Austin Le

Austin Le, a graduate of Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, is graduating from the University of Washington this year with a biochemistry major. He liked the interdisciplinary nature of his Jackson School course. “It’s not just economics, or politics, or history – it’s all three,” he says.

Class 'has given me a more holistic understanding of my past'


Austin Le was looking for an interesting elective when he registered for JSIS 201: The Making of the 21st Century. He didn’t know he would also find an opportunity to explore a dramatic part of his family’s history.

Austin was drawn to the class because of the different perspectives it offered and included those in his research paper. “I wrote about the flight of Chinese people from Vietnam,” he says. “My parents were among those people.”

Austin’s parents told him what it felt like to get on a boat and leave Vietnam. “I understood the social aspects of it,” he says. “But I went back and looked at it from a different perspective – political and economic – that I hadn’t really studied. This has given me a more holistic understanding of my past.”

Austin says he has learned a lot in JSIS 201 about critical reading. In the class’s three response papers, Austin says, he was instructed to analyze the arguments of an author for such things as bias, poor evidence or poor reasoning. He even decided to limit the use of one author in his research paper after looking into her background and finding a bias toward one side.

Critical reading of research is something that applies to Austin’s medical ambitions as well, he says. For example, he says, “If you look at a medical study, when evaluating medical studies, who were the people they were testing it on, what was the sample size, does the author have a vested interest or conflict of interest?” Another class that Austin credits for helping him question information and numbers in articles is his statistics class. “A lot of evidence is reasoning based, statistical,” he says.

Austin advised future UW students to take advantage of the resources that the university has to offer. “I had a good work ethic in high school, but when I came to university I still got overwhelmed,” he says. Austin found the help he needed at the Center for Learning and Undergraduate Education (CLUE), which provides free tutors in just about every subject, including JSIS 201.

“I live at home, but I still found time to go to CLUE sessions,” he says. “I now volunteer as a biology tutor with Tribeta. It’s fun to talk to students and it’s a good way for me to retain my knowledge in these classes.”

Austin volunteers at the UW Medical Center and plans to apply to medical school. He says his Jackson School class was challenging but fulfilling and he will continue to use the critical reading skills he learned in the medical field.

- By Kristina Bowman,