Class of 2002 Profile





Margie Yu
Public Affairs Spec.
(323) 343-3047


of Events

Class of 2002
Eleanor Chen: Youngest Grad is Gifted Leader

Honors student Eleanor Chen, 16, Cal State L.A.’s youngest 2002 graduating senior and former student government officer, is planning a career in business.

In 1997, Eleanor Chen (Chatsworth resident) made what most people would consider a big transition from middle school to a university campus. Just 11 years old, Elly began her life as a college freshman through Cal State L.A.’s Early Entrance Program (EEP), which integrates extraordinarily gifted students directly into campus life. Far from intimidating, Cal State L.A. and EEP were just the challenge she needed, says Elly. In middle school, she says, “teachers thought I had an ‘attitude.’ I completed classwork early and I was bored.”

The difficult transition for Elly had been from 6th grade to middle school, and from a small parochial institution to a “huge” public school. It was clearly a challenge to place Elly in middle school classes: “By the time I was 11, I had already finished pre-algebra,” she recalls. A family friend spoke to Elly’s parents about Cal State L.A.’s program, and Elly jumped at the chance.

Outgoing and friendly, Elly found the specialized EEP program made the large campus “workable,” with a lounge and study area dedicated solely to “EEPsters,” a coordinator for guidance, and many like-minded peers.

At the outset, Elly was anxious to get involved. A friend, also in the EEP program, had been elected president of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), the University’s student government organization. Elly sat in on some sessions: “It was mind-opening,” she recalls. “I was amazed that students actually had a say at the University!” Elly filled a vacancy as ASI representative-at-large. Later, she ran for the ASI executive board post of secretary/treasurer and won. “We ended that year with a 25% surplus,” she beams. “That was only possible because of a lot of hard work—especially by the executive board.”

There’s no denying that Elly’s leadership skills have blossomed: she’s served as vice president for the campus chapter of Golden Key honor society and for Circle K volunteer service and leadership training club, and has been the vice-chair and fiscal committee chair for the University-Student Union. In her first year, Elly received the Freshman Award from Phi Kappa Phi national honor society, and was awarded the Cal State L.A. Alumni Association scholarship in both 2000 and 2001.

In her spare time, Elly demonstrates her contemplative side through creative writing, playing the violin (she has recently cut back on her piano playing) and in the practice of judo (she says she finds it less aggressive than kung-fu, which she also studied).

As for her future plans, she’s contemplating a “career in business as a consulting manager.” At 16, she’s thinking she might take some time off to explore what she really wants to do next. Elly was the youngest graduate at Cal State L.A.’s 55th Commencement on June 15, and received a B.S. in business administration.


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