By the time Nancy Chac had finished her sophomore year at UMass Lowell, the business administration major had taken 12 honors classes – eight for her major and four in other areas.
Honors faculty say she could be on track to set a record, as most honors students take one or two honors classes each semester. Seven honors courses and a capstone thesis or project are required to graduate with Commonwealth Honors.
“Originally, what I really wanted was just to do every honors requirement as soon as I could, so I wouldn’t have to do them later on and have stuff piling up on me during my junior or senior year,” Chac says.
Then, it just became a habit for Chac to seek out the honors section of every class that had one because she liked the professors, the smaller class sizes and the discussions, “or it’s just a subject that I’m really interested in and I want to learn as much as I can about it,” she says.
It’s a habit that Chac formed at Brockton High School, where she took multiple AP and International Baccalaureate classes. She says she’s highly competitive and likes to surround herself with people she thinks are smarter than her.
“I tend to have this drive to challenge myself academically or outside of school, to just be the best version of myself,” she says. “I want to just be like my friends and my older sister, who also push themselves to become more successful academically and career-wise.”
She’s pursuing two concentrations in the Manning School of Business: marketing, which appeals to her creative side, and international business, which satisfies her love of learning about different cultures. She’s considering going on for an MBA in marketing, but first she’s applying for professional co-ops and internships so she can gain some experience.
“I’m still trying to explore my options. But I do want to do something that will fulfill me and something I can be passionate about, and to just have fun with,” she says.
Chac isn’t all work and no play. She’s active in three campus clubs: Joy Tong Women in Business, the Student Association of Chinese Americans, and Tri-Alpha, a new honor society for first-generation college students. She’s also trying to re-learn Cantonese, her family’s first language, and she loves to draw.
Chac considers her drive to better herself to be both a good and a bad habit. Occasionally, she gets overwhelmed and has to remind herself to ease up. That’s when she exercises and tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
For fun, she plays video games – “I’m a video game fanatic” – or gets together with friends, although that’s been hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s pretty rough right now,” she admits. “I have to remind myself to not push myself too much and to say to myself, ‘It’s OK to just take a break, to slow down and just take it easy.’”