The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Behind the Leader: Michelle Chung ‘18

Michelle ChungStory, Photo, and Video by Matthew Medeiros, SBS Communications Manager
Friday, June 1, 2018

We recently talked with Michelle Chung ’18 to find out how she came to be a leader during her time on campus. She graduated as a Sustainable Community Development (SCD) major in May 2018, and has been a part of the SBS Academic Fellows Program as well as UMass Women into Leadership (UWiL). Michelle studied abroad for two years of her four-year college career, and will go to Brazil in the fall for a Fulbright Student Fellowship.

“I decided to come to UMass because of the major itself. The thing about SCD was the fact that it has sustainability built into the curriculum, and it’s at the crossroads of the social and scientific side of environmental work,” she explains.

“When I found this major I thought, wow. It really resonated with me, so I decided to come to UMass,” Michelle adds.

When she arrived on campus, Michelle soon met supportive mentors who would help along her path. The day she moved in, she bumped into Sidonio Ferreira, Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

“He’s sort of like my campus dad, who has really just been such a champion for me. He encouraged me to go abroad, and he just has such unwavering faith in me that I don’t know what I could have done without him,” Michelle explains.

Soon after, she attended a meeting of the Academic Fellows Program (AFP) and met Program Director Jackie Brousseau-Pereira, who is now Academic Dean for SBS.

“I remember I was so scared that I didn’t belong at the first fellows meeting that I almost ran out, and she saw me and told me to get back in there! She’s just been such an amazing mentor along the way,” notes Michelle. She adds that the AFP was a key entry into leadership for her, giving her the chance to network with faculty, get her résumé reviewed, and do other professional development. Those people she added to her network through AFP encouraged her to think about applying to UWiL.

“I think UWiL has given me the knowledge of the challenges of being a woman in public service, but they've also given me the tools to navigate the existing challenges, such as: public speaking, salary negotiation, and just how to be a confident leader,” Michelle says.

She put that confidence to work in a series of study abroad experiences; first to France, then Brazil, and the Netherlands. Michelle was able to make those trips happen through support from SBS, including the Ansin Study Abroad Fellowship. Besides that she received the Jack M. Wilson Presidential Scholarship, through the UMass Foundation, and she also sought out support from outside the campus.

“I have known I wanted to study abroad in Brazil ever since high school. I had this opportunity to apply for the Boren Scholarship from the US State Department to study Portuguese language in Brazil. I spent a year in Brazil, and as a result and I fell in love with the country, the people, the language,” Michelle explains.

Now she is preparing to head to Brazil in Fall 2018, where she’ll be a fellow in the prestigious Fulbright Student Program.

“I knew one year wasn't enough and I had to go back. I saw the Fulbright as my opportunity to go back and give back to the country that has been so kind and just has given so much to me. That's why I decided to apply and the Office of National Scholarship Advisement has been so, so crucial in the application process! They gave me so much good advice and guidance during the process,” Michelle says.

“Now that happily I have gotten the Fulbright Scholarship, I can only thank all of the people at UMass and all the resources that UMass afforded me, and of course the support of my department and the professors there: Mark Hamin, Patricia McGirr, and Darrel Ramsey-Musolf. They’ve all been very important people during my time here.” she adds.

Read about Sustainable Community Development majors