John Paul Li was the recipient of the William Wallace Peery Medal for Academic Excellence, the most prestigious academic honor awarded by Newcomb-Tulane College, at the Senior Awards Ceremony on May 19. According to the awards committee, John Paul was a clear choice given the astonishing breadth and depth of his accomplishments not only in the academic realm, but also in his service to others and his musical training and achievements.
In addition to the William Wallace Peery Award, John Paul also received the Phi Beta Kappa Society Karlem Riess Award, the Tulane 34 Award, the Senior Scholar in Physics, the Joseph J. Kyame Award in Physics, the Glendy Burke Medal in Mathematics, and the Henry Clay Stier Award in English.
Many staff members in the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) had the opportunity to get to know John Paul, an international student originally from Shanghai, China during his time at Tulane. He was a regular volunteer at OISS events and served on the International Student Advisory Board.
John Paul will start as a software engineer at Google in August. We asked him a few questions about his time at Tulane and how he’s feeling as he prepares to leave New Orleans.
Which factors played into your decision to attend Tulane?
I was only admitted to Tulane! I guess the other schools missed out.
What has been most challenging and most rewarding about your time here?
I would share about this one, but I don't want to spoil the book that I am working on! Maintaining a diverse and heavy course load was certainly challenging and rewarding, but I will be lying if I say it has been the most.
What advice would you give to your fellow international students?
Do not fall into mediocrity. You are already exceptional for having gone extra miles to arrive here - keep at it! But do so without pressuring yourself, but through standing by the confidence that you can excel. Also, do not be afraid to integrate, and do not expect integration to happen naturally. It does not work very well trying to fathom the American culture from without - immerse yourself instead, for the culture carries with itself immense knowledge beyond the book. As you are accepted further into the society, you will encounter that second wave of cultural shock, your illusions will be shattered, and you may even feel hurt. But that's the rich and rewarding encounter of culture that I think should be one of your primary goals at Tulane. It is also through this experience that you find your true community here: people who love you and whom you love, who will help you to fulfill your potential in magical ways, who also challenge you out of your comfort zone further. And finally, when you have gained significant fluency of the culture, you are at a unique position to dialogue with it, to contribute to it, to question and challenge it with your perspective as an exceptional international student.
What will you miss about Tulane?
About Tulane, obviously first of all its community. I could not have dreamed for the love and laughs I shared with the students, staff and faculty at Tulane. It was a community that supported me in the most generous way and that I felt passionate to support too. Secondly, the freedom for me to pursue various interests and to challenge myself intellectually (and physically, not so much through the gym membership that I didn't really use, but through the engaging voice lessons). Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another place where I will get to do the variety of things that I did at Tulane. Thirdly, hmm, being the cream of the crop I guess. Well, that's a lie, for I didn't know that for most of the time. Or did I?
How are you feeling now that you have graduated and are embarking on your career? I feel a lot of things, but very little specifically about the change. For the past six months, my life has been in constant shifts, and I have accepted this recent change of graduation as one of them. I am certainly excited about starting at Google - the other day my recruiter emailed me about new-staff training and it began to feel real. But I for one like to lightly embrace what life has to offer, so that I can focus on what I have at hand.
Who do you want to thank or give a shout out to?
Uhmm. Okay. Let's do this. First this page and a special shout out to my housemates Alex, Austin, and Ben, and my friends Chris, Emma, Jonathan and Ashley.
Tulane Catholic, with a special shout out to Fr. Thomas.
And my academic advisor, Dayna Gessler, and the leadership at Tulane Academic Success Center: Michele Oelking, Alex Pecoraro, Corey Rittvo, and Brittany Summitt.
The Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, with a special shout out to Profs. Lev Kaplan, George Rosensteel, Guy Norton, Wayne Reed, Fred Wietfeldt.
The Computational Materials Science department at Carnegie Mellon University, with a shout out to my advisor Dr. Noa Marom and my colleagues Farren Curtis, Alvaro Vazquez-Mayagoitia, and Xiaopeng Wang!
The Department of Mathematics, with a special shout out to Profs. Michael Joyce, Tewodros Amdeberhan, and Alberts Vitter.
The English Department, with a special shout out to Profs. Michelle Kohler, Scott Oldenburg, Molly Travis and Molly Rothenberg.
The Music Department, with a special shout out to my voice teacher Prof. Laura Booras.
And of course The Office of International Students and Scholars, with a special shout out to Kristy Magner and Belinda Schneider (and Evan Kirk for that one panic request for I-20).
And a very big shout out for whoever is editing and uploading this list so that these people can get shouted out at - hopefully not while they are sleeping. Okay - if I missed you, let's fix it by becoming friends on Facebook!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Did I not already run my mouth enough? But if I may add: if you already have a working version of Microsoft Office on your laptop before, take caution before using the free Office 365 subscription that Tulane offers. The subscription expires pretty quickly after graduation. I am encountering “interruption” due to expiration as I type up this response. But then, during the 4 years I have used it, it has been swell.
We are excited to see what John Paul does next. Best of luck from all of us in the Office of International Students and Scholars!
Click the link to read more about John Paul Li’s accomplishments and the William Wallace Peery Society: http://news.tulane.edu/news/newcomb-tulane-college-honors-cream-crop