Graduate Profile: Huiqi Li (MPA '17)

Hometown: Shanxi, China
Degree program: Master of Public Administration
Major or concentration: Nonprofit Management

Why did you enroll at SPAA?
For me, two things in particular really stuck out that differentiated SPAA from other schools. First, SPAA’s MPA program has a good academic reputation due to the school's curriculum and distinguished academic scholars complemented by adjunct faculty rich in relevant government and nonprofit experience. It has been proven after I finished all my courses in SPAA. Second, SPAA is also one of the most diverse schools where I could make friends from other countries and culture. It turns out that all these experiences —the food and eating patterns, the languages, and the group mentality of people and the religions give me more of an open mind and I take pride in that.

What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?
Before I studied here, I earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked as intern in media companies and research agencies about public policy in China. These experiences instilled me a strong sense of civic responsibility, and I am eager to help people in my hometown at the policy and institutional level. This MPA program was an eye opener in seeing how American governments and nonprofit organizations build their systems and what they exactly do to help people and communities.

Best moments at Rutgers University-Newark?
What lasts in my memory is not a special thing, but simple everyday occurrences. After finishing my degree, I realize just how enjoyable those seemingly small moments were. The moment I walk out of the law school library after I finished a 20-page research paper. A cute squirrel eating food under the tree. A cup of coffee in Starbucks with my friends. A walk in the morning or afternoon from the business school to SPAA with birds chirping and leaves rustling. And many more...

Favorite class(es) and professor(s)?
Washington, D.C., intern program and professor Alan Shark: I worked as an intern for the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) in the summer of 2016. The opportunity to live and work in Washington D.C., sparked my imagination, shifted my perspective, and pushed me to think about non-profit organization management in fresh, tangible ways. The city is healthy, enjoyable and productive. The experience of internship was both deeply disconcerting and highly inspirational, especially my first time working at an English environment. Above all, with professor Shark’s help, I got a better understanding of how I overcome weaknesses and develop my strengths to be a better colleague and person.

Biggest challenge?
The language and cultural identity behind it. Chinese students like me lose their confidence easily at the very beginning of the semester because the native languages between Chinese and English have a totally different background and logic. It can be hard to communicate with others, which makes students become more silent and reticent. I feel better now but I'm still not fluent as native speakers. Besides, in a totally different cultural setting, I’ve never consciously analyzed how my culture has influenced the way I communicate or impacted my identity. The process of self-scrutiny is most difficult but necessary.

Next steps?
I plan to go back to media as a columnist about public policies in China. I’m also interested in nonprofit organizations which serve as a communication bridge between American and Chinese culture. I think China has faced big revolutions in political and economic areas in recent years. Much more middle power between the government and the people are more important than before, as seen with nonprofit organizations and mass media.

Advice to incoming students?
Truly live in the present moment, as there are a lot of books and theories we will not look at a second time. We will not write out papers and homework assignments again. However, what we learned at the end was decided by the quality of every “present” moment. 

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