To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling three dozen of Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 11th alumna in our series is Susan Chong ’89. An international student from Malaysia, she majored in economics at Kenyon, then earned a Master of Arts at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom and a Doctor of Public Health degree at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Chong has spent her career in community development and organizing against HIV and AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, and is currently a lecturer in the Department of Public Health, and researcher at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, at La Trobe.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
My priorities have changed over the course of my life. When I was starting out after graduation, a career was very important. Now my emphasis is on quality of life, balancing family, friends, community and professional satisfaction. While work deadlines are inevitable, I try to anticipate the ebb and flow of demands to avoid the balance tipping too far onto the side of work.
Where did you first discover your power?
There were only a few international students when I was at Kenyon, but we demonstrated the richness of diversity as we contributed to the classroom and the student body. The experience of engaging in raising ‘visibility’ has permeated my professional work, i.e. affecting social change in work and community.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
[Professor Emerita of Biology] Kathryn Edwards. She is a role model as a female academic in science, and Ryn introduced me to women’s and gender studies, which provided a sound foundation for my eventual work in HIV.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
There’s always more than one side to a story — advice that’s particularly pertinent in this era of ‘fake’ news.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
While I’m still committed to social justice, citizen participation and rights-based development, I now recognize that engaging a more nuanced approach to these issues, particularly with marginalized and vulnerable communities, is critical.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Rachel DeLoache Williams ’10
Read about the next woman in our series: Emma Welsh-Huggins ’17