SIS News Archive

SIS Senior Attends Summer School at Top Universities
Posted 09/21/2017 09:08AM
What do Harvard, Columbia and Oberlin have in common? SIS's own Anna Duan, of course. An SIS Gecko since grade 6, Anna has spent the last two summer vacations attending summer school at top universities. Not one to rest on her laurels, Anna took on Columbia and Oberlin this summer after having attended summer school at Harvard last year.

This summer she took two very different courses. At Columbia, Anna participated in a sustainable urban planning course, confirming her desire to go into this field as a career. Over three weeks, in this studio-based course, Anna and her team of fellow high school students took on the challenge of creating a design aimed at revitalizing an area of Harlem. The course simulated a client-firm situation with local development organization, the 125th Street Business Improvement District, and the class first visited their office to understand their needs. "We wanted to create a place and not just a space," explained Anna. "In Harlem there is urban decay, a lack of infrastructure and little money. We saw an opportunity to build a public gathering area in a space underneath a bridge which is currently only used by homeless people."

Anna and her team were inspired by man-on-the-street interviews that they conducted. Knowing that music and dance are integral to the Harlem culture, they were surprised that the Harlemites they spoke to wished that future efforts focus not on Harlem's past, but its future, specifically by inspiring local children. They designed a "plaza" that pays homage to Harlem's old-time traditions of music and dance, with a greater emphasis on education, community unity, and local engagement, featuring concepts such as interactive coding booths and sustainable vegetation displays for children to engage with.

The team's design and rationale were presented to a group of professionals, including local officials, professors, and the 125th Street Business Improvement District. "Even though this was just a studio class, our team wanted to create something that may be considered in the future. We received positive feedback and were really happy with the outcome."

After Columbia, Anna joined Pioneer Academics which allows high school students to participate in undergraduate research through Oberlin University. Anna contributed to research in science technology and society and specifically transhumanism. Not a household word, transhumanism is the enhancement of human intellect and physiology through the use of technology.

Her research mentor, a Liberal Studies professor at NYU, assigned core texts for the class to read. Each student then chose their individual research focus. Anna decided to address the overarching frameworks of existing discourse on the topic. "I did this because many theorists exclude people from the dialog. Some claim that AI will replace humanity by 2030, and defend that by saying that this type of progress is exponential and thus incomprehensible to humans who can only think in linear terms," said Anna.

"This was such a great learning experience. I had 5 video meetings with the professor which helped me to frame my paper but still required a lot of thought and work on my part. I felt like I had a really strong foundation in critical thinking and writing from SIS."

Anna just submitted her paper and is now on to finishing up her senior year and of course pondering which universities to apply to.

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