Outstanding graduate credits her studies for personal and professional growth

Diane Yang portraitStudent Affairs in Higher Education outstanding graduate Diane Yang (M.S., ’21) knew earning a master’s degree at Colorado State University would be academically challenging and professionally beneficial – but she did not expect the SAHE program, part of the Colorado State University School of Education, would encourage her personal growth and development.

“The curriculum helped with critical thinking and provided us with practical skills that will make us more effective when we are full time professionals,” said Yang. “As I continued to learn, I realized that some of my behavior may have been problematic, and I didn’t know. Now, I’m aware of the history behind higher education and what it looks like to do work that’s equitable and positively impacts students.”

Throughout her time in the program, Yang held graduate assistantships – working with the CSU Career Center, focusing on career education, and helping to support the SAHE program leaders.

“Diane worked with Carmen [Rivera] and me as invaluable support for the SAHE program,” said Professor D-L Stewart, co-coordinator of the SAHE program. “Along with our other grad assistant, Diane’s ideas, vision, and dedication to the program have shown through and helped us to make potentially challenging virtual interview days go off without a hitch.”

Starting anew

After graduating from the University of Hawai’i with a bachelor’s degree in travel industry management and minors in business and Chinese, Yang worked in hospitality management for three years.

“I helped run the purchasing department at a hotel,” Yang said. “In the beginning, I thought it was fun because it felt like I was shopping without my own money. But I eventually got bored.”

As an undergraduate, Yang worked as a student program coordinator in the office of multicultural services at the University of Hawai’i. As Yang grew tired of her work in hospitality, she found herself looking back on helping and working with students.

“When I got bored of hospitality, I needed new scenery as well as gratification and fulfillment in my work. So, I decided to go to grad school and study student affairs instead,” said Yang.

Impact across campus

As a graduate assistant in the Career Center, Yang helped create itineraries of various employers and bused students to each organization to talk to employers and tour facilities. When COVID regulations were put in place, Yang helped move this experience to a virtual platform.

“With virtual industry tours, students sit in front of their computer screens and chat with employers,” said Yang. “They don’t have the opportunity to see the employers’ facilities or get an in-person sense of the work culture. So, virtual industry tours look and feel a little different. I think students still get to connect with employers, just in a different way.”

Along with industry tours, Yang enjoyed assisting with Career Center drop-ins, an easy way for students to virtually talk to someone about job hunting, resume writing, or any other questions regarding the job process. She enjoyed watching students as they grew throughout the year, first coming for assistance on their resume only to return having gotten the job.

In addition to assisting students with their careers, Yang was a graduate adviser for a fraternity. Awarded Adviser of the Year, she sat in on chapter and executive board meetings, had one-to-one meetings with the chapter presidents, and ensured that students were safe and being held accountable. As someone with no prior affiliation with Greek life, Yang was surprised by the award but grateful that she was able to positively impact students.

“It was interesting working with an organization I had no context for,” she said. “I was really surprised to win the award, especially since the organization I worked with is comprised of predominantly white men and I have no context for their experiences. I was like, ‘Wow! I’m actually making a difference and helping them with their goals.’ Being a support was super cool. It was surprising to me that they felt that I had impacted them in some way.”

Being open-minded

As Yang learned to be more open-minded throughout her experience at CSU, she encourages those interested in the SAHE degree to be open minded in what the program and assistantships have to offer.

“Because some of the curriculum that we have in the SAHE program is quite challenging and the faculty aren’t afraid to challenge you on your beliefs, decisions, and opinions, it really helps to get you thinking and reflecting. I would say be open to critical feedback and advocate for what you want out of your experience at CSU.”

Yang is currently looking for a career position that supports students. She would like to work somewhere that encourages students to move forward and achieve their goals.

The SAHE program is housed in the School of Education, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.