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Steffi Kong, Winner of the Sullivan Award at Converse College, “Excels at Everything She Does”

Shi Qing “Steffi” Kong, a senior at Sullivan Foundation partner school Converse College, is no stranger to deadly viruses. As a child in Singapore, she survived SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) at the age of 7 and the H1N1 virus (better known as the swine flu) when she was 10.

“Of course, I am worried about getting [COVID-19],” she told GoUpstate.com in early May. “But I joke with my friends: Third time is a charm. Either I become a victim or maybe I potentially become superhuman.”

Related: Honors student who fed thousands and rape survivor advocate earn Sullivan Awards at The Citadel

We’re betting the latter. But whatever happens with the coronavirus – and here’s hoping she doesn’t get it – Kong will likely become a big success. Now a standout student-athlete and the Converse tennis team’s No. 1 singles player since 2016, Kong is also the recipient of the Sullivan Foundation’s prestigious Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for 2020. With her degrees in biochemistry and psychology in hand, Kong plans to attend medical school and ultimately practice psychiatry in the U.S.

“She’s a gem,” Katie Mancebo, Kong’s tennis coach at Converse, told GoUpstate.com. “I’ve never met someone who is harder-working or more disciplined. She just excels at everything she does. She’s probably every coach’s dream as a student-athlete.”

In April, Kong became the first student in Converse history to win the Murphy Osborne Scholar-Athlete Award, the highest academic award for a student-athlete in the Conference Carolinas.

“I am grateful to be given the opportunity to study in the United States and be able to have a different experience outside of continuing my education in Singapore,” Kong said. “It’s because of generous scholarships that I am able to attend Converse and accomplish great milestones.”

Related: Imani Belton, Gabriel Dias receive Sullivan Awards at Winthrop University

Sullivan Award winner Steffi Kong has presented her research at two national conferences and one international conference.

Kong has presented her research and publications at two national conferences and one international conference—a rare privilege for an undergraduate student. She made biophysics presentations at the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting & Exhibit in Boston in 2019 and the South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Science Symposium in Columbia, S.C. in 2020.

She also presented her psychology research at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Annual Convention in Atlanta in 2019. Dr. Marie LePage, one of Kong’s psychology professors at Converse, collaborated with her on the presentation. “On our way driving home from the Atlanta conference, she just lit up like a Christmas tree,” LePage told Conference Carolinas in a profile on Kong. “That’s special for a student to get that jazzed about therapy. She’s just genuinely passionate about it. She wants to be the best she can be. I’ve taught thousands of students, and she ranks among my top five in terms of being an advanced scholar. But when it comes to passion, she absolutely ranks No. 1.”

Related: UA Sullivan Award winner Malik Seals on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

After her freshman year at Converse, Kong returned home for the summer and volunteered at a mental health institute. After her sophomore year, she interned at the Kidney Foundation in Singapore. Her senior honors thesis was titled, “Stress, Depression and Anxiety: The College Student Dilemma,” with a strong focus on the differences between student-athletes and non-student-athletes.

“I know she is very interested in medicine,” LePage said in the Conference Carolinas interview. “Whether she goes into psychiatry or general medicine … she will be exceptional.”

 

Imani Belton, Gabriel Dias Receive Sullivan Awards at Winthrop University

Sullivan Foundation partner school Winthrop University recognized two graduating seniors—Imani Belton of Simpsonville, South Carolina (pictured above), and Gabriel Dias of Joinville, Brazil—for their service to the campus and community with prestigious Sullivan Awards on May 6.

Since Winthrop’s campus is closed due to the pandemic, the award winners were announced on Facebook.

“We are extremely proud to present these awards each year,” said Shelia Higgs Burkhalter, vice president for student affairs at Winthrop. “Even though we could not celebrate these recipients in person, we still wanted to acknowledge their hard work, service, commitment and leadership that positively impacted Winthrop. These students have left their mark on our university, and we are very grateful for each one’s contributions.”

photo of Imani Belton, winner of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award at Winthrop University

Imani Belton

Imani Belton, an integrated marketing communication major, received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. Belton is the outgoing chair of Winthrop’s Council of Student Leaders (CSL). During her tenure, she regularly gave student body updates to Winthrop’s Board of Trustees. Belton has served as an Academic Success Center tutor, Diversity Peer Educator, Peer Mentor and as a member of the Leadership Institute for First-Timers (LIFT) conference planning committee. She previously served as the CSL’s public relations committee co-chair. Belton also received the division’s Diversity and Student Engagement Award.

Belton is a first-generation college student, and Winthrop was recently recognized by the Center for First-generation Student Success for its efforts to create a positive, productive experience for students like her. “Throughout my time at Winthrop, I’ve been able to connect with first-generation faculty, staff and students, which has made my collegiate experience 10 times better because of bonds we’ve created,” Belton said at the time. “Being a first-generation student is a point of pride for me and other Winthrop students who have benefited from learning on a campus that provides outreach and services for students like us.”

photo of Gabriel Dias, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Winthrop University

Gabriel Dias, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, is captain of the men’s tennis team and a noted scholar-athlete.

Business administration major Gabriel Dias captured the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. A member and two-time captain of the men’s tennis team, Dias displayed leadership on and off the court. He represented Winthrop and the Big South Conference on the student advisory group for the NCAA. The highly selective group consisted of just 32 student-athletes from across the country. Dias also served as president of Winthrop’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council and as a member of the CSL. He stood out in the classroom, earning a spot on the Big South Conference All-Academic Team during his junior year.

This article has been edited from the original story appearing on the Winthrop University website.