Student Spotlight: Tina Wong, U.S. Army WSP-Yale University All-Women Cohort

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

I joined the Army after high school. When I got out four years later, I started at a community college and transferred to Stanford University. I don’t think I ever considered myself a confident student at any point in my academic career, but currently, I definitely consider myself an empowered one – especially because I discovered that there’s so much more to going to school than just achieving good grades. I think WSP highlights some of those aspects well.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

I was a full-time student throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but WSP was one of the most engaging virtual learning experiences I’ve had over the past year. The pace was intense, but the intentions behind the course invited us to embrace the challenge, and the structure and support provided continued to encourage us along the way. Plus, being in a cohort with other female student-veterans, I found it easier to relate to and share among my peers — I felt a different sense of comfort and belonging than I ever had in other environments. I didn’t expect to feel this great sense of community that we created in one short week.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I heard great things about WSP from other classmates throughout the last couple of years. Each of them raved about two aspects specifically: the lessons of academic skills development and the peer network. Given the confidence WSP clearly instilled in them as they continued their paths towards higher education, I was curious to experience it for myself (the verdict: The hype is warranted!).

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

One of my favorite aspects about being a non-traditional student is the additional years of context that we can draw from our lives as we explore history, wrestle with our stances, and speculate on the future. The skills that are emphasized in the WSP Humanities curriculum strengthen our abilities to do these things in greater dimension, from how to effectively “fast-” and “slow-read” a passage to how to construct an effective claim. What I really loved about this specific course was the opportunity to revisit the history of democracy in the United States, now as a veteran, and being able to exchange and build off each other’s introspections.

What was your favorite session, and why?

It’s hard to choose, but I found the conversations we had during the “Public Service in Contemporary American Democracy” seminar with Professor Mike Fotos particularly electrifying, both as a large group and in our intimate breakout groups. Exploring topics such as national unity, the military-civilian divide, and the military-industrial complex is always engaging, but it was especially meaningful among an all-female cohort.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you?

I’m so grateful for all of the instructors and fellows who made our WSP experience so rich; it’s hard to single anyone out. But, WSP Fellow Jazzmen Blackwell — who invited our candor by modeling vulnerability —really stood out as an extremely key figure for me throughout my experience. Maria Del Mar Galindo and Tess Grogan were also hugely empowering each day that we interacted with them. The way they provided tailored advice and detailed feedback really reflects on their unparalleled expertise and genuine interest in fostering students’ growth. Each of their contributions made a fast-moving week effective and impactful.

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

Yes! Despite having been in school for a few years already, I still got a lot out of this one week! More than the final completed assignments themselves, the process of analyzing works and articulately communicating insights is challenging, so going through the intensity of this “boot camp” makes future assignments feel less daunting.

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