One moment, Shicong “Bunny” Xu may be in a laboratory, working toward her biochemistry degree. A couple of hours later, she could be sitting in a classroom at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, listening to a lecture about supply and demand. This is where things start hopping.
She is an economics major, too.
Bunny says pursuing bachelor’s degrees from two different University of Arkansas colleges wasn’t intentional. When she first enrolled at the university, it was at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, where she indulged herself in science. Yet, she couldn’t ignore her surroundings. “There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools,” she says.
After speaking with Jason Adams, director of the Walton College honors program, Bunny realized she wanted to explore majoring in business as well.
“I found that I liked both, so why not stick with them?”
She says she’s still defining her career path, one that could include the business side of pharmaceuticals or working as a chemist in the nuclear power field, or maybe a combination of the two.
That path included coming to the United States as a 13-year-old with her mother from their hometown of Jilin, a snowy and sometimes bitterly cold province in China. Settling in Rogers, Bunny says the heat and humidity was a dramatic change. “But we love Arkansas now,” she says. “It’s a beautiful state.”
As a newcomer to the United States, Bunny spoke only Chinese and was required to take an English as a second language class her first semester of school. She also followed her mother’s advice of reading 50 pages of English text a day. Bunny caught on fast. After only one semester, Bunny scored high enough on her English proficiency exam to attend classes with the rest of the school.
Four years after moving to Rogers, she was accepted to the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Science and the Arts in Hot Springs. She lived in a dormitory and concentrated on math and science as a discipline, which, she says, was like a smaller version of a university.
In her junior year at the University of Arkansas, she was an Honors student and lists studying abroad in Japan as one of the high points of her college career. She says she hopes to study overseas again, this time in India.
Meanwhile, Bunny is focusing energy on her two honors theses – one involving protein participation under the guidance of biochemistry associate professor Paul Adams. She’s still working out the details for her Walton College thesis.
Bunny is also active in several campus chapter organizations, including the National Retail Federation Student Association, which is sponsored by Walton College’s Center for Retailing Excellence, Circle K International, the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and the Chemistry Club.
She says she learned to manage her time effectively in high school and usually devotes three to five hours daily to her studies. She says she turns off her cellphone and all social networks on her computer when doing her schoolwork, and she is usually in bed by 11 p.m. and gets up each day at 7 a.m. “Because I get enough sleep, it helps me concentrate better,” she says.
Bunny is also a supplemental instruction leader for economics professor Charles Britton’s macroeconomics class. Each week, she and about 45 students review the previous lesson in her role as both tutor and adviser. “I’ve been in those students’ shoes before,” she says. “I can help them out.”
As for her nickname, she says she initially wanted her adopted American name to be “Bonnie.” This was before she mastered her English, and many interpreted her to say “Bunny,” instead. “I just kind of got stuck there,” she says. “I like it.”