by Amanda Glodowski
Alumnus Audie Chang took a break from his career in independent financial consulting to share his unique life journey with current Harpur College undergraduates —a journey that began not with business school, but with a theatre major.
"I learned from making mistakes, and I want to share them with you," Chang '73 said.
Associate Professor Lisa Yun graciously gave up the floor of her Asian Americas class to Chang, who divulged his distinctive journey to the class of 75 students. Chang was born in Guang Zhou, China, during the nation's transition to Communism. His family moved to Hong Kong for fear of being "purged," and eventually came to America under the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in pursuit of safety and the American Dream.
By the time Chang reached high school, he had grown proficient in English, but recalled a time when his American-born Asian girlfriend made fun of his thick accent.
"It was then I decided that I wanted to be cool," Chang said.
Chang came to Harpur College in 1969, where he started to explore different fields through his liberal arts classes. He discovered that taking theatre classes would allow him to practice his enunciation of the English language, while simultaneously honing his teamwork and communication skills, and declared a theatre major.
Despite trying out for almost every production, Chang said he was never offered any parts until his advisor, Richard Smith, "took pity" on Chang, and cast him in "Alchemy Da Vinci."
After graduation, Chang took a job as a New York City taxi driver and began auditioning for theater productions.
"I wanted a job that would allow me to step away at any time," he said.
After many rejections, Chang started reading economics books, and became interested in business.
"You can't help others and make the world better if you can't help yourself," Chang said, realizing that his acting career was a dead end. He decided to pursue a career in business, and earned his MBA from New York University.
Chang was then catapulted into a career that brought him through companies such as Deloitte, Atari, and Tele Atlas, leading him to his current occupation as an independent consultant in Silicon Valley.
Although Chang didn't utilize his theatre degree in the most conventional way, he still feels strongly about the liberal arts education he gained from Harpur College, and attributes much of his success to the transferrable skills he acquired in his time at Binghamton.
"My liberal arts degree taught me that I was able to adapt to changes," he said. "You learn to teach yourself new tricks. The courses are designed to broaden your mind."
After Chang finished telling the class about his unique path to success, the floor was opened to students' questions, which ranged from racism, to rejection, to standards of success.
"How do you measure success? How do you want to live your life? You have to have goals for yourself, and you will never win once you let the world define who you are," Chang told the class.
Students were delighted by the fact that such a successful Harpur alum took time out of his demanding schedule to visit their class.
"I love Harpur, and it's really nice to see an alum who graduated 40 years ago who still has similar feelings. It's awesome to know that a Harpur student went on such a diverse path," said Calli Rothberg, a junior majoring in financial economics.
"(Chang) still has so much passion for the school, and it allowed me to have more confidence in myself," said Rebecca Li, a senior double majoring in human development and Asian and Asian American Studies. "He taught us that no matter where you find yourself in life, it's never too late to start a new path."
At the close of his presentation, Chang surprised the students by reciting one of Robert Frost's most famous poems, "The Road Not Taken," finishing the iconic last line — "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference" — with a smile.
Last Updated: 12/19/13