“Service has always been my passion,” says Hahn Chang CC’15, who devoted himself the last few years to making a difference in ways large and small, from taking a gap year to volunteer at an underserved Los Angeles middle school to hosting a dinner for fellow Columbia students spending Thanksgiving on campus.
Chang, who grew up outside of Minneapolis, deferred admission to the College to join City Year, a national AmeriCorps initiative that places people ages 17–24 in high-need public schools, where they serve as tutors and mentors. For the past three years, he also was a summer teaching fellow with the Minneapolis affiliate of Breakthrough Collaborative, a national program that prepares low-income middle school students for college. In that role, he developed and taught computer science, physics and chemistry curricula.
At the College, Chang volunteered with Columbia-based nonprofit Community Impact (CI). In his first year, and again as a senior, he planned field trips for elementary school students from Harlem as a coordinator for the organization’s Columbia Youth Adventurers program. In his sophomore and junior years, he was one of CI’s student executives and played a key role in planning the organization’s first two Not-for-Profit and Public Service Career Fairs. “Being a part of the community, building the community and then leveraging the community to make people’s lives better — that’s the big takeaway I got over the last few years,” says Chang.
Chang’s emphasis on community-building also has informed his work as an RA in East Campus the last two years, during which he became known for baking banana bread for his residents. As the RA-on-duty during Thanksgiving break last year, he organized a dinner in his suite (he was responsible for the turkey) and invited any student who was spending the holiday on campus to stop by; about 25 students did. “I figured I could do my part to give students who might not have a place to go a fun environment to celebrate,” says Chang, who received a 2014 RA of the Year Award from the Columbia chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary, an honor society that recognizes student leaders for contributions to their residential communities.
Chang, who was near Scholar’s Lion on a campus visit when he realized the College was the right fit — “There’s a special energy there,” he says of that spot — majored in political science. Intrigued by the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov, he used his senior thesis to examine the factors that affect a state government’s ability to make use of technology. “One of the conclusions I came to is that governments have had a difficult time leveraging technology to provide services,” says Chang. “I tried to figure out which states have been more successful and why.”
After graduation, Chang will return to Minneapolis to be an analyst for McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm. He hopes to one day run a nonprofit that works with youth, ideally in Minnesota. “It’s a place that afforded my family and me many opportunities,” says Chang.
Nathalie Alonso CC’08, from Queens, is a freelance journalist and an editorial producer for LasMayores.com, Major League Baseball’s official Spanish language website. She writes “Student Spotlight” for CCT.
This article was originally published in Columbia College Today.