Going Against The Grain: Sophie Chien


Eighteen-year-old 2015 Against The Grain Bruce & Pat McRae Scholarship Winner, who is attending the Rhode Island School of Design and majoring in Architecture, was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. She grew up surrounded by critiques and discussions about design, as her parents are both architects. From this influence, she was drawn (literally) to take IB Visual Art for three years in high school, specifically focusing on expressing her ideas through sculpture and photography.

Her artwork work has received multiple awards in the North Carolina Scholastics Art Competition including:

  • Gold Key for art portfolio (photography)
  • Gold Key for sculpture
  • Silver Key for architecture model and for photograph
  • Honorable Mention for two photographs

Art was not her only outlet in high school as she was Captain of the Varsity Field Hockey team, manager and member of her high school’s World Quest team (a geography based academic competition), which won the Charlotte regional competition two consecutive years, a feat no other public or private school has achieved. She was nominated to her school’s National Honor, National Art Honor and National Science Honor Societies. Another outlet she found was Odyssey of the Mind (OM), a competition focused on problem solving and creativity.

One of Sophie’s favorite aspects of the OM competitions is the emphasis on creativity and finding innovative ways to repurpose objects to create set pieces or costumes, and their dedication was evident as her team placed 3rd, 7th and 13th in world competitions. Though she is most proud of the accomplishments of a non-profit she worked for called Clothes for Change. As a leader on a team of socially conscious students, they organized clothing resales, fashion shows and a gala to support various charities and empowering women locally and globally. Through three years of fundraising, they raised over $20,000 to support these causes. Their last event the Gala raised more than $8,000 alone and went to scholarships for recent female high school graduates to attend local community college, many of them underrepresented minorities.

Full name:
Sophie Chien
Charlotte, North Carolina
Current City:
Providence, Rhode Island
Half Chinese, Half German/English

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“To actively pursue an alternate path, to deviate from the norm. By going ‘Against The Grain,’ you have to force yourself out of your habits or comfort zone to explore. That includes shedding inhibitions, formed from cultural expectations based on race, gender and other factors.”

What made you decide to pursue a career in this industry?

“I grew up watching and learning everything I know from my parents, so it only seemed natural that I also inherited their love of space and design, which translates perfectly into their fields of architecture and landscape architecture, both of which I will be studying at RISD.”

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

“As both an Asian American and a female, I definitely feel like I have more to prove, going into a profession dominated by white males.”

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

“I feel like my biggest accomplishment is my work ethic, which I’ve developed over the years to not only work hard in classrooms but also to push myself further by working in my community. This year I am a Leadership and Community Engagement (LACE) Fellow and will commit 300 hours to community service over the year. It has been so rewarding to focus on my new Providence area along with my studio work.”

What’s up next?

“The next thing I hope to achieve is successfully planning the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of service, hopefully guiding 150 volunteers to teach local students about art and design at an elementary school.”

Quote to live by:

“When we try to pick up anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac):

Rat, Libra

Passionate about:

Empowering underserved communities and improving the world through design.

Favorite food:

Tikki masala

Can’t live without:

Warm socks

I Go Against The Grain #beCAUSE:

“I am apart of the next generation of changemakers.”


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