10 Questions News

10 Questions with Dakota Chang ’23

Dakota Chang ’23 is a Senior from Hong Kong and Co-President of Pine Knoll Cluster. Chang is also a Co-Head of Drumline and has extensive experience in eight programming languages. In her free time, Chang enjoys reviewing headphones, skating, and going to the gym.

  1. Why did you decide to run for Cluster Co-President?

“Well, in my Freshman year, I got placed in [Nathan] Hale, and I also got elected as the dorm rep. That was the first time I got to do any type of student council stuff. So at that time, I was on cluster council as a dorm rep, and I met Karen Sun ’20 and Shree Melon ’20, the Co-Presidents at the time. And the events that they were hosting [and] the things that they were doing really inspired me and made me like the school. I wanted to do the same for other people who might join Pine Knoll. Especially after four years total of living in Pine Knoll: Hale, Stimson, Stevens, and Stevens [again], I’ve really grown to love this community. So I want to give back to this place that has brought me so many amazing relationships, friendships, and memories.”

  1. What advice do you have for students who want to work with the student council?

“I would say the big picture obviously matters, but it’s the little details that are the most important. Just getting to know everyone in your cluster, just being a general friendly supportive friend, doing those little things, putting in the effort every day even though sometimes it feels like it’s just going towards nothing. People around you notice it, people around you see it, and just building that reputation, being consistent, that is what will bring you the most success and also respect from other people.”

  1. How did you first get involved with Drumline?

“I played percussion ever since the first grade, so it’s been quite a few years [that I’ve been playing]. When I first came [to Andover] I joined band…and met the Co-Heads of Drumline at the time, and they were like, ‘Hey, you should audition for Drumline, you know how to play all this stuff, you have experience with timpanis.’ So in Upper year, I wasn’t planning on doing it, but one of my friends dragged me there, and I tried on the tenor and I was like, ‘Whoa, it’s really heavy, but it’s really cool.’ [So I] got into drumline and ever since I’ve been super committed. I applied for Co-Head, didn’t expect to get it, got it, and have just been really involved ever since.”

  1. Could you talk about your experience in Computer Science?

Computer science is in general a very intersectional subject just because you can use it with so many different things. I’ve always known I was a STEM kid. It’s funny, my parents are both in humanities, they’re like, ‘go for your passion, go for your passion’ and [I] ended up with computer engineering. But, I’ve always known that I’d like to do computer science. I tried a lot of different things, encryption, game development, and ended up trying AI when I was in my Lower year here doing AP Computer Science; it was the Naïve Bayes algorithm. I fell in love with it. Like literally fell in love with it. I asked Dr. [Nicholas] Zufelt [, Instructor in Computer Science,] for extra work, and actually did the extra work, and started really exploring the subjects more. I’ve sort of narrowed it down to human error and multilingualism specifically within natural language processing, now that’s all AI stuff. And because the topic is so niche, I can apply it to a lot of different topics that I’m also interested in, for example, education, literature, and a lot more. I think learning the theories, and then how to apply them is what forced me to really explore the world of intersectional computer science.”

  1. You have several works of Graphic Design on your website. What has your experience been with Graphic Design?

“That was mostly for class but I do like graphic design. I mean, anything computers, I’m super into, [and] graphic design uses a lot of computers. It’s also really useful for web development and overall UI (user interface) [and] UX (user experience) stuff. I like graphic design. I wouldn’t say I’m good at it at all, but I’m trying.”

  1. What are you working on now?

“Honestly, right now, I’m ‘Senior Springing.’ I guess one of the projects I’m working on for my computer science class, actually, it’s a research-based seminar thing, I’m learning about information theory, specifically, the Reed-Solomon codes. Right now, the application I’m trying to do is creating and decoding QR codes. So understanding the math behind error correction and informational encoding. That’s sort of what I’m doing [right now].”

  1. How did you come to possess 24 pairs of headphones?

“You know, it just grows the collection. I would say it’s like game collections; You kind of buy your first one and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ Then, you’re like, ‘I want more.’ And then you ask for it every year for Christmas and during your birthdays. You talk about it all the time so it’s all people give you, and you’re really content with it. I eventually just ended up 24 pairs of headphones after, I don’t know, actually six years now… I really like headphones. I think the thing that got me in was in sixth grade when my whole class got together and bought me a pair of JBL headphones. I tried [them] on and I was like, ‘Whoa, I can never go back. I can never listen to music through bad phone speakers again.’”

  1. What is your favorite food at Paresky Commons?

“My favorite non-hack, like you just grab it from [Paresky] Commons, food would be the Salisbury steak. I know this is really controversial, but I really like the mushroom gravy, and it’s just an easy quick Sunday meal. My favorite sort of hackish [Paresky] Commons food is Bibimbap, but you don’t get the bibimbap. You go and you ask, ‘Can I get eggs and rice?’ Then you put your Sriracha and soy sauce on, and it’s just a good egg and rice.”

  1. What advice would you give to rising Seniors in terms of balancing multiple commitments at once?

“I’m gonna be honest: you can’t. Don’t over-commit, and only do things that you really care about. It’s really hard, it gets really hard sometimes. I go to the Academic Skills Center a lot. I know it’s very cliche advice, but I literally love Ms. [Maureen] Ferris[, Student Accessibility Specialist]. I’m also kind of like an obsessive scheduling person, like you can ask my friends, I have sent them Outlook invites for dinners sometimes. Don’t be like that, you can schedule your downtime, but don’t drag your friends into it. Honestly, you just try your best and know that you can’t handle everything. It’s fine, that’s just how it goes. You just gotta roll with it and figure out what you can drop, or what you really want to do.”

  1. How has Andover changed during your time here?

“I feel like I’ve changed. I don’t know if Andover has changed. I mean, obviously, a lot of the policies and stuff were reformed, and the culture is quite different, honestly. But I think it’s relatively the same. You know, Seniors and Uppers still kind of hate lowerclassmen…just kidding. We love you guys. But a lot of the core values of the school are still sort of the same… I think Covid[-19] obviously changed a lot but otherwise, I think it’s relatively the same.”