Sixteen going on 30

By By Ana Breton and By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

In May, Teresa Tuan broke a record by becoming the youngest person to graduate in the U’s history.

She, however, may not be going too far. At 16, Tuan does not yet have a driver’s license.

“I turned 16 in April, which was right in the middle of gearing down for finals and finishing my thesis, so I was insanely busy,” said Tuan, who graduated in chemistry. “I do have a learner’s permit though.”

As to how she got around campus during her college career, Tuan credits her mother for giving her rides to and from school when she wasn’t walking or taking the shuttles.

Tuan said she made it a point to never tell people how old she was unless they asked her directly.

“Age has only been an issue when I wasn’t old enough to drive, drink or go clubbing,” she said. “My social life has honestly been hurt more by living off campus than it has by being so young.”

If anything, Tuan’s age has only been a running joke with friends.

Ted Eyring, professor in chemistry, said that Tuan was in his classroom for a week or more before someone pointed out her age.

“What drew my attention was that she was one of only three or four students in a class of 66 who solved a moderately difficult integral calculus problem on a midterm exam,” Eyring said.

Tuan graduated from the U at 16 by skipping a grade in elementary school and essentially skipping high school.

Tuan enrolled in classes at Salt Lake Community College during seventh grade. She continued taking concurrent enrollment classes at SLCC until she graduated from West High School with an associate’s degree in chemistry in 2004.

Despite her accelerated education, Tuan says that the only thing she has missed is having more free time.

“I always had a major and a path, so I never got time to just fool around,” she said in regard to her education.

Tuan, who delivered the 2006 commencement address at the Huntsman Center in May, spoke about U students and the pursuit of their passions.

“It isn’t simply that they love what they do,” Tuan said to the rest of her graduating class. “Passion is more than love. Passion is love that moves.”

Tuan said her passion is working with people.

“It’s a bit unorthodox, but I love being around people and understanding how we are different and how our differences impact the way we treat one another,” Tuan said. “I’m fascinated by how we explore and form our own identities and how we use different methods to express and interpret our experiences.”

Thinking about issues that manage to cut across the many self-constructed barriers our society has-like health or race-helps Tuan to explore her own identity.

Finding her own identity would not have been possible without the help of Kari Ellingson, assistant vice president of student affairs, Tuan said.

“I cannot imagine where I would be without her as my compass,” she said.

Ellingson said that Tuan’s varied interests caught her attention before her age.

“She enjoys debate, is an accomplished classical pianist, loves service to the community and works in the Capecchi (human genetics) lab,” Ellingson, said. “She’s also just a very nice person to be around.”

She said that she was not an advocate of students of a young age “doing what Tuan has done.”

“There is so much that can be missed when we rush through childhood,” Ellingson said.

Tuan, however, definitely has a mature and thoughtful approach to her future that other students could learn from, Ellingson added.

In the future, Tuan plans to go into pediatrics or public health at a national level.

At 16 years old, chemistry major Teresa Tuan recently became the youngest person ever to have graduated from the U.