Student Spotlight: Emma-Li “Emma” Downer C’23

Emma-Li “Emma” Downer C’23                      

Where were you born and raised? 

I was born in China and then adopted and raised in NJ.

What attracted you to Drew? 

I was looking for a smaller school that was close to home, and I wanted to really be able to connect with my professors. Since I wasn’t completely sure of what I wanted to major in, I liked how Drew encouraged their freshmen to remain undecided and explore their options. I also found that each person I spoke to, which ended up being a lot of people after seven different visits, was always kind and helpful.

Why did you choose English as a major and Philosophy as a minor?

I chose English because I found that I was pretty good at writing, and all the English professors here at Drew have encouraged me to keep developing my skills. I chose the Writing Communications emphasis because it is applicable in any field, and I am curious about how and why people write.

My Philosophy major took me by surprise. I signed up for the Personal Identity and Immortality Drew Seminar, mistakenly thinking it was a psychology DSEM. I discovered I really enjoyed the material, and I wanted to keep learning philosophy, so I added it for a double major.

When did you start fencing and why do you enjoy it?

I started fencing when I was in middle school with a friend and then continued up until high school. I didn’t expect to fence here at Drew, but Coach Vincent Paragano heard that I had some experience and recruited me. When I met the coaching staff and the fencing team, they seemed to embody what I loved about Drew’s close community. Everyone on the team acts like a family and is so supportive of each other.

Do you have any mentors at Drew? 

Philosophy Professor Dr. Erik Anderson really encourages me to stay curious and always question things, and English Professor Dr. Sandra Jamieson inspires me to try my hardest in and out of class. Media & Communications Professor Dr. Jeremy Blatter has also been immeasurably helpful in the nycTREC I am taking this semester.

Coach Vincent Paragano, Assistant Coach Michael Bindas, and Assistant Keri Ecker have been my constant support system outside of classes. They push me to try my best and encourage me to be content with my efforts.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short, long, or nycTRECS?

I am currently in the Semester on Communications & Media nycTREC. Professor Jeremy Blatter has ensured that each time class meets, we deepen our understanding of how media industries function. Decisions are never made in a vacuum, especially in a place like New York City where competition is fierce and every business faces social, cultural, and financial pressures. The unique part of this TREC is building on what we learn in the classroom by traveling into the city and listening to guest speakers.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

Equality, visibility, and acceptance, especially in terms of the LGBTQIA community where there are so many people who slip past society’s focus and attention.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew?  

Some of my favorite memories of Drew are the conversations I’ve had with my professors, traveling with my team for weekend competitions, and being able to say hello to at least one person as I walk through campus. I might know someone from class, the fencing team, or a club I’m in.

College is a time to explore who you are and what you value. Since coming to Drew and seeing how people here are so accepting and supportive, I have a better understanding of who I am outside of society’s expectations and how that will impact me in the future.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

College can be scary and the unknown can be daunting, but if you engage with things on campus (clubs, classes, professors, peers) then you are bound to find at least one person who will support you throughout your time here. Everyone on this campus is here to help you, so make sure you take that first step.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years? 

I want to find a career that I am passionate about where I can use my writing and critical thinking skills, whether that is in the publishing industry or a related field. I don’t have to find that perfect job right out of college, though that would be nice. I am hoping that within five years I’ll be enjoying my job so much that I won’t be working a day in my life.

Any Fun fact (s) you would like to share?

I have an unfortunate combination of being indecisive yet particular in what I read and watch. I spend as much time deciding what I should invest my time in as it actually takes me to start and finish a book, movie or TV show.

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