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Q&A with Grace E. Yu
Q&A with Grace E. YuDecember 11, 2001SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.edu
Newly named 2002 Rhodes Scholar Grace Yu, a senior in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, took part recently in a brief question-and-answer session with Cyndi Moritz from the Office of University Communications. Below is the text of their conversation.
Were you surprised when you were named a Rhodes Scholar? When you applied, did you think your chances were good?
Certainly I was surprised. I’m still wallowing in absolute disbelief. I went through the Rhodes process, applying out of California last year. And being a rookie to these gauntletesque scholarship bids, I actually deluded myself into thinking that I had a really good chance. But once you arrive at these infamous cocktail parties with musical prodigies, NCAA athletes, aesthetes … Olympians even, one’s confidence can really suffer and emotional equanimity suddenly becomes a very difficult thing. I didn’t get past the state cuts last year and consequently became very devastated.
Prior to jumping into the process this year, I checked my attitude, my confidence … mulled over the options with my professors and applied again. I wasn’t as ecstatic as I was last year when informed that I was selected as a New York finalist … perhaps because I was painfully familiar with the intense competition and I knew it was such a crapshoot. I’m still very, very surprised.
Has being a Rhodes Scholar been a longtime goal of yours?
Well, yes, I suppose. I’m a voracious reader of biographies-and so many lives, so many leaders I have read about were educated at Oxford via the Rhodes. So I’ve nurtured the thought very privately for many years.
Why do you want to study at Oxford?
The model of education at Oxford is very different from the United States. No one gives a hoot if you never go to class. The approach to teaching, the method of learning, is dependent on self-motivation and being self-directed. Learning is dependent on the relationship you develop with your tutors (professors) and the quality of the apprenticeship you build with them.
How has SU helped you prepare both for winning a Rhodes Scholarship and for your career?
I don’t believe course work in variegated subjects can prepare you for the Rhodes. I credit my professors. The relationships and the conversations with my teachers are what sharpened me as a student, a thinker … as a person.
You are interested in studying Japanese politics at Oxford, and you have been teaching in Japan for the past few months. How did your interest in Japan come about?
I’ve always been interested, provoked, saddened and puzzled by what’s been deemed as Japan’s historical amnesia regarding its messy acts of aggression. I wanted to explore how the Japanese saw their wars … how they remembered it and what they imagined it to have been like, and how they see themselves in view of their past. But my fascination with Japan begins with their art and particularly their films-the films of AkiraKurasawa.
What is your career goal? Where would you like to be 10 years down the road?
Back in the White House perhaps … or campaigning for a certain New York senator on her way to the White House.