trust me, I made so many mistakes. Sometimes, I was faced with situations that tested my own prejudices. And that was okay because I was still a student. I had the opportunity to change myself by challenging my biases, learning from my mistakes, and acting on them by coordinating events such as immigration panel, mass incarceration debate and failure monologues, knowing that there are hundreds of students at Ursinus like me.
What is your proudest UC moment?
Erin: My proudest moment at UC is receiving one of the Senior Alumni Awards for the Class of 2020. It feels good to be recognized by faculty and staff in my dedication to Ursinus. I will always look back on this award and remember my time as a Bear.
Min: My proudest UC moment was when my Heart and Seoul crew nailed our performance in the fall semester. Heart and Seoul had a rough start. We had a difficult time getting the club approved and recruiting Ursinus students to do K-pop dance with us. For several weeks, we held K-pop dance practices, practicing in the dance studio whenever the Escape Velocity dancers were not using it. On the day of our performance, the food we ordered for our audience got switched at the restaurant with another customer. There was also a problem with tech. I was on constant phone calls, and miraculously, all the problems were solved right before our show time. Our dancers did amazing, and my moments with the Heart and Seoul crew is something I will cherish after graduation.
How is winning a Senior Alumni Award significant in your career trajectory?
Erin: The Senior Alumni Award is a great recognition of hard work and dedication to Ursinus. It will strengthen my career trajectory in whatever way it goes because it shows excellence. I am very excited to see where the future takes me.
Min: I am very honored to be one of the winners of the Senior Alumni Award because it states that I have potential. Potential to be a good community member, to do well in my career (hopefully as a future dentist), and to be helpful to Ursinus. With this assurance, I will continue to do what I did at Ursinus: act on what I learned.
What does being a “Bear for Life” mean to you?
Erin: Coming into Ursinus, I knew that I wouldn’t just be a student for four years and then be done. I knew that the community fostered alumni relations well beyond graduation. As a (soon-to-be alumni) the same is true. I have developed so many deep connections with my professors, my classmates and my coworkers. I can’t imagine not being involved with Ursinus after graduation. Looking back, Ursinus will be the place where it all started. I am thankful that these past four years have been some of the most impactful of my life. I am excited to become an alumna and help foster the Ursinus “Bear for Life” mentality.
Min: “Bear for Life” means to remember: remember all the support and love I received from my friends, professors, Ursinus staff members and mentors. I will give back to people in need, remembering a community that valued service and togetherness.
How has Ursinus prepared you for your future career aspirations?
Erin: The liberal arts education at Ursinus has prepared me well for whatever career path lays ahead of me. At Ursinus, I have learned how to critically think, how to ask good questions and how to communicate (verbal and writing). These skills will not only aid me in a biology career, but will aid me in any career. I have talked to many alumni throughout my time as a student, and all have said the skills Ursinus teaches are essential. I am confident going into the working world that the skills I have learned at Ursinus have prepared me for anything.
Min: Ursinus truly shaped my values and perspective that is absolutely necessary to become a competent healthcare provider. My beginning at Ursinus was the FUTURE program, where I researched with Dr. Ellen Dawley and took classes with other minority students. Being emerged in diversity, I quickly came to realize my prejudices and biases. With CIE and UCARE, I had the opportunity to learn about the systems of oppression and to advocate for underserved communities. With the Melrose Fellows and the UCARE Service Fellows, I formed a habit of service that addressed local and global needs. Finally, I took advantage of the Summer Fellows program and the independent studies program to take my learnings about service, community, and advocacy into dental ethics. With Dr. Kelly Sorensen’s help, I was able to form a model called Fill the Gap, which I hope to launch in the future with other compassionate dentists.
How do you see yourself getting involved with Ursinus as an alumna?
Erin: I definitely see myself staying involved with Ursinus after graduation. I hope to be a resource for current students by giving them career and life advice, as many alumni have done for me. I also hope to come back to campus during Alumni Weekend and Homecoming to learn about new things going on at Ursinus. The community at Ursinus is so unique and close and I hope to continue contributing to that community.
Min: So many of the organizations that I was involved in invited Ursinus alumni back to campus, from Parlee Center talks to the Alumni Fair hosted by BAPS. I learned so much from their wisdom, and I hope to give back to Ursinus with my experience as well. Perhaps Ursinus might find me sitting at one of the healthcare panels, talking about dental school life and healthy teeth. To do so, I will try my best to be awesome after graduation!
What are you most looking forward to after graduation?
Erin: I am looking forward to pursuing careers within my passion, science policy!
Min: I plan to take a gap year after graduation, helping my parents at their dental lab. But after I finish applying to dental schools, I plan to travel abroad with my mom. She has sacrificed a lot for me, but I wasn’t the best child for her. So I would love to have time away from home with her and have genuine conversations together. Hopefully, COVID-19 doesn’t get in our way.
What advice do you have for fellow UC Bears on how to make their mark on Ursinus’s campus?
Erin: To future Bears, don’t be afraid to get involved early and ask questions. People at Ursinus (professors, students, staff) are so willing to help you succeed! Also, put yourself out there or try new things. College is all about finding your passions. You may not know about a passion until you try something new!
Min: If you are afraid to try, don’t think and just do it! Don’t be afraid of failing. I filled out a lot of applications that turned me down with rejection letters. But those rejection letters led to so many other opportunities, one of them being meeting my lifelong friend in Scotland. Also, there are many potentials for growth if you just do it. I had professors and mentors looking at my personal statements, giving me mock interviews, and knowing me more than what is on the transcript. Someone once told me, “If you do it, you will have a chance of achieving what you want even if that chance is only 1%. If you don’t do it, that’s it. 0%.” You get nothing from doing nothing. Failures are normal, and sometimes it fulfills your life more than achievements. At least it did for mine.