Alumna Rana Chan recently accepted a job at National Public Radio (NPR) headquarters in Washington D.C. as a Digital Media Planning Associate. Chan graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, earning double degrees: a B.A. in Honors Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of New Mexico in 2018.
“I had a blast at UNM! I was lucky enough to attend with my closest friends and be close enough to home to go to family dinners on weekends - something I didn't know I wanted, but very much appreciated, especially now as many friends and family are starting to move away. Initially, I decided to attend UNM because it offered flexibility in exploring what I wanted to study, including allowing me to study abroad for a year. In addition, it was a great financial decision, which I have come to appreciate tremendously post-grad. Above all, I had such intelligent and compassionate professors who truly invested in my education,” explained Chan.
Chan has always been interested in quantitative fields and considered studying chemistry or engineering during her time at UNM. However, after realizing she enjoyed math and Honors classes the most, she decided to study Honors Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts and Applied Mathematics.
"As an Honors major, I knew I wanted interdisciplinary responsibilities, but didn't know what that would look like professionally." –Rana Chan, Class of '18
“It helped that the Honors College had the option of constructing a thesis project that would allow me to work closely on a topic I was personally interested in, and with a deeply empathic and forward-thinking professor who was willing to pour hours of time and effort into my project,” said Chan.
Chan was a Regent’s Scholar at The University of New Mexico and she fully embodied the expectations of this position as an exemplary student.
“Rana is the kind of student every faculty member wishes to have in a small seminar-style class. She models excellence in the classroom by her love of learning, not for the ‘A’, but to expand her worldview. Fundamentally, she's intellectually hungry. Her approach to problem-solving is interdisciplinary in scope, innovative in her incorporation of emerging technologies, and collaborative and community-minded,” said Megan Jacobs, associate professor at the UNM Honors College and Chan’s former professor.
Chan’s honors thesis, “Breaking Gender Norms through Fashion: Lessons from Georgia O’Keeffe” forged a relationship with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and Girls Inc. of Santa Fe to create a series of multi-generational workshops. Chan recognized that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum sought to connect younger museum patrons to the life and work of Georgia O’Keeffe and she orchestrated a partnership with Girls Inc. of Santa Fe, an organization geared towards the empowerment of girls, with programming that focuses on making girls “strong, smart and bold” through healthy living, academic enrichment and life skills.
In collaboration with these two organizations, Chan devised six weeks of programming for a group of 11 to 13-year-old girls to learn about the life of Georgia O’Keeffe. In particular, the workshops utilized O’Keeffe’s fashion choices as a reflection of her individuality, practicality, and aesthetic expression, which served as a springboard for the girls’ creations. Over the course of the workshops, the girls were given a tour of O’Keeffe’s clothing vault, where they selected fabrics and constructed their own garments with the assistance of experienced sewers in the community. During the final workshop, students presented their garments to their community and project stakeholders, to high praise.
“Before I left [the O'Keeffe Museum], I was quite involved in a grant-funded project to rephotograph the museum's entire fine art collection. This project allowed me to see O'Keeffe paintings in an intimate setting as the photography process required the works to be unframed, and I feel very lucky to have participated. The project gave me a new-found appreciation for O'Keeffe's masterful use of color and abstraction,” said Chan.
Chan’s thesis topic, much like her major, changed many times before she settled on one. At the time, she was interested in exploring a significant figure in New Mexico history. While O'Keeffe is not from New Mexico, her depiction of its landscapes had personally encouraged Chan to look closer and appreciate its immense diversity. Moreover, O’Keeffe was a fitting figure to hold at the center of a project discussing gender norms' influence on fashion considering her own often-times androgenous or masculine-presenting clothing choices.
“Chan’s thesis project expanded beyond a mere ‘project’ and became a tool of transformation advocacy—a means to improve her community and advance the lives of others,” explained Jacobs.
After graduating from UNM, Chan continued to work with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum first as an intern then as the Digital Assets and Rights Coordinator. Now she's headed to a new position as a Digital Media Planning Associate at NPR. She will be working remotely for the next few months and then will be moving to Washington D.C. this summer.
Her role at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was split between managing information about digital files in the collection, assisting with digital projects, such as rephotographing the collection, and licensing images that the O'Keeffe Museum holds rights to.
“Some of my favorite highlights include getting to visit O'Keeffe's homes in Abiquiú and Ghost Ranch, and seeing exhibitions come together behind the scenes. I did enjoy it! Working in museum technology was the dream job I didn't know existed. As an Honors major, I knew I wanted interdisciplinary responsibilities, but didn't know what that would look like professionally. Getting to use quantitative and analytical skills in a cultural heritage organization fit the bill perfectly,” explained Chan.
Chan will be moving to Washington, D.C. in July to work at NPR's headquarters and build her data analysis skills using information from podcast analytics to help build sponsorship proposals.
“Aside from attending as many Tiny Desk concerts as I can...I am excited to experience a very different part of the country after living in New Mexico for nearly my whole life,” said Chan.
In the next few years, Chan hopes to attend graduate school to get a master's degree in analytics. She plans to return to New Mexico in the future.