Two Asian Studies Students Recognized as "Worlds Ahead Graduates": Karen Cespedes and Sky Choi

The Asian Studies Program is very proud to announce that two of our students were selected by Dr. Mark Rosenberg as “Worlds Ahead Graduates” for Spring 2013 Commencement on April 30th.

Congratulations to our "Worlds Ahead" Graduates, Karen Cespedes and Sebastian "Sky" Choi!

Karen Cespedes
M.A. in Asian Studies

Originally from Colombia, Karen Cespedes and her family immigrated as refugees to the U.S. when she was seven. Motivated by her personal experience with the political asylum process, she wants to mentor young people going through the same process and to represent the U.S. overseas as a public diplomacy foreign service officer.

While working full-time, Karen earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations, a minor in Asian studies, an undergraduate certificate in both national security studies and Asian and Latin America globalization from FIU in 2009. Among her many accomplishments, in 2010, Karen was one of two delegates from Florida to present at the Global Initiatives Symposium in Taiwan. Her paper on the Hispanic-American experience in the U.S. earned her accolades among diplomats and academics.

Karen returned the following year, where she served as a distinguished political intern for the American Institute in Taiwan. In that role, she conducted research on human trafficking, judicial reform and human rights. Karen collaborated with MTV to spearhead a media campaign to highlight trafficking victims and bring awareness to the issue throughout Taiwan. Karen also found the time to develop an outreach program to aid human trafficking victims.

Karen will be taking the State Department’s foreign service exam this year. Karen will remain active in the local community by mentoring high school students and will continue to manage Esquire Solutions, a multi-million dollar portfolio, as its complex litigation consultant.

Karen credits FIU Senior International Officer Hilarion Martinez, and Professors Steven Heine and Thomas Breslin with mentoring and inspiring her.

Sebastian "Sky" Choi
B.A. in Asian Studies

At age 16, Sky Choi is making FIU history as the university’s youngest graduate ever, earning a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies.

A South Florida native, Sky was identified as profoundly gifted at a young age when he scored higher than 99.9 percent of the population on IQ and achievement tests.

Korean was his first language and by age 3 he could read in Korean; by four he learned to speak and read in English. By the time he finished preschool, he was doing third grade math. At age 10, he began dual enrollment at FIU. By age 12, he had graduated from high school and enrolled in the Honors College at FIU.

Always feeling at ease around people older than him, Sky was excited to take calculus, physics, astronomy and Chinese courses on campus. His educational horizons expanded as he took courses in the Honors College and Asian Studies Department and participated in two study abroad programs in Asia.

At FIU, Sky distinguished himself through his dedication to education and public service. Sky founded “The List Kids,” a non-profit that assists Iraqi refugee children who have resettled in the U.S. He also founded a second non-profit, “Project Riyen,” which provides educational resources to children in Cambodia.

A certified third degree black belt, Sky is an instructor at his family’s taekwondo school, where he combines his passion for taekwondo with his passion for teaching. This passion was further solidified after teaching English in Cambodia with the Honors College study abroad program.

After graduation, Sky will be pursuing a master’s degree in teaching mathematics from Harvard University’s Extension School and he hopes to eventually earn a doctorate at FIU.

Sky credits FIU President Emeritus Modesto A. Maidique, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, physics professors Caroline Simpson and James Webb, Honors College Dean Leslie Northup, Honors College Associate Dean Juan Carlos Espinosa, Director of Asian Studies Steven Heine, and his parents with guiding and mentoring him during his time at FIU.

Sky Choi was recently featured on the FIU News website, as he made FIU history for being the youngest known graduate! Read the full article here: "16-year-old-graduate-is-more-than-just-brains".