“I have a crazy thing about numbers. I memorized pi to a hundred digits.”
Yechen Yao ’11
Yechen Yao ’11 came to Sarah Lawrence from Wuhan, a large city in central China, where she grew up. When she arrived on campus, she had never had a conversation with a native English speaker and was nervous about her language skills, but she found the people friendly and her teachers very helpful, especially when it came to conference work. With the guidance of economics faculty member Frank Roosevelt, she turned her unusual hobby of collecting credit cards into a successful conference project.
SLC: How many credit cards do you have?
YY: I would say I have around 300.
SLC: Why did you start collecting them?
YY: I got my first credit card when I turned 18, in 2006. The banks were really crazy about getting customers, so it was easy to get a credit card. I didn’t have a job; I was just lucky because the policies weren’t as strict as they are now. Banks promote the cards with points and gifts, and the most important thing is they’re really cute. I also have a crazy thing about numbers. I memorized pi to a hundred digits. So that’s another reason why I like credit cards, because there are many different combinations of numbers, and I like looking at them.
SLC: Can you tell us a little about your conference project?
YY: I decided to compare the credit card markets in China and the United States. I could never imagine any other school where I could do a project with my hobby like this. With conference projects we get to explore, to learn for the sake of learning.
SLC: What were some of your findings?
YY: China has the highest savings rate in the world. It is hard to convince people to use credit cards because they’re not used to borrowing money. The Chinese market grew rapidly after 2003. Banks should be careful promoting credit cards and issue them to reliable customers instead of to high-risk young people. It’s really dangerous for the whole market to give lots of credit to people who don’t have a real income.
The United States’ economic crisis serves as an example of what China should avoid. When people see these cards, some of them see money or see the material stuff they want. But for me it’s just a card. People should take advantage of the good things of credit cards, but not be trapped by them.
SLC: What do you like most about being a student at Sarah Lawrence?
YY: I like the academic system here, the flexibility. I think the most important thing is the freedom. Sarah Lawrence taught me the unlimited possibilities of my education.
SLC: Do you want to study economics in the future?
YY: I’m still interested in collecting credit cards, but it remains a hobby. After I graduate I want to do the human genetics master’s program here at Sarah Lawrence. I am amazed that the combination of science and psychology is offered, which never crossed my mind before.
“This helps me stay connected my own community”
A new relationship between Sarah Lawrence College and the art gallery at Yonkers Riverfront Library has sparked several creative enterprises this year. Art history faculty member Susan Kart is a major part of the new endeavor, acting as both a curator and an adviser to the library’s art gallery committee. One of the main goals of her involvement is to promote cultural collaboration between the College and the community of Yonkers.
SLC: How did you become involved with the Riverfront Library’s art gallery?
SK: Steve Force, the director of the Library, approached the College looking for help in figuring out what to put in their new gallery space. I did curatorial work before going to graduate school and was excited to have an opportunity to get back into it.
SLC: What do you like about curating?
SK: I like matching a really good exhibition with the proper environment. Finding an artist that really has a lot to offer to the incredibly diverse community of Yonkers, or being able to provide something new and unexpected, is what I aim to achieve. At the art gallery we’ve crafted a mission statement indicating that we really want to be progressive and forward-thinking and bring artists and exhibitions into the space that are either very new and edgy or that have an educational project at their core. Often a particular exhibition can do both things.
Personally, because I teach African art and so much of my work is done on another continent, it’s very rewarding to have something locally based with which I can be involved. This helps me stay connected to my own community.
SLC: How is the Sarah Lawrence community getting involved?
SK: In November, Kristine Philipps (visual arts) organized an exhibition of Sarah Lawrence student printmaking work spanning over a decade. We consider it an educational exhibition because it introduced printmaking techniques to Yonkers. Philipps and some of her students came December 4 and did an artist talk and demonstration for students from Yonkers High School and Gorton High School. That’s the kind of thing that gets me excited, where we can integrate Sarah Lawrence into the community of Yonkers and engage on an artistic level in these projects that are educational but also fun, instructive and different.
In March, my first-year studies students put up their own show exploring how they would like to exhibit non-Western art to a culturally diverse audience in the 21st century. They are working with the Yonkers community to make this a collaborative exhibition, which is fantastic, as this is a service learning class, supported by the Office of Community Partnerships. Ultimately we want these exhibitions to support the library, its mission, and its community purpose.
—Sophia Kelley MFA ’10