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College of Arts and Sciences

Kalen Chang: 'One invaluable skill I’ve learned is how to approach problems'

May 9, 2020

Kalen Chang
Linguistics & Mathematics
Chino Hills, Ca

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

One invaluable skill I’ve learned involves figuring out how to approach problems. For example, figuring out where to look or who to ask is not an easy task, but getting familiar with the resources available to me helps me do preliminary research on topics I’m interested in. It’s a constant learning process, of course, as your environment, resources, interests and needs change.

What was your favorite class and why?

It’s hard to pick a single class, but one of my favorites was LING4423: Morphology. The class introduced theoretical frameworks of morphology, but also covered aspects of the cross-linguistic diversity of morphological systems found across the world through real linguistic data. The professor was an engaging lecturer as well, and explained the material clearly. Some other fun classes include Intro to Japanese, History of Romance Languages, Bach and Handel, Language Typology, and Classical Geometries (and many others!).

Kalen Chang with taiko drum sticks
What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

In February 2019, I helped plan and lead a conference for collegiate and adult taiko players on the east coast, the East Coast Taiko Conference. Founded at Cornell in 2011, the conference included taiko-related workshops, a two hour public concert, and opportunities for the community to connect and network. After a full year of planning, coordinating 45 workshops, managing around 700 pieces of equipment and countless late nights preparing, I can safely say it was an amazing experience, and I am proud to have been part of such a large event that helps connect, strengthen, and give back to the taiko community.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

My faculty advisor, Professor John Whitman, has provided me with guidance countless times throughout my time at Cornell, from course selection to ideas for summer activities. He has also taught some of the most interesting classes I’ve taken at Cornell, such as History of Japanese and Language Typology, and mentored me on researching Old Japanese syntax.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

If you’re not sure about your major, that’s great! Use it as an opportunity to take a wide range of classes and to discover what you’re truly interested in. Coming to Cornell, I thought I might want to study physics, but things change.