Roman Chen '17, Self Designed Honors Major

Roman Chen graduated summa cum laude from NYU Shanghai in May 2017. The self-designed honors major is now pursuing a master's degree in Development Studies at The Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. 


NYU Shanghai offers students the possibility to design their own major. What made you choose this option?

I’m very interested in issues regarding gender and I wanted to design my own major in order to incorporate different elements of the social sciences. I took courses that included conceptual and methodological approaches to gender issues. Two classes important to this discourse were Multiculturalism, which I took during my study away in Paris, and The Politics of Poverty, Inequality, and Opportunity in Washington D.C. My capstone project involved a comparative study on gender-related clubs in Shanghai and Taiwan universities, based on my independent study in Shanghai and a month of field investigation in Taipei that included interviews with university students and related NGOs.

How have your studies at NYU Shanghai influenced you?

NYU Shanghai really taught me how to think critically. I’ve learned how to engage in a cross-culture environment, something cultivated and practiced over time, from daily communication with my classmates and my experiences studying abroad. I also feel that I can now approach discussions with the ability to consider multiple perspectives.

I remember during the first class I took for The Concept of China, Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen raised up an example that I didn’t agree with. However, she taught me that there are many ways to look at any issue, and although opinions may differ you cannot say they are not ‘right.’

What drew you to studying agricultural energy development in Geneva?

I wanted to learn how I can make a substantive impact on society. At the master's level, I hope to adopt principles of systemic thinking through more rigorous training methods. Within my track on Environment, Resources and Sustainability, I’ll be exposed to interdisciplinary approaches that span economics, sociology, anthropology, and I’ll gain a better understanding of how the economy impacts politics and culture. I find agriculture and energy fascinating entry points as they encompass essential macro- and microeconomic as well as geopolitical issues that require structured analyses.

I am in full belief that academic contributions on these issues can create tangible, positive impact on human development, because we need more evidence-based policy to tackle challenges of food and energy security In this sense, to think structurally is to know how to acquire evidence and make recommendations.

Do you have any advice for fellow NYU Shanghai students currently considering their future paths?

Make full use of these four years to explore your interests and never limit yourself. Participate in all kinds of fun activities; make friends with people you admire, seek knowledge beyond your major, and try various internships. There's still a long way to go, and everything you're trying now may change your life track.