Get to know the CSSA Presidents!
We took the opportunity to interview the lovely co-presidents of the Cognitive Science Student Association, Daniel Li and Samantha Cheung. Read on to learn about their advice for CogSci students, ideas for CSSA, future plans and more!
What year are you in and what’s your specialization?
Samantha Cheung: Okay, I guess I can go first. I’m currently a third year, and I’m specializing in Design and Interaction.
Daniel Li: And I’m a fourth year, and I’m also specializing in Design.
Can you tell us a quick fun fact about yourselves?
SC: My fun fact is that I am currently really into knitting right now, so that’s my favorite hobby.
DL: I guess my fun fact is that I’ve been in the live audience taping for The Late Late Show with James Corden–that was a super fun experience.
SC: Feels like that really highlights the differences between me and Daniel!
What’s your favorite class that you’ve taken at UCSD so far?
DL: COGS 127. I’ve taken a lot of design classes at UCSD, and that was the only one where we got to actually, put it on our portfolios and turn it into a case study, whereas in other classes you do a whole project, and then you have a huge chunk of text that’s not ready to put on a portfolio. But in that class, we went through the whole process of how to create a good case study as well as doing redesigns of something like an app. I enjoyed how it was really practical and had less work in the end because you can just put it on your portfolio right away.
SC: LTEN 181, which is literature, but it was Asian American literature. And I thought that was a really fun class, we got to read–I don’t remember how many books–but we read different books by different Asian American authors. I think just reading those books and analyzing them was really insightful, and it was nice to read some Asian American inspired stories.
Sounds like some fun classes! Now we’re going to talk more about the Cognitive Science Student Association. So, what do you like best about being a part of CSSA?
SC: I’m going to say, the people. I think the reason why I wanted to continue after being in the club was because of the people on the board and just how well we got along. It was always a fun time at and during events, but also afterwards when we could just hang out, and maybe get some dinner or something. It’s something we can’t do that much anymore this year, but hopefully we’ll be able to again soon.
DL: I think for me it’s also the people, just because it’s really fun to work with your friends and make events together. One thing I really enjoyed that didn’t happen last year was the conference we usually plan each year which is a really fun event. I joined my second year, and I really enjoy the whole planning process and having a huge conference where there’s hundreds of people who come in and learn about CogSci and spread the word about it as well–that’s kind of fun.
How long have you been a part of CSSA? Was there anything in particular that made you want to join?
SC: I joined in my sophomore year. I went to a few events my freshman year, but wasn’t really too involved until I applied to be the Design Chair. And so I applied freshman year spring when the applications came out and I was very lucky to get that position. I was Design Chair to last year and then I’m currently Co-Prez now so it’s been a fun journey.
DL: Yeah, I also joined board my sophomore year, so that was in 2018. And I remember I went to the first GBM my freshman year. I went to a couple events throughout the year and applied to board, and then I joined as a web developer. Then, last year I was secretary. And this year I’m the Co-Prez, so it’s my third year on board.
What sort of changes have you made at CSSA this year? What sort of things have you improved from last year or the last couple of years, compared to this year?
SC: I think one of the biggest changes that we’ve been having to go through is going online. Being virtual, making sure all of our events can now be done virtually, and hopefully still get kind of the same amount of engagement as it would be in person. That’s definitely been a big change, and trying to figure out Zoom logistics has been a fun time. Also, we’ve done a rebrand for CSSA this year that we haven’t done before. That’s been a big part of the changes for this year as well, just kind of revamping our image, making sure it really reflects what we want it to be.
DL: Yeah, we decided to do a rebrand just because our old brand wasn’t as modern as we would have liked. We kind of changed everything up so now our brand’s modern and playful at the same time. This year we’ve also made a change where each board member also runs workshops, which was something that didn’t happen in the past. That way with workshops, people get more leadership opportunities and get to hone in their public speaking skills and event logistics skills, as well as planning a whole workshop from start to end.
SC: Yeah, also just adding on as well, we definitely have more [focused] committees.
DL: This year the committee’s are more focused, which is a good thing.
SC: I think there were a lot more people on committees last year, which made it really hard for people to really take ownership of things that we’re working on. So I think, trying to limit down committee members this year has been helpful and, you know, lets you guys do your thing.
What are you thinking about doing in terms of future plans? What are some changes you’d like to implement later on, or would like to see happen in CSSA?
DL: One change we’re actually talking about was having a GBM every quarter. Right now we just have GBM number one at the beginning of the year, where we go over the quarters events as well as introduce the club to people. I think what we were thinking in the future is to do that same thing every quarter so people who are newer can get a better understanding of what the club’s about and also see a preview of the quarters events, because right now we just jump into the new quarter without giving any introduction to the club. So that’s one change we were thinking of.
SC: Yeah, also about the GBM, we want it to be a space for members who aren’t necessarily interested in coming to every single event but still want to engage with other people in the club, and just give us space to do that kind of informally. I think a big problem we’ve been trying to solve this year has been with engagement and creating a community within CSSA, because we definitely want to foster some kind of community where we can connect everyone. But it has been difficult, because advertising through social media–everyone is doing that, so all of our stuff gets lost. Also, people are just so drained from classes, it’s kind of hard to jump into a social after the end of the most busy day, especially since it’s not in person. So, yeah, definitely something we want to improve on in the future.
DL: Also making our Discord more active.
SC: Yeah, definitely a goal we have.
What advice or resources do you have for first years or other underclassmen, and people starting out in Cognitive Science in general?
SC: Definitely finding some upperclassmen just to talk to! That was definitely helpful for me. Joining in my second year, there were a lot of upperclassmen that I could get advice from who told me what classes I should try to get into as soon as possible. And I really wish I had listened. So, actually follow through with what they tell you, because they’ve learned from experience.
DL: I agree with that as well. My advice relates to Samantha’s advice in a way because I think that for freshmen it’s good to just be involved and join clubs. That’s where you meet upperclassmen and other people who have similar interests. And I do think that joining clubs helps you learn other skills you don’t learn in classes, such as project management, public speaking, leadership, and knowledge. It’s really helpful for interviews in the future when interviewers ask you behavioral questions, because you’re able to use the knowledge you’ve gained from your clubs trying to answer those questions.
SC: Also, go to your professors’ office hours! I wish I had taken more advantage of that because I was really shy, and I didn’t want to go into their office hours and be like “Hi”, but I think definitely getting to know your professors, some of them are just really nice and really cool so they also give really good advice as well. Taking advantage of those resources would be beneficial.
Speaking of getting advice from upperclassmen, what are your tentative career plans moving forward?
DL: So for me, I’m planning on pursuing content design in the future. I actually interned last summer at Facebook for content strategy, so I was able to see what that was like, and how content strategy plays out at a large tech company.
SC: Yeah, Daniel’s got it figured out! I’m in the internship hunting process, so still definitely trying to find something that’ll help me. I’m primarily thinking of going into product design, or user experience, or visual design. There’s a lot of things out there encompassing the design sphere, so I kind of just want to do anything in that realm, and hopefully I can do that sometime soon.
DL: Also, just to add on, if you weren’t sure what content design is, it’s crafting the UI copy in an app. All the words are written by the content designer.
SC: Yeah, I definitely don’t want to do that. I’m very bad with words, so I’d rather be doing pixel pushing or, you know, user experience flows. I think we’re all kind of in a similar position–well, except for Daniel–the rest of us are figuring it out.
DL: Okay, I was also very lost and confused throughout college.
SC: When you were considering going to law school–
DL: I was considering law school at one point, so it’s been quite the journey.
What would you like to see improved in the Cognitive Science community at UCSD?
DL: For me, I hope to see more of a community, and I think that’s the main thing because right now we have a lot of great events–like educational, professional development, and academic events–and in the future I hope that the social aspect of the club is also well balanced.
SC: I definitely agree with that. We want–especially now that everything’s online–to build a community, which would definitely be beneficial. I also hope that we can collaborate with teachers and professors more, because I know they have a lot to offer. We’re talking to our advisors and they do want to help too. We just have to find an event or some kind of collaboration that students and professors would be interested in.
DL: I also hope to see more representation from all specializations.
SC: A lot of our events are catered towards Machine Learning and Design, mostly because those have the largest turnout. So we’d definitely love to see more Language and Culture, or Neuroscience.
DL: I think our biggest events are usually ones that are centered around Design, and then next is usually Machine Learning. And then, after that it’s pretty low attendance just because the people in those specializations are also a lot less compared to those first two.
Are there any final remarks that you’d like to give about CSSA, about Cognitive Science, and the journeys you’ve had through CSSA overall?
SC: I’d just like to say that I’m very glad that I was able to join this club, as being on the executive board has definitely opened up a lot of different opportunities for me. I was able to get a lot of great friendships out of it, learn a little more about leadership and just organization in general–leading a team. I think that’s been a big learning moment for me. I’m very glad to have this organization.
DL: Me too! When I first joined I didn’t think that I’d make friends from this organization, but now after being here for three years, I’ve made really good friends. I’ve been really enjoying it.
Thank you both for taking time out of your busy day and coming in to talk with us!