Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of profiles of new, full-time faculty who have joined the Keuka community.
Back in the fall of 2006, Dr. Yang Zhao served as an academic adviser to four international students attending classes on the home campus in Keuka Park. Today, some 79 international students from 12 countries attend classes here, learning how to compare and contrast America with its global neighbors in background, economy, and leadership development.
This fall, after earning her doctorate and serving several years as an adjunct professor for Keuka, Zhao became part of the full-time faculty, teaching courses in economics and leadership to graduate students in Keuka’s Master of Science in management with a concentration in international business (MSMIB) program.
Her studies in China focused on economics, and she holds a B.S. in economics from Shangdong University of Finance and an M.A. in economics from Dongbei University of Finance and Economics. While teaching in China’s Qiqihar University, Zhao published seven research articles relative to strategic planning, management, marketing, economics and business to help entrepreneurs and companies to better serve their community. In 2003, she won the Outstanding Young Professor award, for the Hei Long Jiang province of China. During that time, she also served as an academic coordinator for the Keuka China Program (KCP) and assistant professor at Qiqihar University.
Here in the U.S., she has added an M.S. in management from Keuka, and just this summer, completed an education doctorate in executive leadership from St. John Fisher College. In addition to her many years of experience in international education, as a full-time and adjunct professor, Zhao has also spent seven years as a local business owner and entrepreneur working in property management. Her connection to the local business and community network, as well as related marketing and financial management skills, help provide what international learners and domestic students are looking for when they study at Keuka, she said.
“As a business leader, you have to understand the entrepreneur’s point of view, to understand how to help students start thinking as a future leader, not just a manager. That will help students to be successful in their career development,” Zhao said.
Also important is the diversity of cultural perspectives she offers, not just as an adviser but a professor blending elements of Western and Eastern thought. For example, Western-style teamwork can be a new concept to Asian students, but it’s “a big part of the Keuka experience,” she said, “and just because American students may be more familiar working in partnerships doesn’t mean they can’t learn better communication skills or new concepts when working with international partners.”
For all students, “I think this will help them to understand the cultural and working environment outside of the classroom,” she said, describing today’s business world as a global village. “Economic development is not only happening in a few countries anymore. Students need to understand how policy-making from one country will affect all other countries.”
While each major economic superpower may have different politics, their economies are more and more integrated, she said, referring to the U.S., China, European Union, and even India. There may no longer be pure communism or capitalism in any economic systems, she said, adding that it’s hard to even predict the sustainability of economic growth in this global economic world in the next decade.
A personal experience with diversity will help master’s students understand what it takes to be a successful leader in other countries outside their home country, she said. A practical experience will offer additional advantage. And because practical experience can be harder to find in a graduate classroom, “we are not only about teaching theory—we also have a practical focus to help them understand,” she added.
Zhao said she intends to bring business executives into her classroom for real-life profiles and offer students an “in-depth discussion of what business leaders act like in the real world and how they make decisions every day.”
She is pleased that her educational and career aspirations have close ties to the growth of KCP and the development of the Center for Global Education and incoming international students here on the home campus. And our domestic students definitely benefit from this global learning environment without even leaving the country. This will certainly equip them well to work for any international organizations after they graduate from Keuka.
“I’m glad I started right at the beginning,” she said. “Keuka College has been making significant progress as a global leader in an innovative international education field. My favorite quote is from Andy Stanley: ‘My passion is to equip you to take your place among the ranks of those who are positioned to shape the future.’”