CEAS Dean’s Award Recipient Is Ambassador at Heart

By: Diana Riggs
Date: June 11, 2018

Costina Luc, Dean’s award winner, uses her role as CEAS ambassador to encourage hesitant students and support their vision of success.

Luc smiles confidently, facing the camera, wearing a CEAS Hat that says "We Engineer Better"

Luc brings her Bearcat pride with her everywhere.

Costina Luc, senior biomedical engineering student, received the 2018 College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Dean’s Award last month. The award is given to two CEAS students who have exhibited distinctive qualities of leadership and rendered outstanding service to the college. Luc, who also graduated this spring, confessed that she has not always been such a confident leader.

Luc, a first generation college student, entered University of Cincinnati (UC) unaware of the resources available to her. As a result, she struggled academically during her first year. Following the typical first year advice, she tried to “get involved” by trying a lot of activities, but nothing clicked. She craved connections with her fellow students and programming to support women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Luc learned firsthand that just one friendly face can shift perspective for students who think engineering is scary or that college might not be the place for them. She still remembers the warm welcome she received from CEAS ambassadors during her first day on campus. (CEAS ambassadors are official student liaisons for the college who publicly represent the college and help welcome new and prospective students.) She is grateful that they made such a lasting first impression.

As a sophomore, Luc still felt adrift, but sensed a residual impact of that first encounter with ambassadors. She was particularly inspired by one ambassador’s spirit, enthusiasm, passion for people, ability to leverage interpersonal skills and her talent to balance obligations. Encouraged by her role model and other students in the program, Luc signed up.

Joining the CEAS ambassadors program started a whole new chapter for Luc. Ambassadors offered her an effective channel for her passions: interacting with people, and sharing what she’s learned at UC.

Luc and nine other ambassadors pose with a CEAS sign

Luc and fellow ambassadors welcome incoming students

Luc’s involvement in CEAS ambassadors had a domino effect— she became a tour guide through admissions’ Recruitment Officers and Admissions Relations (ROAR) program, attended Bearcat Brunches for prospective students, volunteered at STEM programming with the Girl Scouts and helped facilitate a Women in Engineering speaker series for CEAS.

Each activity expanded her passion for programs that make education more accessible. “Being involved in ambassadors, helping them create the Women in Engineering speaker series, doing outreach to connect current students and alumnae, and promoting the Rowe Center for Women in Engineering—it has all truly been monumental,” said Luc.

Luc’s commitment to leadership and service shines brightest in her role as vice president of CEAS Ambassadors. Her favorite part is connecting students with resources that enrich and transform their experience at UC. She sees a bit of herself in the incoming students, especially the ones who are struggling to bridge the gap between high school and college. “I help them open doors, like people who helped me open some of my own,” Luc explained.

The ambassador program taught her many skills — leadership, communication, organization, time management, and more — but for Luc, the crucial lesson was how to empower people to make a positive change. Luc is motivated by deep passions for connecting members of under-represented minorities with vital resources. “Being able to connect people with the resources I didn’t have growing up, that became the driving force behind everything.”

Luc has been an ambassador for years, before she held the official title. The BME student chose the medical field based on her early experiences with the medical community—she always enjoyed going to the doctor as a child. Luc, who speaks Cantonese and Vietnamese, served as an interpreter for family members who did not speak English well enough for an effective medical discussion. In this vital role, she quickly learned the value of meaningful communication (especially in healthcare), sharing resources and taking consideration for individual needs. Today, she is still driven by connecting people with resources that can improve their lives.

Luc incorporates her empowerment philosophy into her medical device designs, like the one she created for her coop at Cook Medical in Bloomington, Indiana. She worked with nursing students to test a new device that was more inclusive of a wider range of hand sizes for device users. Her responsive design reflects changes in the STEM field (more female practitioners, more device users who are not doctors) and her passion for leveling the playing field.

As she moves on to her next chapter, Luc hopes to see CEAS student organizations centralize resources for prospective and current students. This would help advocates like the ambassadors give students accurate and comprehensive information. She would also love to extend the CEAS undergraduate ambassadors program to graduate students and explore whether the CEAS ambassador model might be adapted for students attending the Joint Engineering Cooperative Institute through UC’s partnership with Chongqing University.

Luc, who graduated this spring, has been thinking a lot about the word “leadership” lately; a lot of underclassmen ask her to explain her recipe for success as a student leader. “The term ‘servant leadership’ really rings true in my head,” Luc said. She prefers to lead from behind the scenes, offering transformative encouragement and guidance. She sees her mentorship as a daily tribute to those who have made her journey more manageable.

Luc plans to continue her education at UC medical school in fall 2019. She currently works at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center in the Pulmonary Division. She is researching the role of G-protein coupled receptor GPR116 in lung vascular endothelium. The research team believes that regulation of the GPR116 signaling pathway has potential therapeutic consequences involving diseases related to abnormal surfactant levels such as pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).