Dr. Wang’s Journey

Dr. Ye Wang stands ramrod straight, staring directly at a student in the front row as she explains in simple, but concise terms the benefits of a social media ad campaign. She moves to the next slide and frequently paces in front of the board. Her passion for advertising shows through when she teaches. She confidently lectures about the subject for hours.

“I love to do research,” Wang said. “Teaching is the best way to keep my research going on, while I can still support myself.” She shares her knowledge with numerous students each semester.

Wang grew up in a small college town in the Southwest part of China. She headed to Beijing for college at the age of 19. She received her undergraduate degree in English, and then she obtained her Master’s in Linguistics. A guest speaker from the University of Missouri School of Journalism spoke at the university Wang was attending, and sparked her interest in journalism. Soon after, she applied to the school.

“Linguistics was too theoretical,” Wang said. “I wanted something that I can apply to everyday life, but still related to language, to communication.”

Around the same time, she received an exciting job offer to work for the sponsorship department for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She turned down the position, and decided to go to the U.S.

“I did not like the weather in Beijing,” Wang said. “I remember that day, when I looked at the gray sky in Beijing I said to myself, ‘This was not a place I wanted to live.’”

Wang took the offer to attend journalism school in Columbia, Missouri, to see if the weather was better. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the air and the sky was much clearer.

After this decision, she met her mentor who changed the path of her life. She was assigned to work as a research assistant for a Dr. Shelly Rogers of the Missouri School of Journalism. While working together, Wang became interested in strategic communication. This influential woman was also Wang’s mentor in the doctorate program. Many of the mentor’s students thought she was tough and critical, but Wang saw the good in her.

Wang appreciated how much time she took to grade every little detail of her long manuscripts, including minor punctuation errors. Sometimes the grading process would involve 10 to 20 versions.
Wang’s mentor specifically got her into the statistical research part of advertising. Today, Wang mainly focuses her research on the internet’s role in advertising. Her manuscripts take her approximately two to three years to research. Her mentor taught many important lessons, including how to take criticism from manuscript reviewers. Wang would get upset about a comment made and rashly would want to start all over. Her mentor advised her to make the specific change and brush it off. Don’t take it so personally, the mentor said.

Wang finished her doctorate degree in strategic communication from the Missouri School of Journalism and decided that her next step was to teach.

“It seems like something you are supposed to do after graduating from a Ph.D. program,” Wang said. “We were trained while we were in school, how to do research, how to teach, so we were supposed to get a teaching position. And I love to do research, and teaching is the best way to keep my research going on while I can still support myself.”

Certain aspects of teaching are more appealing to Wang than researching.

“Teaching is a more engaging, inspiring process than research,” Wang said. “Especially when you’re doing data collection, it is not very interesting.” But the good part about teaching is that she gets a chance to talk to people.

“Find out what they like, who they are, and just get to know them,” Wang said. “Have that human connection.”

Wang was attracted to the position of assistant professor in the Communication Studies department of UMKC. A faculty member from the university picked her up from the airport, and she underwent a long campus visit, much like a student visit for potential professors.

“The best part I have found out from my interview of that whole day is that people here, the faculty here, and the students as well, were really, really nice, very nice,” Wang said. “So that was the most important reason for me to take this job offer.”

Even after teaching here for years, she remarks at how nice the people and students still are. She is happy with her decision to come to Missouri for school and making it her permanent home.

“I like the students here. That’s the best part,” Wang said. “I think students here are older, generally speaking, than other traditional schools… I can tell that they are really motivated to learn because they know that education can change their life.”

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