From an oil-trading summer internship in Denmark to singing in West Side Story to running track, Lionel Hong ’12 has amassed a world of experience during his four years at Gettysburg College.
Hong, who is about to complete a rigorous degree in economics, humbly gives the credit to a supportive learning community that empowered him to become his best self. “College is a place where you get to explore what you’re good at in an environment where you’re fully supported by people who care about your development and growth,” he said. “What’s special about Gettysburg College is the people we have, who have made me feel that coming here was best choice for me.”
His mentors, however, are quick to point out Hong’s own initiative and dedication. “I have learned a tremendous amount from him,” said Off Campus Studies Director Rebecca Bergren. “When I talk to students about how to best take advantage of all Gettysburg College has to offer, I often use Lionel's experience to illustrate the point.
“Lionel has taken a very ambitious academic path and connected deeply with several faculty members both within his major department and outside it,” Bergren continued. “He studied abroad, completed several internships, worked as part of our residence life staff, participated in studio art, music, and theater, and volunteered his time in formal and informal ways to our community. At the same time, Lionel understands the need for personal time. He allows time to read what interests him, to engage in conversations about important topics, and to listen to others. He is keenly aware of critical issues facing our world today, and he believes we all have a role to play in this global society.”
Hong, originally from Beijing, was able to broaden his own global role thanks to another of his mentors, 2007 Gettysburg grad Jesper Odum Rosenkrans, who offered him a summer internship at Maersk Oil Trading in Copenhagen. There, Hong did everything from analyzing energy prices to implementing data transfer protocols for ships at sea to developing and launching a corporate website. The internship exemplified Gettysburg College’s extensive career network: Hong was introduced to Rosenkrans by Robert Kallin, the College’s vice president of development relations, who was in Denmark to observe the study-abroad program Hong was completing.
Many further networking opportunities arose — including some surprises that were light-years away from energy trading. “Lionel originally came to the College’s Center for Career Development (CCD) to discuss his interests in economics and finance, and he became involved in networking events and other activities where he could meet alumni and parents in those fields,” said CCD Director Kathy Williams. “So it was a surprise when he applied to attend the Los Angeles career immersion trip a year ago. However I learned that Lionel also is a very gifted vocalist and had actually considered pursuing a career in theater, hence his interest in learning about careers in film, television, and entertainment. After spending a week with him and the other students as we traveled from site visit to site visit, I also learned that Lionel is a great cook, a very good athlete, and even a bit of a comedian. Every time I have a conversation with Lionel, I learn something new about him, and I think he definitely embodies a well-rounded and liberally educated student.”
That well-rounded experience encompassed an acting class and performing in a College production of Romeo and Juliet. “Lionel is a big-picture thinker with an eye for detail,” said theatre arts Prof. Chris Kauffman, himself a 1992 Gettysburg grad. “Lionel is passionate about making important and meaningful life choices and curious about how he can make the most of his life, but understands the links between each small action he takes and its larger consequence. He reflected this thinking in the acting class: he was inquisitive about characters' lives and motivations, about their psychologies and circumstances. He embraced the important exercise of empathizing with his characters and searched deep within his own memory to find experiences that inspired similar feelings. Then he develops these psychologies through minute gestures and the smallest of expression. He thinks of his artful approach to acting as an act of generosity for the audience. This is the approach that I try to cultivate in the classes and Lionel already had this in his daily life. His search for meaningful work that makes a positive and lasting impact in the world has helped foster a humility in his approach to life and learning. He has embraced a love of the question.”
Hong’s own multifaceted character was plain from the beginning, said another of his mentors, economics Prof. Eileen Stillwaggon: “In Principles of Economics, in his first semester at Gettysburg, he raised questions every day on the latest turn in the financial crisis. At the same time, he was very involved in school theatrical productions, another passion of his. When he studied abroad in Copenhagen, he produced a very polished video on his group’s study tour. And for the summer in Copenhagen, he wrote sophisticated analyses of fuel purchasing for the Maersk shipping company. It has been a pleasure being his advisor and watching him pursue so many interests so well.”
At the end of his senior year, Hong said he is feeling what many students feel: “Graduating is just as terrifying as exciting.” But, just as when he first came to Gettysburg, he is investigating patiently and introspectively before deciding where to concentrate his efforts. He plans to attend a Buddhist retreat in New York City before returning to China for further interaction with spiritual teachers there. “There is an urging within me,” he said. “If I don’t know myself and the world better, any further steps I take would be in a blinded way.” He sees one thing clearly, though: “My passion is to contribute to my country and help others who have not had opportunities like me. I believe in the good of people. I’ve been helped by so many.”
Strong support and wide-ranging experience are available to everyone at Gettysburg. “I am just a normal student like everyone else,” said Hong. “Besides feeling appreciative and fortunate to have been surrounded by a group of amazing people at Gettysburg College, I would like to thank my high school advisor Robert Barker, who made it possible for me to study in the States.” Hong attended the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Jim Hale, associate director of editorial services