Aimei Yang is in her second semester at the University of Dayton as a tenure-track associate professor teaching public relations. Coming from China five years ago, Yang offers a unique perspective and energy to her students and colleagues.
Yang discussed some of the factors that drew her to UD in the first place.
“When I first came here, one thing that stood out was the kindness and the spirit of community,” Yang said. “I perceive this as a place where I will have a very happy life. As a junior professor, I knew it was important for me to find a university that would be very supportive.”
Yang said the faculty and staff that she has reached out to have been very eager to help her adjust and become acclimated.
“I have been in the United States for several years now and have experienced other universities. At many institutions, people were hesitant or too busy to help me adjust,” Yang explained.
Yang has a passion for teaching and said she enjoys sharing a laugh or two with students to connect with them.
“Sometimes when students interact with me, I can make a joke of some part of their answer to a question and the whole class will laugh with me,” Yang said. “It makes me feel like they are more than my students and are really my friends.”
John Young, a junior communication major, is currently in Yang’s public relations class and says that her enthusiasm is clear and she gives great examples that help the students understand the concepts well.
According to Yang, this type of interaction does not occur in Chinese classrooms.
Compared to the typical Chinese classroom, the dynamic between student and teacher is totally different in the United States.
“It is considered kind of rude [in China] for a student to talk to an instructor like a peer.
“I can remember when I first came to the US, I was confused in my first class. Everyone in the room was talking and I wondered, ‘Who is the professor?’ Coming from a paradigm in China that was just the opposite, it was a big shock to me,” Yang said. “I really enjoy this different approach to teaching.”
Yang expressed that teaching is more than just a job for her. She said that she enjoys the profession of teaching because it not only allows her to instruct students, but also allows her to conduct research that she can then contribute to the greater academic world.
“I am happy that I can do this as a part of my job. I like to share the findings from my research with my students,” Yang said.
While Yang asserts that her experience at UD has been very positive, it has not been free from challenges.
“I have a terrible sense of direction,” she said. “I always get lost! Between meetings and classes it’s hard for me to navigate everywhere. I know UD is a small campus, but still!”
Yang shared one story in particular about a meeting she was rushing to with the Provost.
“I ended up on the other end of campus in the totally wrong place,” Yang said. “I asked someone for help and they walked me all the way to where I was supposed to be. That was a new challenge that helped me realize how kind the university as a whole is.”
Yang values her background in working with the large number of international students in her classes.
“I really try to reach out to them and help them realize that what they are going through, the adjustment is normal and that it will get easier,” she said. “When English is not your first language, it can be scary to talk in class. And in China, the emphasis is on reading and writing, not speaking. I try to ensure them that, hey this is hard, but I did it and you are much smarter than me so you will do it too.” Yang said.
Yang also said that besides the blizzards, she also has loved exploring outside of the university. During a trip to Florida for a professional meeting, she decided to canoe through the everglades.
“I saw a long rock and I didn’t know what it was,” Yang explained. “I used my paddle to poke the rock and it almost jumped on my canoe. It was an alligator!”
Yang said that she is excited to be at UD and looks forward to getting involved in as many ways as she can with the strong community that is around her.