For Ling Shao, a senior in nuclear engineering, the big news about becoming a celebrity was discovering she wasn't alone at the top.
In September, Glamour magazine announced that Ms. Shao has been selected as one of the Glamour Top Ten College Women. An article describing Ms. Shao's academic and personal achievements, complete with glossy photo, appeared in the magazine's September issue. Within a week, the "Names and Faces" section of the Boston Globe followed suit. Ms. Shao -- student, licensed practical nurse, aspiring helicopter pilot and veteran hurricane relief worker -- was a winner.
But it was the trip to New York City, during which Ms. Shao met the other nine winners of the annual contest, that impressed her.
"This experience really was an eye-opener for me. I never realized that there were so many other people who shared my enthusiasm to 'change the world.' It's easy to think, 'I'm just one person, how can I make a difference?' But when you meet a whole bunch of other people -- especially other women -- with the same motivations you have, you realize that the world is not doomed after all and that perhaps you are the shining light and the work that you do does make a difference," she said just after returning from the star-studded Glamour event in New York.
Using a hotel across the street from the Waldorf-Astoria as their Glamour "dorm," the 10 top college women -- including one from Harvard, one from Yale and two from Stanford -- joined flamboyant basketball star Dennis Rodman at a live taping of "The View," a New York TV show on women's issues. They enjoyed spa treatments in SoHo, and a Broadway show, Sideman, complete with a cast party.
The group also met with Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, who exhorted the young women to "live like warrior princesses;" lunched with Meema Spadola, producer and director of HBO documentaries "Breast" and "Private Dicks;" and dined with Farai Chideya, former ABC News correspondent and author of The Color of Our Future.
Ms. Shao complimented Glamour Top Ten Coordinator Karen Lubek on a "great week where we were pampered and reminded to take care of ourselves." But mostly she praised the contest for giving her a new sense of belonging to a generation of optimists.
"Being recognized by Glamour is a great feeling, but knowing that there are many, many other people trying to change the world for the better is an even more incredible feeling. This trip has been more inspiring than I ever could have imagined. I highly encourage everyone to enter in this competition in the coming years," Ms. Shao said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 20, 1999.