Monday, May 11, 2020
Yuchen Liu (center) with her parents on the University of Iowa campus

Yuchen Liu (center) with her parents on the University of Iowa campus.

Yuchen Liu, a fourth-year Ph.D. student originally from Nanjing, China, joined the University of Iowa’s teaching and learning (foreign language and ESL education) graduate program through the College of Education in hopes of broadening and enhancing her language acquisition and teaching skills. Liu entered the university with an array of academic accomplishments dating back to her undergraduate degree in English education she received in China. Shortly following, Liu decided to study abroad and attend Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. There, Liu continued to pursue and teach English to non-native speakers for two years while completing her master’s program. Once she completed this program, Murray State University faculty recommended Liu to apply for Ph.D. programs across the U.S., and she landed at the University of Iowa.

Yuchen Liu in China

Yuchen Liu in Xi'an, in Shaanxi province of China; the background is Confucius (孔子), an ancient Chinese philosopher and educator.

“Part of me becoming an educator is tradition. Both my parents are architecture professors in China so I have always loved teaching and been influenced by them,” said Liu.

With English being one of the compulsory languages in China, Liu has been learning English since she was a child. During her first year at Iowa, Liu was admitted into the special education program where she conducted English research on individuals with learning disabilities. After her first year she returned to the teaching and learning department where she studied and conducted research on English as Second Language (ESL) Education. Liu has dreams of becoming a professor at the collegiate level. Her love for language teaching and learning is not limited to a specific language learner, but hopes to instruct within diverse populations.

Liu’s success is not limited to her academics. While she is at the University of Iowa earning her final degree, she remains involved in various extracurricular activities. A year ago, Liu joined the Engaging Across Cultures program, a professional development series for domestic graduate and professional students at Iowa.

“Engaging Across Cultures taught me culturally based problem solving, intercultural campus strategies, and how to connect across different identities,” said Liu.

Engaging Across Cultures is the sister program to the certificate Building Our Global Community, a program designed for UI faculty and staff to learn about the experiences of international students and scholars. Based on the success of the Building Our Global Community program, the Engaging Across Cultures program was created to extend similar opportunities to UI students.

“This program has been a nice opportunity to make new friends while learning more about their backgrounds and cultures. It has also enhanced my understanding of the relationship between culture and language,” said Liu.

Yuchen Liu at Castillo San Cristóbal, is a fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Yuchen Liu at Castillo San Cristóbal, is a fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Liu was doing disaster relief volunteer work there.

Beyond academic extracurricular activities, Liu has also found time to give back to the Iowa City community and beyond. Since joining the Hawkeye family, Liu has volunteered for animal shelters, Mercy hospital, ‘All Hands and Hearts’ disaster volunteer program, and most recently, working with ‘Table to Table’, delivering food for populations in need. Liu believes volunteering is her contribution to society.

Moving forward, Liu is uncertain where her degree will take her but she remains optimistic about the future. Following the economic impact of coronavirus, many fourth-year students are left with some uncertainty. Fortunately, the University of Iowa has provided a wide variety of resources and communication to help students adapt to the changing landscape as a result of the pandemic.

“The University of Iowa had a very effective reaction to the pandemic. From campus shutdowns to moving online, they have been cautiously exploring the best options for student life and I think that it has been very supportive,” said Liu.

Check out Yuchen Liu's words of encouragement for the Hawkeye community during the coronavirus pandemic.