“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Yadi Wang, a master’s student advisor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, keeps this quote on her mirror as a reminder of her personal mission to make meaningful changes in advocating for students and aspiring for education equity and social justice in society. Wang’s exceptional commitment to these goals was recently recognized when USC awarded her the 2021 Outstanding Academic Advisor Award.
“I feel truly honored to receive this award,” Wang said. “I’m very fortunate that my passion is my job, and it’s very humbling to be recognized for the efforts I put in.”
Sponsored by Undergraduate Programs in the Office of the Provost, the award recognizes two academic advisors each year for their excellence in mentoring, advocacy, and outstanding service to students.
“Yadi encompasses all the qualities of excellence in student affairs, and I am continually impressed by her experience, professionalism, work ethic, and the sincere level of care she provides our students,” said Kelly Goulis, the senior associate dean of Viterbi Admission and Student Engagement (VASE). “I could not think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for transforming the student experience.”
As a master’s student advisor, Wang takes on a wide range of responsibilities, including overseeing advisement for over 5,000 students, managing student engagement programs, intervening in student crisis cases, and serving as a liaison among several departments for student career, immigration, and safety educations.
“Yadi’s day-to-day impact on students is always apparent,” said Nora Sandoval, the USC Viterbi director of master’s student affairs. “Every semester, students demonstrate deep appreciation for Yadi’s ability to be empathetic yet direct and provide academic advisement that empowers them in understanding their options.”
From Student to Advisor
After graduating from Jinan University in China with a B.S. in finance and a B.A. in teaching Chinese as a second language in 2012, Wang came to the U.S. to pursue an M.Ed. in postsecondary administration and student affairs (PASA) from the USC Rossier School of Education. Wang says her passion for working with students began in the academic advising class she took as part of her PASA program. Upon graduating from USC in 2014, she was hired as an advisor for USC Viterbi. Her experience as a former international student at USC gives her a unique ability to understand and provide personalized support to her students.
“I’m honored to be able to serve graduate students, including a large number of international students, many of whom experienced the same challenges I had as a student trying to navigate the campus and life in a foreign country,” Wang said. “I want to make sure that all of our students feel like they belong and that they have a home away from home.”
In just six years in her role, Wang has spearheaded several efforts that have transformed the international graduate student experience.
In 2015, she proposed and initiated the Viterbi Graduate Mentorship Program, which is designed to help new USC Viterbi graduate students adjust smoothly to life at USC by pairing them with current students in the same academic department and degree level. Wang continues to manage this highly successful program, which supports over 700 graduate students each semester.
Wang also works closely with USC’s Department of Public Safety, where she supports outreach and efforts to provide safety and crime prevention information to international students. Wang’s partnership with DPS began when she was still a graduate student, after the 2014 tragic death of a USC Viterbi graduate student from China. A native of China herself, Wang had an understanding of the support needs of this community, and she stepped up to help USC Viterbi administration and DPS navigate the aftermath of the tragedy, including providing support to Ji’s family.
Since then, Wang has helped plan safety seminars targeting Chinese students. She also developed events like “Boba Night with DPS” that let international student groups interact with and form relationships with DPS officers.
“Where there once was no relationship with DPS, there is now one built on mutual understanding, respect, and partnership. I credit Yadi’s outreach helping DPS develop such relationships and enhance the safety of this segment of our student populations,” said John Thomas, the chief of USC’s Department of Public Safety. “She truly cares about our students and puts action behind her concern, and we are a better department as a result of Yadi’s long-standing partnership with us.”
Wang also works closely with USC’s Campus Support and Intervention office (CSI) to help support students facing tragedy and mental illness. She also plays a key role in advising probation students and students taking a leave of absence.
“Wang’s cross-cultural competencies have been critical in serving our students not just within Viterbi, but throughout USC,” said Goulis.
Dedication to Students
Wang also went above and beyond to help students meet the challenges brought forth by COVID-19, taking extra time to advise individual students on their study plans, travel plans, graduation timeline, health, family emergencies, and mental health.
“During this last year, Yadi did everything in her power to ensure that every student received not only accurate information but thoughtful and timely responses. She consistently came up with new ways to reach out to students and ensure they felt connected and supported,” Sandoval said.
Wang is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership from USC. Set to graduate in 2023, she looks forward to applying what she learns to her work. Wang deeply values forming connections with individual students and wants to continue to create a space where USC’s diverse population of students feels safe and comfortable reaching out to her.
“In the three years that Yadi has advised me, I have come to experience the breadth of her commitment to forging lasting positive change and relationships in her personal and professional lives,” said Xiaomeng Guo, a master’s student from China studying computer science. “Her caring personality, attention to detail, and loyalty to the university have endeared her to everyone around her. She fully embodies the connectivity of the Trojan Family and is a great example of the glue that makes USC special.”