Hannah Feng is one of six University of Michigan undergraduates to be awarded the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship for Public Service. For her research project, Feng is planning on looking at how mental health and neurodivergence manifest in Asian communities.

Created by Barack and Michelle Obama and Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, the Voyager scholarship is meant to fund “young leaders who can bridge divides and help solve our biggest challenges together.” Voyagers are awarded a stipend to pursue an independent international research project between their Junior and Senior year in the field of their choosing. Additionally, post-graduation, the scholarship will provide students with a stipend to continue their travel and research projects. 

Feng, a junior at U-M, double majoring in International Studies and Psychology with a minor in Business Administration, wasn’t expecting to join the inaugural cohort. “There was definitely a shock,” she admitted. “It is so meaningful, kind of scary, but also really incredible that I have the weight of such a really highly regarded institution and name behind me. That support allows me to expand my horizons beyond what I had originally envisioned for myself. Especially for this summer, because the scholarship is centered around a summer voyage that you design.”

As a double major, Feng is hoping to use her Voyager research project to connect psychology and international studies. Feng mentioned for the first two years at Michigan, she never considered a connection between Psychology and international work. However, her perspective shifted after interning at a therapy clinic this past summer. “I got to learn a tiny bit about bilingual therapy and cross-cultural therapy,” Feng said. “I learned from practitioners in the field that there is no rule book if you want to practice therapy for a specific ethnic population. There are no rules because nobody is doing it.” 

Mental health has always been a passion for Feng, and growing up, the lack of mental health acknowledgment in her family and community was, and is, “really frustrating as a psychology major and at the same time, empowering.”

“I know that I am on a track where I can actually do something about it,” she said. “I certainly don't want the next generation of immigrant children or Asian Americans to have that same pressure of oh, I can choose to save face for my family, or I can go to therapy. That shouldn’t be a choice.”

The largest portion of the Voyager scholarship is the summer between Junior and Senior year for the cohort. Students are given funding to pursue whatever they want in any location across the world. “I am looking at everywhere in the world,” Feng said. “That's the great benefit of getting such an amazing scholarship like this. I’m looking at mostly Asian community mental health centers across major cities in the US, and then Vancouver, and then possibly Singapore and other countries in East and Southeast Asia, but it really depends on who is willing to work with me.” 

The University of Michigan was pivotal to helping Feng receive her scholarship award. “I might sound like a sellout saying this, but genuinely I don’t think I would have gotten this scholarship if I didn’t go to Michigan,” Feng laughed. “I have always felt well-supported in professional development here, whether it is as simple as the Psych or International Studies newsletters and emailing and all these opportunities.” 

To future Wolverines, Feng has the following advice: “Don’t limit yourself, go for it, and if you ever need more support, I think Michigan always has those resources, sometimes it is just a matter of seeking those out.”