Episode Notes | Episode Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   3-Minute Listen

Lorena James is a graduate of Davidson College with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Social Science and Chinese Studies.

Lorena’s college experience is one of constant exploration and growth.

She continued to pursue her academic interest in China. She did a Study abroad program in Shanghai, China. She majored in Environmental Studies instead of Biology, after she launched her first eco-startup at the end of high school.

Resourceful always, Lorena started her second startup during the pandemic, 4Ever Curly, an entirely environmentally friendly hair care product for Black Women living in Asia.

Lorena recently won the Schwarzman Scholarship to pursue Graduate Studies in China.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Davidson: Great Experience
  2. Why Davidson?
  3. Supportive Classmates
  4. Eco Friendly Hair care Startup
  5. Advice for Aspiring Students

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Lorena James on Davidson College: Environmental Studies, Ecopreneur, and Passion for China.

Lorena started learning Mandarin in middle school. In her senior year of high school, Lorena created her first eco-friendly startup that produced 3D filament made from invasive species from Lake Erie.

Lorena James is a graduate of Davidson College with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Social Science and Chinese Studies.

In particular, we discuss the following with her:

  • Choosing Davidson College
  • Majoring in Environmental Social Science
  • Being an Ecopreneur
  • Study Abroad in China
  • Advice to Aspirants

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Lorena James, Davidson College [0:51]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:51]
  • Davidson - Great Experience [4:10]
  • Why Davidson? [4:38]
  • All Rounder in High School [5:53]
  • Smooth Transition to College [9:06]
  • Supportive Peers & Profs [10:32]
  • Wellness Startup during COVID [12:33]
  • Compatible Dorm-mates [15:27]
  • Dance, Entrepreneurship & Volunteering [18:07]
  • Study Abroad & Passion for China [22:06]
  • Summers & Eco Friendly Haircare [25:49]
  • Majoring in Environmental Studies [30:23]
  • A Schwarzman Scholar [34:36]
  • How Davidson prepared you for post-College? [36:50]
  • Davidson Redo [39:05]
  • Advice to Aspiring Students [41:21]
  • Memories: Walks with Friends [43:02]

Our Guest: Lorena James is a graduate of Davidson College with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Social Science and Chinese Studies. Lorena is a Schwarzman Scholar.

Memorable Quote: “I remember we only spent one day in Shanghai. But when I visited it was my favorite city. I knew one day, I had to come back and study there or like this visit again. And fortunately, I was able to do that. My sophomore year, exactly four years later.” Lorena James on her visit to China in High School.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Lorena James 0:14

Fortunately, I was able to do that my sophomore year at Davidson, exactly four years later, where I did really a political science focus program. But we also did a bit of like sustainability. You also learn some Mandarin over there as well. I studied at University in Shanghai. Yeah, I went with about nine or eight or nine other Davidson students. It was a great experience. I, I took classes.

I also had sort of an internship on the side working with a manufacturing consultancy in the city. It was a small startup, you know, owned by a couple of American guys.

Venkat  0:51  [Introduction to Lorena James, Davidson College]

Lorena James is a graduate of Davidson College with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Social Science and Chinese Studies.

In middle school, Lorena started learning Mandarin.

In high school she played Lacrosse, learned modern ballet.

Then,  for an entrepreneurship class in her HS senior year, Lorena created her first eco-friendly startup that produced 3D filament made from invasive species from Lake Erie.

Lorena James joins us today to talk about her Davidson College years.

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Lorena  1:51  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Davidson: Great Experience]

Overall, Davidson experience was really, really great. That pandemic sort of happened halfway through my junior year at Davidson. So it was a bit of a strange experience.

[Why Davidson]

All of the academic experiences that I want to time I want to study biology on possibly genetics. That's essentially why I chose to visit Davidson.

[Supportive Classmates]

Yeah, we'll see that we all take our academics very seriously. But as I mentioned before, there's zero sense of competition we're all very supportive if you like need help with like, you know, looking over an essay or help with a math or science problem problem of course, you know, we have tutors, but plenty of times I asked us like a close friend to read over an essay or vice versa and.


[Eco Friendly Hair care Startup]

And then because yeah, and then this summer after my junior year, again, I want to study rod didn't happen to start I stayed home and started Yeah, 4everCurly, my second startup where essentially I learned how to make shampoo bars are different types of haircare products that don't, aren't packaged with plastic. Essentially, I was trying to focus on using zero plastic and the manufacturing of my products.

[For Aspiring Students]

Live LinkedIn, it's a great way to reach out to Alum from Davidson. Oh, hey, I'm an incoming I'm a I'm a stay within applicant I'm looking to you know, attend Davidson for college. We should be free for maybe like half an hour to have a conversation or even if you have questions ready, it makes you know, sheets and a few questions on LinkedIn and hasn't answered them.

Venkat Raman  3:36

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Lorena. So without further ado, over to Lorena James!

Venkat Raman  3:40  

Ok Lorena, let me start by welcoming you to the podcast. College Matters Alma Matters. Thank you so much for making the time. I am really looking forward to our conversation about Davidson College. You just graduated, so congratulations first. And so we can just dive right into it. I you know, you're just coming off school. So what did it feel like? What was the experience like?

Lorena  4:10  [Davidson - Great Experience]

Yeah, I've always said overall Davidson experience was really, really great. That pandemic started. It happened halfway through my junior year at Davidson. So it was a bit of a strange experience. Especially because a lot of my Davis experience was planned to be spent abroad. Overall, I think I made the most out of us somewhat unfortunate situation.

Venkat Raman  4:34  

Maybe you can start with why you went to Davidson.

Lorena  4:38  [Why Davidson?]

For sure. Um, so I initially visited Davidson for the first time during like, I was like a low income student flyin program for the place you call it. And from what I saw online before this experience before the flying program, Davidson seemed to be you know, really welcoming of all of the academic issues that I wanted. At that time I wanted to study biology, possibly genetics, because that's essentially why I chose to visit Davidson.

In addition, I additionally applied through a program called QuestBridge, which again, is a program intended to sponsor low income students to attend different liberal arts schools across the country. So yeah, so I was at Davidson I loved the campus, loved the professors, one of the biggest things I liked, especially when interacting with students, I realized that it was wasn't really competitive at all, like students never really compare the grades with each other students didn't really discuss the yellow the grades at all. So very supportive environment, which I really appreciated.

Venkat Raman  5:46  

Maybe you can tell us a little bit about what you would like in high school? What were your interests? What things kind of excited you?

Lorena  5:53  [All Rounder in High School]

Yeah, definitely. In terms of, I guess, academic stuff, I kind of work I was really into the sciences. So chemistry, biology, I did an internship, sorry, my summer is involving bioinformatics in the city of Buffalo, where I'm from, so I sort of went into my college application process thinking I was going to major in biology. That was my main focus.

But then my senior year, I took a an entrepreneurship course it was called, like an entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial studies was essentially, we were almost little consultants, you could say, for startups in the city of Buffalo. Just sort of what it was like to own a startup to solve problems, when you were a small entrepreneur in a city like Buffalo.

And that experience really love being an entrepreneur entrepreneurship to solve some problems in my city, or in my local area. And as also sort of with my passions for environmental studies, I started thinking of ways to address environmental issues using entrepreneurship. So for my final product for the class, I created a startup that used invasive shell species from Lake Erie to create 3d printing filament.

So that was sort of the beginning of my first startup. And that also sort of being realized that maybe I don't want to do bioinformatics anymore, maybe I want to go into more of a business focused career. So that inspired me to look more into entrepreneurship. During my time at Davidson, and then also majoring in environmental studies instead, instead of biology or chemistry.

Venkat Raman  7:37  

No, that's, that's really awesome.

Venkat Raman  7:39  

Now, what do you do outside of class in high school? What were you into other activities?

Lorena  7:45  

Um, so my high school is related to sports. So I played lacrosse field hockey for a few years. And then I started taking dance classes, instead of sport so so modern ballet, I perform it every year in our showcases on at my high school. And I was fortunately able to continue doing this at Davidson, which is really great. So yeah, definitely the arts, I was really into learning about different cultures through, you could say, teeth I started I called the office medicine club. But essentially, with every week, we would meet up and try different teas that I got from different areas in the city of Buffalo. And specifically from Oh, there was like a, an Iroquois medicine shop in the city. And we took a little like field trip there and learned about the Iroquois medicine in western New York. So that was really great. Obviously, I guess, learning about different cultures through that way. Through let's say, like teas, and you know, nature and all of that. Yeah.

Venkat Raman  8:49  

Armed with all this wonderful experience, and background and sort of aspirations you landed at Davidson. So what was what was that transition? Like from high school to college? How did, how did all that go?

Lorena  9:06  [Smooth Transition to College]

Yeah. For me, I'd say in terms of academics, it was pretty smooth. Nothing really out of the ordinary, except I took a programming course, class, my first semester, Davidson, and to this day, hardest class I've ever taken, I thought about majoring, but I after that class, to try at the very least, the one thing that I think I almost kind of regret doing too, I feel like I was taking my academics into professional pursuits a little bit too seriously. I would say, you know, colleagues, you know, it's a time for you to grow as a student and to grow as a professional. It's also time, it's time to have fun. It was time to make friends. And you know, there's a lot of fun, different events happening on campus and I feel like I didn't I You know, spending time with friends and social events were a waste of time was not a good thing to think. Because then COVID happened my junior year, and then I actually didn't even have the option hang out with friends. So that's something that I regret doing. I guess, taking academics in my work a little bit too seriously.

Venkat Raman  10:23  

You mentioned your peers and classmates a bit early on. What was your overall impression about all the folks you met at Davidson?

Lorena  10:32  [Supportive Peers & Profs]

Yeah, they were all really great, supportive, friendly people. I would say it's kind of funny a little bit. But I would think I think the closest friends that I made Davidson, what were just during my Davidson in China program. So it was a semester long study abroad program in Shanghai. And while I went, I didn't know any of my classmates at all that end of the semester, they became some of my closest friends, I still talk to you today.

But yeah, we'll see that we all take our academics very seriously. But as I mentioned, before, there's zero sense of competition, we're all very supportive, if you like, need help with like, you know, looking over an essay or help with a math or science problem, of course, you know, we have tutors. But plenty of times, I've asked a close friend to read over an essay, or vice versa. And we're all just there to support each other, which is really, really, really great.

Then they also to have fun together, there were some times know where you might go out to the restaurants in Charlotte, or, you know, go on a hike, we have like a Davidson outdoors program. So it's time to you know, spend time outdoors and do fun things together with friends.

Venkat Raman  11:36  

What did you think of the professors?

Lorena  11:39  

The professors also really, really amazing, very supportive, I would say. And I think it's partially because they were so small, about 2000 students, so very small campus, and therefore professors have quite a bit of time for office hours, I took advantage of this pre COVID. But once COVID kicked in, they still definitely did a great job of offering office hours on zoom. But it wasn't the same feeling. You know, I feel like I've personally got very close a lot of my professors and definitely see myself continuing to seek mentorship throughout my career post Davidson. And just like sitting down in their office and just talking about classwork, or even just, you know, like career stuff that might even relate to this specific class we're taking with them. They're all just there to support you. Appreciate it.

Venkat Raman  12:33  [Wellness Startup during COVID]

You know, you've mentioned and it's hard to not mention COVID a few times so far. So, maybe a little bit about the experience over the last year and a half. You know, what has been like, of course, it's very different from being on campus. But how did you cope and what what takeaways are there for you?

Lorena  12:56  

Yeah, so once COVID hit, I was working on a my previous startup, I think I sort of mentioned previously these schools where I was making 3d printing filament and I was working on it for about three years. And it was really draining I do not come from a tech background so it was difficult for me to work on solo for sure. So when COVID hit it really made me sit back and focus more on sort of my well being my wellness and health. So I took a break from the schools and started a new startup I know it sounds kind of strange like for your mental health start a new business. I started making haircare products and for myself you know, as a as a black woman, I definitely take a lot of good care of my hair, I know my wash days I almost view them as sort of a date and take care of myself and you know, wash and braid my hair and all of that and I want to make products sustainably onto other women that also wanted you know, that view taking care of their hair as a day of rest of the day and wellness and all that so I focused on that it's all sort of how my second startup from acrylic came about. And then I went into this spring semester of my junior year working on that. I think it definitely helped a lot with my mental health. I feel like the past year and a half I for sure have been prioritizing that instead of you know doing the normal just just academically just um professional work and all of that adulty spending more time with friends what while Moses I wasn't in person because he knows Zoo friends also really important during the past year and a half Yeah, that sort of those those things definitely got me through this this tough time.

Venkat Raman  14:44  

That was it all online, or did you have some hybrid classes as well?

Lorena  14:50  

Um, yeah, I think for the most part, it was all online. I had a couple of classes in person. The guy was like a physics class before my senior year that was in person. Oh, I'm in a dance class that was partially in person, but for the most part all virtual.

Venkat Raman  15:06  


Venkat Raman  15:10  

Okay, so let's sort of now segue over to the campus life, such as it was pre COVID What was it like? Maybe the dorms and the environment? What did you think of that?

Lorena  15:27  [Compatible Dorm-mates]

Yeah, um, the I can start with the dorms living situation. My freshman year, there's a dorm called belt, which is the biggest dormitory on campus. And mostly first year is live there. And Davidson is an amazing job. I would say, personally, of matching you up with a roommate, you don't you don't choose your first roommate, um, you do a bunch of like, you know, Myers Briggs tests, and, you know, like personality tests. And I, my first roommate, while we we only lived together our first year, because because then I went to study abroad my sophomore year, but to say we're very close friends. And yeah, probably like one of my closest friends and I needed a bit since I would say that, you know, they do an amazing job of cleaning up with someone. And then after that, most students don't study abroad until their junior but I study abroad my sophomore year. So when I came back, Davidson, that spring, I was just put into sort of a random dorm. Fortunately, we happen to be one of my close friends. So that was also really great. I was living in like, a double room with her. And then my junior year, again, living with a pretty close friend in the fall. And then I was supposed to study abroad, my junior spring, but you know, COVID happened. And, um, and then again, place with a random person, again, with a roommate, and again, a great situation. I feel like Davidson does a great job with living and, you know, roommates and everything. The food on campus is, I would say it's pretty, it's reasonable. I think one of the things I would say, I don't like as much what it is not that it's bad. But I think as someone I am, I'm dairy free. So I don't eat a lot of you know, no cheese, no milk or anything like that. That's a little a few limits on things. But overall, I think it's pretty positive. I heard they're opening like a qdoba on campus next year. So it is improving with that for sure. Yeah, I think it was like living situation. And then with like, you know, his union board on campus, so they organize a lot of really fun events. I would say one of my favorites was he has a Harry Potter events, they like rated the Student Union, like Hogwarts, they don't look just like Hogwarts for the most part. And they have like, you know, a Harry Potter themed food and everything. And they definitely do a great job of organizing events for students. And it's almost there's so much to do that. The first year you feel kind of bad, because you're like you're missing out on so much. And all that but never a boring moment, I would say Davidson.

Venkat Raman  18:02  

So what kind of things did you do? Where were you into? I see you were very busy.

Lorena  18:07  [Dance, Entrepreneurship & Volunteering]

Yeah, so I would say my biggest commitment was called Gamut. It's our on campus Dance Company. Prior to COVID, I did a lot with them. I choreograph a lot of modern pieces, dancing with my other company members, depending technique classes, things like that. So that was really great. A good way to sort of keep active and meet other students like shooting this was a fairly interact with outside of dance class yes, I didn't meet many people.

My some of my second other big commitment is entrepreneurship related. So

Venkat Raman  18:43  


Lorena  18:45  

something on campus called the Hurt Hub, which is sort of our Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. And it was opened officially my sophomore year. So pretty, a pretty new thing on campus. But I think it's really important for students to think about having the entrepreneurial mindset, um, even if you don't want to be an entrepreneur, I career wise, having those skills, the skill set of an entrepreneurial, being ambitious, being creative, like following your passions, problem solving. I think that's all really important skills to have no matter what field you go into. And Davidson recognizes this. So they're trying to you know, they have like different classes, they aren't for a credit but essentially, you can learn, you know, how to build your personal brand and marketing. You know, like legal classes and stuff that you can take in even if you're not trying to entrepreneurs. Yeah, it's so important. I feel like students to have that kind of experience. So I did a lot with that on campus for sure.

Um, and then yeah, the third thing was try everything in China related. So my minor is Chinese studies. So I studied abroad and then I was also on the eboard of our Chinese culture club. So you know, supporting the Chinese community on campus. And then also sort of helping organize and market different events we had on campus related to different Chinese holidays and things like that.

Venkat Raman  20:10  

No, sounds very diverse, very rich sort of experience. Now, anything else on campus that you are enrolled in

Lorena  20:23  

Certain years, I would say I dip my toe in a bit of everything I think, Davidson is that, you know, you can try something you don't like it, you move on to something else. But I think it's important for you to, you know, try as much as you can. I did have some volunteering. The summer after my freshman year, Davidson, I did a Sustainability Scholars Program. So I worked with an urban farm organization in the city of Charlotte, to help address the issue of food deserts and food insecurity in Charlotte. After that internship, I continued to volunteer with them throughout the rest of the time of Davidson. So that was a really great experience. Um, something Yeah, difficult to do once COVID started, but definitely a great thing to do volunteering, and even I try to always try to invite some of my friends to volunteer with me. So before that internship, I don't think I was as passionate about food insecurity and agriculture and farming and things like that. But working with it was called friendship gardens. They had a partner organization called the bulb in Charlotte, and great are they saying great founders definitely inspired more of the food sustainability part of me for sure. And yeah, that's, that's about it. Yeah.

Venkat Raman  21:42  

That's quite a bit.

Venkat Raman  21:47  

Okay, so I you know, what, I really want to get into your study abroad. I'm totally intrigued by your interest in China, Chinese studies. So maybe first, why China? Or why Chinese? How did that happen? And then tell me about your experience abroad?

Lorena  22:06  [Study Abroad & Passion for China]

Yeah, for sure. So I would say, I started learning Mandarin in fifth grade. I guess, because of my mother, she really wanted me to, I will see herself as a businesswoman. And she saw the value in learning Mandarin. This was like in 2009. A while ago, but you know, she saw the value of learning Mandarin, in a business in the business world. So I started doing that I made a lot of my friends in that class. So that sort of inspired me to stick with it. And I had the great fortune of being able to travel to China, during my sophomore year of high school for an exchange program. And actually, I lived in Palm for like about a week and a half. I wasn't the host family. And then we also visited Beijing and Shanghai. And I was really fun. I remember, we only spent one day in Shanghai. But when I visited, I was missing. I was my favorite city. By far the visited in China. I knew that one day, I had to come back and study there or like this visit again. And fortunately, I was able to do that my sophomore year. So exactly four years later, where I did really overlook a political science focus program. We also did a bit of like, sustainability and also learn some Mandarin over there as well. Study, University in Shanghai. Yeah, I went with about nine or eight or nine other Davidson students. And he was a great experience. I, I took classes, I also had sort of an internship on the side working with a manufacturing consultancy in the city. It was a small startup, you know, owned by a couple of American guys. So it was a really great experience to have. And I was like 90, coupling my education and classes with real world real experience internship. And then also we were able to do a lot of side trips, we went to like your non province, and southwest China, went to visit Beijing for like a week or so. But yeah, I think that experience really made me fall in love with Shanghai. And I think without that experience, I don't think I would have taken my passion for you know, living in China studying trying to work in China seriously now. And it definitely inspired me to apply later on for the Schwartzman Scholars Program, which I'll be doing this upcoming August, which is coming up pretty quickly. Yeah, that was really great. And then the summer after that experience, I ended up returning to Shanghai to do some research for my senior capstone. Then it was, it was really great experience because I was able to essentially interview other what I call ecopreneurs. So entrepreneurs focusing on you know, addressing different environmental issues through their, through their businesses, and my intentions were to, you know, interview them, put together this capstone project and then return The summer after my junior year to intern with one of them, but unfortunately, that wasn't, that was not possible. But I definitely I try to keep in touch with people that I interviewed because they're very, very inspiring. And they also again, inspired me to apply for the sports installers program later on. Yeah, that's sort of in a brief summary is my study abroad experience at Davidson?

Venkat Raman  25:26  

Before I kind of jump into talking about your majors, what did you do the college summers you alluded to one of them where you kind of got into the food insecurity aspect. What did you do? The other summers I guess you had a pretty short list of summers because of COVID. But what do you do different years?

Lorena  25:49  [Summers & Eco Friendly Haircare]

So yeah, that was the the food insecurity was the summer after my freshman year and then the summer after my sophomore year, it was sort of a two main things I did was go back to Shanghai and I networked to interview different ecopreneurs in the city and then also took a man again intensive Mandarin course, in the same in the same city, but it was it was kind of strange because I am I entered China on like a on a tourist visa for sale. So I was able to, you know, conduct these interviews. But my language program, I had to be on a student visa. So I had to like go to Hong Kong to renew my visa. And this was the summer when the Hong Kong protests were happening. Right. So that was a it was an interesting time to be in Hong Kong. But I actually had another Davidson friend that was from Hong Kong, either that somewhere around that was really fun. And so yeah, I already my visa then went back to China for my language program. So yeah, that was pretty much the summer after my sophomore year, I think it's definitely really important if you have the ability to with your credits and everything to study abroad.

 And I guess also with COVID, have you had the chance to I think it's really important to do. And then because yeah, and then this summer after my junior year, again, I want to study abroad didn't happen. So instead, I stayed home and started Yeah, 4ever curly. Currently my second startup where essentially I learned how to make shampoo bars, different types of haircare products that don't, aren't packaged with plastic, essentially, I was trying to focus on using zero plastic and the manufacturing of my product. So yeah, that summer, I did a like an incubation program or an accelerator program with University of Buffalo. So it was like a whole virtual program. And essentially, it allowed me to incubate 4ever curly.

And I was put in contact love with different mentors, and received lots of support. Both Yeah, both mentorship and even financial support from University of Buffalo for my startup.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I did that summer, then yeah, now I'm summer off my senior year. I'm sort of my new take a break a little bit. Yes to myself before grad school. And yeah, that's pretty much it.

Venkat Raman  28:07  

No, no, that's, that's, that's great. Now, how did you make the products your curly products during the COVID? time? I mean, how did you get that done?

Lorena  28:16  

Yeah, so it was really Yes. You know, googling different recipes. And finding places online ideally, to ideally, websites out, you know, are ethical and sustainable and all that to purchase my products in bulk from, like, you know, shea butter, coconut oil, things like that. I think the hardest thing to make is, I would say like the shampoo bars, because it's a little bit of chemistry involved with that. Yeah, use a lie, which is somewhat dangerous to use. Yeah, that's right. gloves and goggles and everything. And yeah, so that I was able to do that on LinkedIn. I feel like LinkedIn is so so important. I wish I could emphasize it more, I use the ultimate Hydra Davidson but I think was really important when I was feeling 4ever curly, because I was able to reach out to different mentors on LinkedIn, essentially, look up, you know, women in the haircare like black hair industry and just people and I got quite a few responses back and I still kind of keep in touch with people that you know, reach back out to me and eventually you have provided guidance to the past year on my work and 4ever probably, which has been really amazing. Um, yeah, it was it was pretty much it.

I feel like my Well, my overall goal with Frederick really was to sell and provide her products for black women living in Asia. Because, in my own my own personal experience living in China for almost pretty much a year. It's almost impossible to find, you know, the haircare products that I'm used to using until I do find them they're like, marked up by some crazy amount. Like you know, I'll buy a bottle official us for like four bucks. And in China, it's like $25 and I would refuse to pay it. So you know, it's just it's a little sci fi issue that you know, people face They know how textured hair living in mainly in different parts of Asia. But my goal is to address that issue with 4ever currently.

And while I probably won't be returning to Asia for the next year or so, it's something that I'm sort of trying to start while I'm in the United States, so that Thomas can go back to China, I can hit the ground running, and start selling my products in person.

Venkat Raman  30:23  [Majoring in Environmental Studies]

Good luck really all the best with that. I mean, that's, that's great stuff. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about your major. I mean, I think you've sort of shared a lot of light on your interest in environmental studies, as well as Chinese studies. You did say that you did you love biology in high school. And that transformed in your sort of senior year in high school. And obviously, the all your work as an equal printer has shaped what you become so does a little bit about that, you know, how you ended up just wanting to major in that? And did you is Chinese studies a minor? Or is that also a major?

Lorena  31:08  

Yes, I studies is a minor for me, I think I think they have a Chinese language literature major. I think for a while I love learning the language. The culture is also interesting to me as well. It's sort of why just stuck with the the minor.

Venkat Raman  31:24  

Sure. So, um, environmental. So how did you end up sort of just zeroing in on that?

Lorena  31:32  

Yeah, so Davidson actually has an amazing, um, Environmental Studies Department. It's really focused on a lot of sort of environmental justice issues. I didn't know that at all for Davidson, or for for going to Davidson. I think my I think my intentions with environmental studies, as you know, I'm really passionate about entrepreneurship business. I'm really passionate about environmental issues, because, you know, I've been able to learn so much about it through my previous startup, but see schools and everything. But Davidson didn't have a business major. So I feel like probably afterwards, did I probably biggest majored in business in mind and environmental studies. But I'm glad that wasn't the case. Because I think it's so important for people really, in any field, especially business and entrepreneurship, to value the environment a lot more, I see the importance of sustainability a lot more. I feel like sometimes I I'll pitch it, like, you know, different business case competitions, you know, entrepreneurship, pictures and stuff like that. And it's a little bit to my dismay, that I don't see more people addressing different environmental issues, whether it's, you know, plastic waste, climate change, co2 emissions, all that stuff through entrepreneurship, there's so many different ways to do that. I remember when my first my very first pitch competition that I did in high school, I'm Jeff Hoffman was sort of a mentor there, these these the founder of like Priceline, and a few other organizations. But his, one of the pieces of advice that he gave us, that I saw, were to say, essentially, you know, entrepreneurship is really just another word for problem solving. And that's what you are as an entrepreneur, you are a problem solver. So keep that in the forefront of your mind whenever you're, you know, doing anything business related. So I was thinking, Well, what are issues that I really care about? And, you know, environmental issues came up almost immediately. So I sort of I was put two and two together was really passionate about that. So I figured that just focusing on environmental studies, and then sort of almost studying, you could say, business entrepreneurship on the side, just through the experience of starting a business was enough for me. So that's essentially why I stuck with the Environmental Studies major. And fortunately, while you know, I was able to study business entrepreneurship, at my capstone, for my major environmental justice, environmental art, I did not second I learned so much about ways that art is used as a form of activism and environmental studies. But as an artist, myself, maybe a dancer, but I was really appreciative of that sort of very well rounded education I received through the Environmental Studies Department.

Venkat Raman  34:27  

Let's talk a little bit about being a Schwarzman scholar. I mean, who is a Schwarzman scholar, and how did you kind of become one?

Lorena  34:36  [A Schwarzman Scholar]

Yeah, so I would sort of say that the Schwarzman scholars Schwarzman Scholar Program I was looking for I was like very high achieving young leaders who value education and focus on China and its role in sort of the rest of the world. And through my application process, I sort of learned that there's three things that they really sort of emphasize are available for applicants, and it's your your leadership, your intellect, and your character, those are sort of three things I really focus on sort of reflecting on when I was applying. But fortunately for me, I heard of the program. For the first time my sophomore year, I Davidson, it was brought to me by one of my professors. And you know, while you can't really apply, you can't you can't apply until your summer after your junior year is bs or apply. But I've sort of learned about the program, I knew that I was passionate about learning about China studying China odd stuff. Like it sort of made sense for me and my next step, but fortunately, I you definitely don't have to have any prior experience with China, whether it's no child and in China learning Mandarin, like you don't have to have that any of that. I know, I would say probably half of the, like non Chinese students that are Schwarzman scholars, I'm half of them have gone to China before I studied Mandarin before and half of them like I've never studied Chinese never one time before. So that's the problem, you have to sort of understand what you want to do with your career or what your passions are, and how you can learn from China to apply, you know, your passions and interested your studies in China. So yeah, that's that's the gist of the program. Yeah, I start it August, excited. But also, you know, realizing that I probably will not be in China, probably for the first semester. But you know, we'll see what happens. Sure.

Venkat Raman  36:35  

Let's move forward, and sort of just reflect on how you think Davidson has prepared you for your life after college. I mean, I know you're just, you just graduated. How do you feel?

Lorena  36:50  [How Davidson has prepared you for post-College?]

I feel, I feel good. I feel I always think back to the person that I was my freshman year at Davidson, and realize how much I've changed from I think, as I sort of mentioned before, like I was, I was very, like, bored type A, my freshman year, Davidson and slowly I learned to, to enjoy life and have fun and realizing that, you know, life is about the people that you meet and the experiences that you have. And you don't need to take everything so seriously. And I think even I learned this, you know, I think I mentioned my, the internship that I had, during the fall and fall semester in Shanghai, talking with my supervisors at that internship, you know, even they emphasize, you know, life is just about you, you you're constantly learning after Davidson, I'm still a forever student, whether it's in the classroom, or walking down the street, in a foreign country, or something you constantly learning. And I've learned to appreciate my friendships with just like, my friends have currently people that I'm soon to meet my family even, like, it's a really emphasizes, you know, educating and nurturing you as a whole person and not just as a student, which I really, really appreciate it. So I think the biggest thing I learned how to take my wellness and mental health seriously, because you really cannot be successful at all, if you don't put yourself first in that way and make sure that you are a whole healthy community. Only then can you move on and you know, help and support others in your work.

Venkat Raman  38:36  

As you reflect on these past four years, if you were to go back to Davidson again, I mean, if you could relive that, what would you do differently? When you mentioned about being you know, somewhat less I don't want to say the less academic but you know, less obsessive, I guess. But what would you What would you do differently? What are things that you would have liked to have done but didn't do?

Lorena  39:05  [Davidson Redo]

Yeah, I would say I would do at Davidson, I think, I've completely forgotten the name of it, but it's it's a pre orientation trip essentially you can do so some of them are a volunteer focus, some of them are more outdoors focus of going on a hike was actually the time for you to meet interact with your seen to be classmates the summer before your freshman year.

And I did not do that. Because I was like, I have to work on my business. I have no professional. And I'm like, why don't I do that? Because it's a great way to make friends before you start classes. And that's really important thing to do. So that's one thing I'll go back and do differently.

And then somewhat similarly, but I feel like sometimes I would, I would think that you know I need to study by myself. I cannot study with my friends because I feel like I'll get distracted. But I think there there are ways to balance that and I feel like you know going to the library and studying and working with your friends is Great vegas nevada hanging out with people and meeting people and you can definitely be productive and work with other people. But for some reason that I had in my brain guy you know I have to be by myself in my room studying and then COVID started that I had to be by myself and I was like shoot I should have I should have done it before See.

I think really it's the main thing is just you know, me as many people as you can interact with as many people as you can at least in my experience Davidson everyone has a story to tell everyone everyone is that are really lucky enough to see you know, having lunch with someone or going on a walk around the town Davidson is how to eat and it's really a cute quaint southern town very nice very safe sometimes especially during the summers I spent there I wouldn't say no at nighttime like walk around there over the you know, nice warmth or fireflies very like a serene moment and just like have to yourself or to share it with your friends and in the town. See, I guess have fun, learn some and meet new people I think that's what I would sort of do differently.

Venkat Raman  41:07  

That leads right into advising aspiring students applying to college or maybe even applying to Davidson what would you tell them?

Lorena  41:21  [Advice to Aspiring Students]

Yeah, I would say if you can visit If not, even if you can't, I would say again utilize LinkedIn it's a great way to reach out to alum from Davidson oh hey I'm an incoming a Stevenson applicant I'm looking to you know attend Davidson for college. We should be free for maybe like half an hour to you know have a conversation or even if you have questions ready it makes you know sheets and a few questions on LinkedIn and hasn't answered them but even that newbie, happy to hop on the phone with you or hop on a Zune call and talk with you because I think all Davidson alum are very passionate and really want to really want to reminisce about their their time with David since leaving Kathy to support perspective, Davis and students. Even I didn't even know that when I was applying. I had a friend from high school who's like a family friend. And when she found out she had never met me before, but hopping on a phone call with me and wrote me a recommendation letter for Davidson, even though like I'd never met her before. These are big names and fans forever Wildcats and definitely would love to support prospective students. So yeah, don't be afraid to reach out to people even even the you know, reach out to the happy to answer any questions you might have or even write us nation letter? I don't know. For sure.

Venkat Raman  42:46  

So Lorena, we are approaching the end of a podcast before we sign off. I wanted you to share maybe some memories or some traditions at Davidson. Anything else that you want to talk about that we may not have covered?

Lorena  43:02  [Memories: Walks with Friends]

For sure, I would say at least as a woman at Davidson, we have what are called Eating Houses. So instead of having traditional sororities, essentially a sorority-esque but just sort of a way to meet other people on campus and every spring you would have what are called formal so it's actually like a dance off campus. I went to a couple of them Davidson and lovely some of my fondest memories you know having fun with my friends off campus at those called the quarry so cute little like waterfall slash Lake situation and really a very fun time definitely a good way to meet people. Then I sort of mentioned he's having taking walks around saw Davidson but yeah, that's definitely a really great, sounds it sounds boring. But with a friend you you have really great authentic, they call these really great conversations about life on campus, your passions, your ambitions, everything anything can come up so it's it's a great way to either make your friendships deeper or to make new friends isn't walking around campus or walking around with those or I can recall a handful of conversations that I've had just walking around and some of my fondest memories while may sound boring. So my fondest memories for sure.

Venkat Raman  44:27  

No, this, this has been a great discussion, Lorena. I really appreciate you taking the time. There's a lot of energy, passion, and I wish you all the best in all your endeavors. And thank you for making the time I'm sure this is gonna be very beneficial to our listeners. So I'm sure I want to talk to you more as you sort of progress in with various things. But till then, take care be safe. I'll talk to you soon.


Venkat  45:04

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Lorena James about Davidson College.

Lorena’s college experience is one of constant exploration and growth.

She continued to pursue her academic interest in China. She did Study abroad program in Shanghai, China.

She decided to major in Environmental Studies instead of Biology, after she launched her first startup at the end of high school.

Resourceful always, Lorena started her second startup during the pandemic, 4Ever Curly, an entirely environmentally friendly hair care product for Black Women living in Asia.

Lorena recently won the Schwarzman Scholarship to pursue Graduate Studies in China.

After listening to Lorena, I am sure you want to check out Davidson College.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

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