Diane Wong has a motto for how she is able to take part in numerous on- and off-campus activities while succeeding in the classroom.
“I like to tell people: ‘I don’t sleep much, but I dream plenty,’” she said. “That’s what keeps me going. I have all of these ideas and things that I am passionate about. It fuels me.”
Wong’s research on race, ethnicity and political behavior helped her become one of a dozen American Political Science Association (APSA) Minority Fellows for 2012-13. A double major in political science and Asian and Asian American Studies, Wong is also one of two Binghamton University students among the 12 (senior Vanessa Quince is the other). It is the third consecutive year that students from the University’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program have been named APSA fellows.
Wong, a 21-year-old from Port Washington, chose Binghamton University because she grew up in a single-parent household and wanted to attend a top-quality school that would not place a great financial burden on her mother.
“Binghamton provided that,” she said. “I read a lot of testimonies from students who attended the University and they were all positive. It’s been a great foundation for me.”
Wong, who entered Binghamton University after spending a semester at Queens College, thought she would be interested in medicine or pre-law. But a class with Lisa Yun, associate professor of Asian and Asian American Studies, helped Wong discover her academic calling.
“That (course) introduced me to the experiences and lives of Asians in America,” she said. “It opened up questions for me about race, ethnicity and how community can get engaged in the national discourse. … I didn’t really find my own research interests until I examined how my two majors intersect.”
While she has conducted research with political science professors David Cingranelli and Patrick Regan, Wong got hands-on experience in her topic last summer at The Leadership Alliance program at Columbia University. She worked with a professor and graduate student on immigrant political behavior, traveling to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose to administer surveys in ethnic communities.
“I’ve never had field research experience like that before,” she said. “By talking to Latino, Asian-American and black communities, I collected a lot of interesting personal narratives about their views on politics and race relations that don’t normally get incorporated into studies or the political decision-making process.”
Wong credits Cingranelli and Yun for much of her success, calling them “two great mentors.” Yun has helped her on oral history projects, archival research and an Asian-American resource guide for the community, while Cingranelli introduced her to the McNair Program.
“Joining the McNair Program has helped guide me toward pursuing a career in academia and it’s given me a lot of resources and opportunities that I couldn’t have done on my own,” Wong said.
For Yun, students such as Wong “make teaching a deeply rewarding experience.”
“Her optimism, curiosity and love of learning is what inspires me,” Yun said. “Mentoring Diane became a dialogue, when I also learned from her. This is the best situation one could have with advanced students. As professors, we can engage learning as guides and advisors, but in the end, the brilliance comes from these young people themselves. We get to take a short journey together with fresh perspectives on life.”
When she isn’t in classroom or conducting research, Wong is working to help the Asian-American community on and off campus. She is editor of Asian Outlook, campus cultural ambassador for the Institute for Asia and Asian Diasporas, and has worked to promote language and culture in Binghamton-area schools. She also serves as national advocacy chair for the East Coast Asian-American Student Union, which has launched an initiative to expand Asian-American studies on other campuses.
Wong, who has won the President’s Award for Undergraduate Student Excellence, plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in academia and research. She said she hopes to spend a little time visiting the Nature Preserve on campus before graduating in May, too.
“After I leave, I would like to promote the University,” she said. “Binghamton has provided the most outstanding resources an undergraduate can ask for, especially in a time of economic hardship. Students should not overlook that. So if there’s anything I can do, I’d love to do it.
“In high school, I considered myself an average student. I don’t know what it was, but something told me that this was the place I could flourish and develop and not to let go of the opportunities. I didn’t waste time, I started joining different organizations and I really tried to find myself. I think I can say that I did that here.”