Andrew Lum’s impressive recognitions and contributions give no hint that this two-time swim team captain suffered from the typical first- or second-year panic many college students encounter on the path of self-discovery.
Lum came to Willamette to major in biology on a pre-medicine track, but he soon realized he wasn't passionate about the subject. “That uncertainty sparked a brief period of panic,” says Lum ‘16. “I’m accustomed to focusing 100 percent on clear goals.”
Fortunately, Lum’s colloquium advisor knew about his love for swimming and studying how athletes increase performance, so she suggested he try exercise science.
Swim Coach Leslie Shevlin remembers that turning point: “Once Andrew figured out his career path, all his work and plans have focused on that goal. He’s taken his passion for his sport and applied it to his academic path with gusto.”
The intersection of passions
Since that realization, Andrew has served as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) for Willamette University and the Northwest Conference (NWC) — roles that fit perfectly with his athletic and academic interests.
The two commitments have challenged Andrew to grow as a leader. Through his work with the Office of Admissions, SAAC and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, he has pushed Willamette’s student-athletes to serve the broader community.
During his tenure, Andrew helped organize the 4th Annual Athletic Career Night, where Bearcat athletes network with alumni to learn about professionalism and how to articulate the student-athlete experience.
Andrew has also encouraged student-athletes to serve in accordance with their beliefs. Some have participated in on-campus demonstrations and protests, while others have solicited donations or volunteered for non-profits addressing issues ranging from homelessness to food insecurity.
“We wanted to support everyone to follow his or her personal passion for service,” Andrew explains. “With academics and sports filling their calendars, it’s easy for athletes to feel overwhelmed with the thought of another commitment. To me, it seemed like everyone responded well to the freedom to choose how to make a contribution in his or her own way.”
Lum’s appreciation for diversity reaches back to his childhood. His father’s and mother’s families have roots in China and Japan, respectively. Although Lum’s family celebrated Chinese holidays during his childhood, English was the only language spoken at home. When he came to Willamette, “It was an easy decision to minor in Mandarin,” says Lum. “I have always wanted to learn more about the culture and language.”
Diversifying his experience
Shevlin says Lum represents the ideal student-athlete. “He doesn’t do anything he’s not enthusiastic about,” she says “From the second he chose Willamette, he has been passionate about the school. His enthusiasm ripples across the team, whatever it is they’re going to do. He’ll tell any recruit why he came here. He’s not shy about it.”
After graduation, Lum will take a gap year, hoping to intern as an assistant to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) commissioner.
“This position will expose me to budgeting, statistical software and how a larger entity operates efficiently,” he explains. “By diversifying my experience in this way, I hope to hone in on my focus for graduate school.”
Though he could apply a master’s degree in sports administration to work in business or in professional sports team management, he hopes his path will bring him back to higher education.
“I really want to work on a Division 3 campus,” he says. “I’ve gotten so much out of my time at Willamette, and I want to help other student-athletes to have as much opportunity and growth as I have.”
Mike Russell is a freelance writer at Pivotal Writing.