By: Diane Stirling
Zhi Quan Yang recognized early on in his Syracuse University career that his academic and geographic opportunities could be unlimited if he didn’t place any limits on himself.
Yang, a dual Whitman School of Management (finance) and School of Information Studies (information science and technology) major, made a good early assessment. As his senior year concludes, he has enjoyed broad campus, community, and worldwide experiences, and because of his achievements, is among 12 students selected as 2014 University Scholars – one of the highest academic honors Syracuse University bestows on its graduates.
Yang may seem like he’s had a lot of luck along his path, but it’s his hard work and focus that have created his successes. Born in China, he came to the United States at age nine with his father. The family left his mother behind in China for 12 years until they could afford to bring her to the United States. Yang’s dad worked long hours in the food service industry in New York City to provide his son with an American education.
A Packed Calendar
That work ethic and sense of sacrifice transferred to the younger Yang, who admits he exhibits a “workaholic” personality when it comes to filling his calendar. He has been able to pack many unique personal, professional and academic experiences into his four years at SU, making sure not to restrict his opportunities to a professional-only path. While his peers were engaged in college activities, Yang saw that their focus was narrow, and limited to their own school environment, so he chose a more expansive route. “For me, you’re not just an iSchool or a Whitman student, you’re a Syracuse University student,” he said. “What distinguished me during my time here was working with other parts of the campus–including working with high schools in the Syracuse community. I really diversified my network and what I was doing on campus, and that was really refreshing to me.”
The idea of trying something outside one’s comfort zone is a pattern Yang often has repeated. He joined an African-American studies program, and ended up as the only male and the only non-African-American student enrolled. “When you’re in a situation like that you just have to sit back and take everything in, because it provides so much learning when you put yourself in situations that may be unfamiliar,” he surmised.
During spring break, Yang traveled on an SU cultural exchange to Brazil—not for IT or business interests, though. He studied the social and cultural aspects of music programs being conducted there. When May classes are done, he’ll head to Florence, for a study program about the Mediterranean diet. From there, he’s on to Spain for a week’s personal vacation. Next is a 16-day tour of Asia as a member of the iSchool’s AsiaTech immersion program. He’ll begin in Hong Kong and visit international IT companies in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Full-funding scholarships for his junior and senior years at SU meant he’s had the means to be academically inquisitive through wide-ranging study-abroad experiences.
Working at EY
After that, Yang has a job lined up with Ernst & Young. Starting in August, he’ll be back in New York as a beginning consultant in the EY Quest program—another opportunity to explore. His job will provide a taste of many different careers and industry environments within the company’s technology track. Yang also envisions an MBA degree someday, and some sort of international nature to his career, but those goals are down the road a bit, he noted.
Luck By Hard Work
Clearly an achiever, Yang has made his own luck through hard work and force of will, but he is modest about his successes, including his selection as a University Scholar. He wasn’t sure he would even be in the running, he said, since he had assessed that most of the students selected have had Humanities and Arts and Sciences backgrounds. Yang also was named a recipient of the prestigious SU Remembrance Scholarship while at SU, so he has accumulated a highly distinguished record here.
“For me, there was a lot of sacrifice in my family for me to come to college,” Yang acknowledged. “Coming from a background where I know I wasn’t in the same position as some students [like those] who had families who were established here, or whose parents could afford to send their children here, I definitely worked a lot harder than some of my peers,” he reflected.
That’s why this University Scholar selection “is definitely a great honor,” Yang said. “I feel like it puts a final bow tie on my career here. It’s something I will always remember and look back upon from my undergraduate career.”