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Following curiosity

Jieun Chon, of JeonJu, South Korea, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and will earn her master’s degree in the same field from the College of Engineering next May. She maintains a 4.0 GPA while serving as a teaching assistant, research assistant, GitHub coordinator, founder of Korean Computer Scientists, and president of the Korean Graduate Basketball Club.

Her nominator wrote, “Few of Jieun’s peers possess the commitment to intellectual development and perseverance that Jieun exhibits. I am impressed with the work ethic and focus Jieun brings to academic pursuits, leadership roles, and involvement in research.”

A testament to her curiosity, Jieun is passionate about programming, basketball, YouTube, and teaching.

She has definitive goals for her future, both professionally and personally. In her own words, she plans to:

  • Become a software developer who never stops learning.

  • Become a leader in a company and lead computer science education projects, or become a CEO of a computer science education company.

  • Continue playing basketball until the last day I can run.

  • Become an adult who can spread out positive energy in the world and inspire people.

  • Always update these plans to do what’s best.

When asked about a life lesson she’d like to pass on to others, Jieun said, “I learned that I must live a life that makes me happy. Not a life to show to others, not a life compared with others, and not a life to reach a standard goal which others made. I had a face-time call with my parents who are in Korea this morning. They repeated the phrase that they always told me since I was young: ‘If you are happy, we are happy.’”

Surprised, lost for words, thankful, and happy are the terms she uses to describe her reaction to being recognized with an Aspire! Award. Jieun said, “I am so lucky to have role models for each of my passions. Dr. Shaffer and Dr. Kafura always respect my identity and guide me not only for research but also for teaching me the way to make wise decisions. Claire Childness, who really cares for students, helped me from the beginning of my career preparation, and I know I could not be here now without her.

My basketball team is a lifetime gift because I earned the life-sport that gave me motivation and energy every morning. And my sorority led me to absorb well into the culture here in the U.S. and also incredibly improved my English at the same time. Lastly, Robert and Connie Grace took care of me like a real uncle and aunt and always saved me from homesickness. With all this help, I think I showed that anyone can make changes on the campus, and possibly in the world in the future, no matter what English level, gender, age, or nationality you have.”

Jieun Chon was the October 2018 recipient of the Aspire! Award for Curiosity. She is pursuing a master’s degree in computer engineering from the College of Engineering.