Unlike many peers in student affairs, I did not originally plan going into the field. When I started my masters degree at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s, I had originally planned on pursuing a career in the United States Foreign Service.
In 1987, I began my masters in contemporary Chinese Studies, specializing in the People’s Republic foreign policy and economics. Due to a lack of assistantships, I took on a graduate programming assistantship in the spring of 1989 in an international graduate residence hall. In the fall of 1989, a vacancy opened up in one of the residence halls at the University of Illinois, and I was asked if I could serve as an interim hall director. So starting that fall, I began my career in student affairs and higher education.
I completed my Chinese Studies degree in Spring 1990 and continued the hall director position until 1991. Simultaneously to that, I continued to take the foreign service exam and to apply to overseas jobs.
In 1991, when I had no success with this job search, I looked to student affairs to see if my international interest could still be met in the field. I accepted a position at the University of California-Davis as the hall director supervising both the international and Latino communities.
At the end of the UC Davis contract, I left residence life seeking out other internationally focused opportunities. In 1994, I was hired by the international affairs college at the University of California-San Diego. While serving as coordinator of student activities and acting assistant dean, I started to learn that I had a knack for student affairs. Simultaneously, I worked on a number of projects that had multicultural and Asian American advocacy as components. In 1998, I left UCSD for a position in multicultural affairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
While at MU, from 1998-2013, I had the opportunity to participate in campus climate research, develop multicultural programs that were new to the campus, and greatly influence how diverse student service discussions were framed. In that time period, I became involved with NASPA Region IV-West and some regional Asian American advocacy organizations. Simultaneously, I completed a Ph.D. in higher educational policy specializing in American Indian STEM initiatives.
In 2013, I moved out of student affairs into a new position, Director of the Office of Social Equity/Chief Diversity Officer at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In this role, I have a chance to employ all my experience with student affairs and apply some of the theoreticals learned in the field to a broader campus context. One thing that I am very excited about is the transformation of Ingrid Grieger’s Multicultural Organizational Development Model for Student Affairs into an academic disciplines self-evaluation. A team here at IUP is going to pilot the instrument this spring and see how we can use it to move the campus into a more cross culturally competent organization.
This is how my path led me into – and out of – student affairs and made my experience richer for it.