Get to know Aimei Yang
Sitting in her corner office grinning, Dr. Aimei Yang spoke of growing up in her rural province of China - a minority province with its own language and distinctive dress. She grew up there learning to speak the ethnic language, but also picked up Mandarin Chinese and English along the way. She was raised chasing childhood dreams of becoming a writer or a painter, then a traveling journalist or a public relations specialist. She ended up coming to the United States and turned into a passionate researcher and accomplished teacher.
Aimei graduated with a bachelor's and then master's degree from Nanking University in China, having studied both mass communication and applied communication. Her master’s thesis delved into stereotypes in advertising. Aimei came to America to pursue her doctoral degree at the University of Oklahoma, where she was the first woman in her college to do so.
Since coming to the United States and discovering our brand of public relations, she began investigating how nonprofit activists can use PR to manage relationships. Now, with 18 articles, most of which have been published in the last two years, Aimei currently works on an additional five or six projects.
"I'm passionate about all of them," she said. Her most recent proposal is for a project that looks at how the development of public relations has affected the social capital in a number of different countries. "I really want to accomplish something big for this profession (public relations) as a whole."
Along with publishing, Aimei routinely presents papers at conferences. It was during a conference that administrators noticed her, asking her if she was interested in teaching. "I wasn't necessarily a good communicator, but a passionate one," she said, laughing with the realization. "I like to talk."
From the confidence oozing from her posture and prose, it's hard to imagine such a self-assured woman ever doubting herself or questioning her abilities as a successful researcher. However, there was a time when, like many college students, Aimei struggled. Like the lucky ones, she emerged a strong and determined young professional.
Aimei still keeps the first letter she received from a conference, accepting a paper she submitted. Since that first conference, she has presented more than 30 papers. "I have had much bigger moments in my life," she says, perhaps referring to her recently won "Top Faculty Paper Award" from the National Communication Association in Orlando FL, or the "Top Student Paper Award" from the International Communication Association in Phoenix this year. "But that was a turnaround point," she continued. "I was about to quit. It’s a small thing on my resume, but to me it's something I will remember for the rest of my life."
Aimei urges struggling students to find their purpose. "You really need to know why you’re doing this," she said, edging to the front of her chair. "If you’re taking a class, know why you're taking it. If you don't like something, there is no way you can be good at it." She continued to illustrate the point that quitting does not equate to "losing." It's just as important to know your limits as it is to know when you've reached them.
For someone so passionate about research, teaching and academia, Aimei is pleasantly multi-dimensional. She pines for the train trips she used to take across China with her friends, hopping off at any stop with an interesting-sounding city name; something you can't do in America. She enjoys hiking and fishing. Aimei is an avid photographer and a talented painter; the solitary piece of artwork decorating the wall space above her desk is one of her own watercolors.
Aimei is married and a proud new mother to 20-month-old Edan, "like the garden," and cradles a wallet-size photo of him as she touts the unique experience of motherhood. "Life-changing doesn't do it justice," she gushed.
Dr. Aimei Yang has had many life-changing experiences. She is accomplished and driven. She has faced and overcome myriad obstacles. And, despite what she says, she is an excellent communicator; her ability to talk rivals her fondness for it.