Updated: Sep 3, 2021
“I’m trying to find that sweet spot between the humanities and sciences.” Judy Liu, BC ‘19, tells me over the phone from India. Liu, who grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, spent her summer doing research in India for an organization called the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), in addition to taking a course on practicing cultural sensitivity while administering global healthcare to rural populations. Her independent research focused on village health workers, who are oftentimes lower caste women trained by CRHP to be the primary physicians and health workers of their village. Liu is drawing on her interviews of these women to write the script to a documentary on the CRHP that is being produced by a Dartmouth student. The key aspect of the research, she says, is “figuring out how to communicate medical narratives in a more personal way.”
An English major on the pre-med track, Liu arrived at Barnard with plans to major in Biology, but decided to switch to English after taking Fiction and Personal Narrative, a creative writing course taught by Professor Stacy DeRasmo.
Though she strongly identifies with Barnard’s predominately female environment, Liu is also a co-captain and coxswain of the Columbia men’s lightweight rowing team.
Being on the team has provided balance for Liu. “You kinda get the masculinity from being in that environment, just like in the real world,” Liu says. “For a lot of women who are going into certain industries, they will be primarily surrounded by men, and it’s taught me how to communicate and be comfortable in that environment.”
Much of Liu’s life outside of the classroom is devoted to her sport. Training begins in September, and the competitive season spans from March to June. “I have so much respect for the commitment [my teammates] put into the sport in terms of time, and emotionally,” Liu says. “Thirty hours of training per week plus academics plus trying to have a social life is very taxing sometimes, and during those small moments when you’re in the van or at practice, or just sitting down at John Jay with a meal, that’s when you get to know them the best.”
Liu praises her teammates but also does not shy away from addressing her sport’s reputation of being dominated by white, wealthy students. The majority of the team attended elite private schools before college, which was an adjustment for Liu coming from public high school.
As coxswain, Liu has always played a key organizational and leadership role in the operations of the team, but as a co-captain, she hopes to open up more avenues for communication about difficult topics.
“I think we oftentimes fail to realize that we are a very mature bunch and we can handle these difficult conversations [on race, gender, and class], we just want to make them available to have. We ended in a really good spot, we won championships, and I think that was the closest the team has ever been, partly because we had these moments and instances of difficulty that helped us build and become stronger.”
Liu’s primary piece of advice for the Class of 2022 is to “not be super pinned down to a certain group … I met so many people along the way who I didn’t follow up with because I was just like, it’s too many people to juggle, but if your instinct tells you, text that person back, definitely do it.”