Featured Students

Featured Student: Sunny Kwan


  • Name: Sunny (Yik Yeung) Kwan
  • Year: Junior
  • Major: Double major in Japanese and Chemistry/Pre-Dental
  • Hometown: Hong Kong
  • Quirky Fact: I love music and am part of two choirs here at Murray State—EQ Blu and Men’s Choir.
  • Favorite things to get (food/drink) on campus: Tater tots from the T-Room.
  • Best movie you’ve seen recently: Dr. Strange
  • Favorite movie: Rush Hour 3
  • What you like to do on campus: Hang out with friends.


Q & A:

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Sunny Kwan, and I was born in Hong Kong. I am 21 years old and a Junior here at Murray State with a double major in Japanese and Pre-Dental, with a focus on Chemistry. I moved to America for the first time when I was 8; we lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, for over 3 years because my mother was finishing her PhD at the University of Virginia. After 6th grade, when she found a job at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, we moved back to Hong Kong. After another 3 years in Hong Kong, I told my mother that I wanted to come back to the US to study, so we moved back. We lived in Virginia for another year until my mom found a position here at Murray State, and this year is our 5th year in Murray.

What made you come to Murray State?

I graduated from Calloway High School, which is 5 minutes down the road from here. We had a Japanese teacher, Mrs. Nakamura, which is rare for a small city like Murray. I needed foreign language credit to graduate, but I didn’t want to learn a European language, so I chose Japanese. I’ve always had an interest in Japanese, so it was a fairly easy choice. Even after high school, I decided that I wanted to continue my Japanese studies, and Murray State has a fantastic Japanese Department – that is one of the reasons I chose to come here. The more obvious reason is that Murray State is so close to home – it only takes me 6 minutes to drive to school. I’m also pretty sure that 80 – 90% of my grade mates came here so I knew I would have lots of friends here. As a bonus, this school is very cost efficient compared to the many other schools I had to choose from.

Who have you enjoyed working with?

Dr. Hatakeyama is the head of the Japanese Department and was the first advisor for the Japanese Club. She also oversees many foreign language events both on and off campus such as the Foreign Language Festival – an annual event in the Spring. Foreign language students come to perform or do presentations in their respective languages and compete for prizes. I really enjoy working with her to organize and run the Japanese portion of the festival as well as other Japanese Club events.

Next is Dr. Miller, to whom I am grateful for giving me the opportunity to do research in his lab. Dr. Miller is the advisor of the Student Members of the American Chemical Society, and I always enjoy our monthly meetings during which we plan social and academic events for the Chemistry Department and bond over bad chemistry puns.

And finally, I have enjoyed working with Dr. Mitchell for giving me the opportunity to sing on campus with the choirs of which I am a part. I have been singing in choirs since 10th grade. I knew I wouldn’t want to stop singing even when I got into college, so I asked several music professors about joining choirs. Thankfully, I was told that I wouldn’t need to take music classes to join the choirs. I have been singing in Racer Men’s Chorus and also recently joined EQ Blu, an acapella choir. I am so thankful to Dr. Mitchell for helping me continue singing.

Who inspires you in life?

I have found inspiration in many great people, and two such people are Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Gandhi is an advocate of peace and worked so hard to get others to embrace peace as well. I agree with him that violence accomplishes nothing; peaceful means are most effective. Mother Theresa inspires me because she is an incredibly selfless person. For example, she often went out of her way to find beggars on the street to tend to their wounds and do her best to heal and feed them. Both Gandhi and Mother Theresa are amazing people, and I strive to become like them.

What made you choose the major you did?

My childhood environment was one reason for my decision to make Japanese one of my majors. I grew up in Hong Kong, one of the most internationalized cities in Asia and a city which fully embraces many diverse cultures including Chinese, British, and Japanese culture. Because of this, I grew up surrounded by many cultures and was especially captivated by Japanese pop culture. After entering high school, I had the chance to take Japanese language classes. It was then that I knew that I wanted to learn and keep learning Japanese.

As for Chemistry/Pre-Dental, there is a funny story to my decision. I originally wanted to be a food connoisseur or food critic; I dreamed of going to cooking competitions getting paid to judge people’s cooking. Or possibly be a food blogger/TV show host who travels around the world on food adventures. However, I quickly realized that there is no major of study for food critiquing. So, I had to make a decision. I was thinking about food and the different careers related to food and finally made a connection. To eat food, one must have a healthy mouth, and to maintain a healthy mouth one goes to the dentist. Thus I decided that being a dentist would be a great idea because then I could keep myself healthy while continuing to eat delicious food all the time. And that was how I decided on the Pre-Dental major.

Work/projects related to your major?

The Japanese Club was created, or rather re-created in the Fall of 2015, and I have been involved with it since then. The main objective of the Japanese Club is to connect the Japanese study abroad students with American students and inspire cultural exchange. This year, I was elected Vice President of the Japanese Club, but even before that, I have been heavily involved in organizing social events for the foreign students as well as language events such as the Foreign Language Festival.

On the chemistry side, I am working with Dr. Miller to make organic polymers from aromatic compounds. Basically, we are making organic fibers and testing them for different properties such as heat resistance and electric conductivity.

Future plans:

I am currently a Junior, and after graduation, I plan to go to dental school. Hopefully, I will be accepted to an in-state dental school such as the one at University of Louisville or University of Kentucky. Either way, I will be in school for another four years after undergrad. Eventually, I hope to work in my own dental clinic, but I still have a long way to go.

I met Sunny for the first time when he was in high school, and I had a strong impression about him because he was incredibly fluent in Japanese as a high school student. Naturally, he was placed in the third year Japanese as an MSU freshman, and since then he has achieved great success in Japanese. He won 3rd place in Level 2 in the Tennessee Area Japanese Speech Contest in 2015. His level of Japanese language proficiency and his position of Vice President of the Japanese Club qualify him to connect American students and Japanese students. He is very personable and makes people feel very comfortable to be with him. Last summer, he participated in a full month KIIS Japan Program, which I directed. I witnessed that he was loved by his fellow students because of his generosity and willingness to share what he knows with others, including his knowledge of good food. Sunny is a well-rounded, genuine multicultural person.  

-Yoko Hatakeyama (Japanese Professor)



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