“There are so many phenomenal people here,” says Jonathan K. Yip ’13, shaking his head in disbelief, “there’s no community like it, really.”
Yip insists that almost all his accomplishments are “no big deal,” but his friends will tell you that it’s exactly people like him who define the Harvard community.
“The difficult part about summing him up is that he does really interesting things, and he’s always doing a ton of interesting things,” explains Ioana C. Calcev ’12, who has been close with Yip since the two met in their freshman entryway. It’s true, a list of what Yip has accomplished would practically run off the page: He’s an economics concentrator with a secondary in computer science, was Under-Secretary-General for the Economic and Social Council and Regional Bodies of Harvard Model United Nations 2011, taught as a CS50 TF, worked on New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign, interned for the National Economic Council at the White House, is editor-in-chief of the Harvard Political Review, and can speak of a personal relationship with Larry Summers. But that’s not the point: “Besides all the interesting things, he’s just a great person to be around—he has fun with everything,” Calcev says.
Perhaps a theme that unites all that Yip does is an interest in affecting others: “Since I was 10,” he says, remembering the Bush-Gore debate in 2000, “I realized that politics mattered because they change people’s lives.” His direction during his time at Harvard, then, wasn’t too surprising.
But other things were unpredictable. When Yip was in China during the summer after his freshman year (“moving around a lot, walking the Great Wall”), he experienced continual pain in his knee. What was originally diagnosed as tendonitis turned out to be a life-threatening tumor.
“My first reaction was, ‘Oh, can I go back to school?’” Yip says. “I quickly realized I wasn’t going back.” But the cancer was curable, and he’s lucky, he explains: “Conveniently, my treatment fell exactly within an academic year.”
Yip remained active during his year off from school: After surgery and only a week after his chemotherapy ended, he started his internship at the White House. “I showed up bald and with a cane,” he says, “so that was quite something.”
Calcev remembers being impressed by Yip’s determination to stay involved. She explains that he even continued his position as HMUN Under-Secretary-General during treatment, helping to organize the conference, and worked with an organization called Kids vs. Cancer to promote legislation on cancer research. “The energy and the activity level is really representational of Jonathan,” she says. “Even while sick, there’s no way he would have quit anything.”
“Well, I had not thought it would take me five years to graduate,” Yip jokes, but he’s moving forward with full speed. Next year, he’ll start work as a business analyst for McKinsey, with plans to stay connected with the policy world.
But Yip’s various interests make any definitive path unclear. “He’s always looking for new books to read, new things to try,” Calcev says.
Yip acknowledges that he’s open to pursuing a number of options with his life. “I have no idea where I’ll be when I’m 28,” he laughs.