Cathy Zhu '23 Awarded Coro Fellowship
The anthropology and psychology double major, and Asian American studies minor, will spend nine months in St. Louis with the program, which is aimed at developing emerging leaders to work and lead across different sectors.
Margaret Chen ’21 had a simple and straightforward answer when Cathy Zhu ’23 asked her what to expect as a newly named Coro Fellow.
“She said it’s very intense,” says Zhu, who followed in Chen’s footsteps this spring when she was awarded a Coro fellowship. “[Margaret] said that it takes a lot out of you, takes a lot of energy and capacity, and that it can be very stressful.
“But I am excited for that, because I want to test myself and see how much I can do, how much I can learn.”
That’s one big reason she chose St. Louis over San Francisco, Pittsburgh, or her native New York City. Zhu, who grew up in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, has never set foot in St. Louis. “But I wanted to challenge myself in terms of being able to understand a city that I haven't grown up in,” she says. “So I can develop skills that will adapt anywhere.”
The Coro Fellows Program develops emerging leaders to work and lead across different sectors by equipping them with knowledge, skills, and networks to accelerate positive change. Zhu will graduate with a double major in anthropology and psychology, and a minor in Asian American studies. When she begins her nine month Coro Fellowship program in St. Louis this August, she will be rotating through six different placements across diverse sectors—government, nonprofit, labor, business—as a way to facilitate hands-on learning.
“One reason I wanted to do Coro is to be able to explore these different industries,” she says. “I have a few ideas of what I want to do, but it’s not clear yet. So I’m really hoping that this time I’ll spend in different worlds—whether that’s business or labor organizing—will open my eyes to different opportunities in public service.”
As a feature of the program, she will be immersed in the project. Elected officials, staffers, department heads, executive directors, and CEOs will, by example and instruction, offer knowledge and perspective as Coro Fellows assess how organizations get things done in social, political, and economic forums.
There is also a final independent assignment which will require Zhu to develop her own project within an agency. These projects offer fellows a real-life setting to apply knowledge learned inside of classrooms. This was particularly important to Zhu, who sought such a “bridge” year before deciding on the avenue she wanted to pursue in graduate school.
“Throughout my high school and college years, I’ve been really involved in advocacy for Asian communities, whether that's Asian students or Asian immigrants,” Zhu says. “I was really interested in public affairs just because my work has always been involved in the nonprofit sector. I thought that it would be a great idea to apply to a program like Coro to gain exposure to other areas. I also want to explore [what I could do] in the Asian American movement. As a daughter of Chinese working class immigrants, I identify with those communities. I’ve seen all the difficulties that my parents have gone through. So, for me, as their daughter, it’s important to give back and help others too.”