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A Passion for Service Yields Honors

Maya Bian’s interdisciplinary work in global health took her to China, where she researched the thesis that led to an international research award.

March 16, 2021

Maya Bian (’20) grew up in Auburn, Alabama, and chose the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for its nuclear engineering program. Once on Rocky Top, she fully realized the university’s life-changing opportunities in academics and extracurricular activities.

“UT helped me find my niche and has opened up so many doors of opportunities,” says Bian, who during her college career shifted her academic focus to an interdisciplinary curriculum in global health equity through UT’s College Scholars program. “I wanted my course of studies to center around social determinants of health—the social issues that prevent and promote health.”

She decided to do her thesis on issues of elderly people in China. With the help of a travel grant from UT, she interviewed 14 people in a long-term care facility in northeast China, where her grandfather lives. She wrote down pages of notes and translated them into English.

“The thesis was absolutely the most rewarding thing since my freshman year,” says Bian. “I learned more about my heritage and it merged my interests in health equity with a global understanding of China’s place in the world and policies towards long-term care.”

After Bian’s graduation, she was named among the winners of an international undergraduate award.

Adopting the Volunteer Spirit

“Once I started at UT, I learned firsthand what it means to be a Volunteer,” says Bian.

Along with working in student government and teaching elementary schoolers through UT’s University-Assisted Community Schools Program, Bian led incoming students in pre-orientation programs with the Jones Center for Leadership and Service. In December 2018, she co-led a Jones Center VOLbreak team of nine students on a five-day immersive service-learning experience working for immigrant rights in Austin, Texas.

“Service has been integral to what I want to do with my life and career,” says Bian. “It wouldn’t have happened without UT.”

Produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing

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