Raymond Walters College Honor Student of the Year
From: University Currents
Date: June 9, 2000
Story and photo by: Kelly Lucyszyn
Phone: (513) 745-5685
Archive: Campus News
Graduating at the top of her class in a program that is known to be academically tough would be enough. Being named the top student in her college as well would be cause for celebration. But accomplishing this at the University of Cincinnati when less than three years ago she spoke only a few words of English is nothing short of extraordinary.
Kangsan Lammers, who has been named Honor Student of the Year at UC's Raymond Walters College, arrived in the United States from South Korea in 1997. In her family of five children raised by a single mother, investing in education was more important than anything else – even buying food sometimes. Though most Koreans do not go to college, Lammers' mother was insistent that her children do so, even as those around her laughed because her children were not bringing home money by working in the local factory.
When Lammers met and married an American soldier and moved to the United
States, she decided to go beyond her degree in Korean Literature. She needed to go back to school.
She had dreamed of a career in pharmacy after helping her mother keep track of what pills to take and when during an extended illness.
When Lammers arrived in the States, a pharmacist friend encouraged her to get the education she needed to begin that career in pharmacy. Lammers decided to start at Raymond Walters College. The small size and one-on-one attention from professors impressed her, and the writing lab in particular helped her as she struggled with English.
"I took some English exams. I failed the first time," Lammers says of her first experience at RWC. Undaunted by the failure, she persisted.
"Kangsan's hard work and determination are an inspiration to not only ESL [English as a Second Language] students, but also American students," says Maria Damen, RWC English instructor and academic tutor. Damen worked with Lammers in the writing lab throughout her studies at RWC.
"It might have required more time for me to study than other people who use the language all the time" Lammers added. "I've studied hard, but it is worth it."
She still has some trouble with English. She fights every day to master new words and incorporate them into her daily vocabulary. She even took elective courses in speech and communication – courses she did not need to earn her degree – to learn more because she knew how important it is for her to learn the language.
"I really want to use educated words. Those are the words needed to get a job. It is also a way to show my respect to others, because I am in this country," Lammers says.
As if learning English weren't a challenge by itself, Lammers also needed to learn the difficult terms and concepts of biology. Biology professor Frank Wray encouraged Lammers, often taking his personal time to help her.
"I've never seen a more persistent student in my life," Wray says. "I am amazed at her work ethic. She was literally learning another language on top of learning biology. I've never had a student work as hard as she has."
"If there were a definition of what a student should be in Webster's Dictionary, it would be Kangsan," Wray says.
Her hard work has paid off and her success is indisputable. Along with being named the Honor Student of the Year at the Graduate Recognition Ceremony on June 9, Lammers has also received an award in chemistry. Last year she received the college's Freytag Scholarship, given to an outstanding student studying science – coincidentally given to Lammers by a professor whose parents were as determined as Lammers' own mother to see their children through college, though they never went themselves.
"Even my family can't believe how good I am doing," Lammers says as she laughs. "My mother is impressed, but maybe she thinks I might be exaggerating. I'm going to take my records back with me to Korea to show her. She will cry," she says.
Lammers will visit her family in South Korea this summer before starting at University of Cincinnati's School of Pharmacy this fall. "Four more years," she says with a smile.
"I need to get a doctorate degree." With that degree, she hopes to someday work with a pharmaceutical company, perhaps with an international firm that has offices in Korea.
Lammers is encouraged to work toward that dream knowing that her success will let her help her family one day. She will always remember the struggles her mother faced and all she gave to her children.
"She is an orphan, and my father died when I was young. She never went to school, but I can't believe she is so wise. I want to make her proud. I want to be able to help her," she says.