The University of Iowa

International Student wins Meet the Challenge Award

May 14th, 2013
Dean Thomas at the Hawkeye Awards Ceremony
With Dean Thomas at the Hawkeye Awards Ceremony

The Meet the Challenge Hawkeye Awards recognize five undergraduate students who exemplify one of the values promoted by The IOWA Challenge to Excel, Stretch, Engage, Choose, and Serve. This year, international student Hexiang Wang was awarded the Meet the Challenge Award in the Stretch category. Hexiang was nominated by International Programs' Dean Downing Thomas. Below is his letter of nomination describing the many ways in which he has seen Hexiang seek out personal challenges during her time at Iowa. Congratulations Hexiang!

Painting the YMCA
Painting the YMCA

I met Hexiang and her mother, Lingling, several times by chance during orientation week in 2011. Since my family and I have hosted international students and scholars many times, we invited Hexiang to meals, for ice skating and other activities. I was impressed by Hexiang’s desire to make the most of her educational experience, both in and out of the classroom.
Her English was already good; but more than other students I have encountered during my time as Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs, Hexiang has sought out opportunities to develop cross-cultural ties, to spend time with American students and with me and my family. Though she does spend time with her fellow Chinese students, she actively sought out opportunities to find U.S. roommates and also lived for a time with another Iowa City family. She feels that these experiences will add to her education by improving her English, her knowledge of U.S. culture and customs, and will help develop life-long ties to Iowa. Although a Finance major, Hexiang wanted to expand her academic experiences by taking courses in piano, dance and P.E.
Volunteering at Hope Lodge in Iowa City
Volunteering at Hope Lodge in Iowa City
In particular, by taking modern dance and ballroom dancing classes in her first semesters, she was fascinated by the ways in which rhythms and even minor differences in steps can change the character of dance. The biggest stretch in my mind is the Introduction to Topics in Mass Communication course that Hexiang took during her first year: “Blogging the Caucus & Elections: Social Media and the Political Communication Revolution.” That class was a huge challenge to Hexiang because she had never blogged, and furthermore she didn’t know anything about the Iowa Caucuses. Coming from other parts of the U.S., the Iowa system can be mysterious; but it is a huge stretch for a student from mainland China to try to understand the differenced between the states, and the ways in which elections play out nationally in this country. When I offered to take her to my local caucus, it was truly an eye-opening experience for her.
Working at a wildlife refuge in Eureka Spring, AK
Working at a wildlife refuge in Eureka Spring, AK (pictured front, center with red rake)

Through all of this, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and has been receiving radiation and chemotherapy back in China. It has been a personal stretch for her to continue with her studies—something on which her mother has insisted—while staying in touch so many miles from home.Another way in which Hexiang has stretched cultural boundaries is by volunteering, something that was not part of her background in China. Through the University Honors Program, she has volunteered at the University Children’s Hospital and helped cook and animate conversation with the residents of Hope Lodge, a retirement community in Iowa City. Through Students Today Leaders Forever, she also helped build fences for wildlife in Arkansas, worked at an animal shelter in Oklahoma City, and prepared food at a local church in Texas.

Hexiang’s curiosity and willingness to challenge herself personally and academically have been extremely impressive to me. If anyone has taken the Iowa Challenge, it is Hexiang.

Meet the Challenge is a collaborative program between the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Provost's Office. For more information on Meet the Challenge Awards and instructions on applying or nominating a student visit their website.