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Washington State University
CAS Connect January 2015

In Motion: Anna Chow – Crossing cultures, changing lives

From customizing flexible degree programs for several hundred undergraduates, and assuring dozens of certified students stay on track to graduate, to publishing and presenting her research on cultural identity, CAS academic advisor Yung-Hwa Anna Chow is making a difference for WSU students.

At left, Yung-Hwa Anna Chow, recipient of the CAS Academic Advising Excellence Award (2013) and the NACADA Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit (2009), meets with a student.
At left, Yung-Hwa Anna Chow, recipient of the CAS Academic Advising Excellence Award (2013) and the NACADA Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit (2009), meets with a student.

What does your job entail?

First and foremost, I am responsible for guiding nearly 300 students as they register for classes every semester. Most of them are pursuing a General Studies degree in either humanities or social sciences, and the rest are majoring or minoring in Comparative Ethnic Studies or Women’s Studies through CCGRS.

It’s an interesting job because no two students are alike, particularly in General Studies. They all have different backgrounds, different priorities. Some have been here longer than others, some already know about the flexibility of the program, and others are just beginning to explore new options.

Portfolio examples from Anna Chow's students decorate a bulletin board in the General Studies office.
Portfolio examples from Anna Chow’s students decorate a bulletin board in the General Studies office.

I also teach the senior portfolio class (GenSt 400). It’s an opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences, assess their skills, and connect their education to their career goals.

In addition, I’m the assistant director for the General Studies program. I coordinate the humanities and social science portions of the program: assessing student learning outcomes, administering our scholarship awards, overseeing the senior exit survey process, and the like.

And finally, I supervise the three CAS advisors who assist all of the deciding/exploring students at WSU.

How does advising help students succeed?

Providing high-quality advising is one of the primary keys to WSU student success and retention.

A lot of my students are worried they have to figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives right now while they are in college. Some are under a lot of pressure from their parents or have serious financial stress in their lives. A few are at a loss because they haven’t been able to certify or discovered they don’t really like the discipline they are in. It’s a great feeling when I am able to show my students that there are many opportunities to choose from.

WSU’s developmental advising method encourages students to explore ways to improve their study skills, broaden their personal interests, and establish strong working relationships with their professors, while also completing their degree requirements.

General Studies students are encouraged to explore options and improve study skills.
General Studies students are encouraged to explore options and improve study skills.

What is the General Studies program?

It is a unique, flexible degree program. There are B.A. options in humanities and social sciences and B.S. options in the sciences. Students with broad interests—or an unusual combination of interests—can work with us to customize a robust academic program that helps them grow intellectually.

The program is also a great resource for students who are running out of time, or money, or have other complications. We can almost always find them a path to graduation.

You recently completed a grant project on higher education in China. Why did you choose that topic and what did you learn?

I moved from Taiwan to Hawaii when I was 12 years old, so I know first-hand the academic struggles of a “second-language learner” and the difficulties of adjusting to another culture.

International students are a big part of what makes WSU special and I wanted to learn about higher education in China so that we can support Chinese students better when they come to Pullman. For this population, something as simple as learning how to say hello in the students’ native language can help them feel at ease and more open to asking questions.

My master’s thesis Yo! Yao!: The “Ming dynasty” and the Construction of an Asian American Identity was similarly focused on cultural identity and I’ve been fortunate to be able to share my work with multiple audiences over the years. Most recently, I wrote a chapter based on my thesis for the upcoming book Asian American Athletes in Sport and Society (edited by C. Richard King, WSU professor of critical culture, gender, and race studies).

How does the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) help advisors at WSU?

Professional development should never stop. Sharing our professional experience contributes to helping us all grow and learn. The workshops and webinars provide critical training for the advising community, which in turn provides our students with a better, more cohesive experience.

We have such wonderful advisors at WSU. This year I am the chair of the WSU chapter awards committee, and I’m so refreshed hearing about advisors all across campus and their accomplishments and honors.

NACADA is also an avenue for WSU advisors to share knowledge with our peers. For example, I presented my research on China and its cultural impact on academic advising in the United States to a full room at the national conference. It was exciting to be able to share my experience and what I learned, and to have the audience walk away feeling like they learned something, too.

[Editor’s note: When the session evaluations were tabulated at the end of the conference, out of the 350 session held, Anna’s presentation was rated among the “Top 10 Sessions.]

Currently, I’m a member of the national committees on research and on finance, and I’m a member of the editorial board for the Academic Advising Today e-publication. Before that I served two years on the national diversity committee and two years as the chair of the global engagement commission.

Anna Chow, right, with her advisee, 2014 Outstanding Senior Andy Zundel.
Anna Chow, right, with her advisee, 2014 Outstanding Senior Andy Zundel.

How do you stay motivated?

My job is very fulfilling. I get to do two of the things I really enjoy: helping new advisors grow professionally and working with WSU students as they discover their strengths.

I particularly enjoy hearing from students after graduation. They may no longer be “my” students, but when I hear they’ve achieved their goals or are setting out on a new path, I’m so happy that I was able to help them along the way a little bit.

Snapshot: General Studies Program

The General Studies program serves undergraduate students whose broad interests cut across typical departmental boundaries by offering them an opportunity to create a robust, multidisciplinary degree program not found in the WSU catalog.

The three primary degrees—humanities, social sciences, and sciences—each can be tailored to incorporate specific interests. Except for the senior portfolio course for humanities and social science students, all coursework for general studies students is within their specified interest areas.

The General Studies program is housed in Daggy Hall.
The General Studies program is housed in Daggy Hall.

Currently, more than 450 students are seeking bachelor’s degrees or minors in general studies. Dedicated advisors guide students through the course-selection process to ensure they will be well prepared to continue on to professional and graduate school programs or to pursue careers in business and industry. Three full-time general studies advisors oversee the humanities and social sciences degrees; students pursuing degrees in science are advised by faculty in the appropriate academic unit.

Degrees offered

  • Bachelor of Arts in Humanities
  • Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences
  • Bachelor of Science
    • Biological sciences
    • Basic medical sciences
    • Mathematics
    • Physical sciences
  • Minors
    • American Indian Studies
    • Global Studies
    • Religious Studies
  • Certificate in American Indian Studies