Jiangwei Liu spent his senior year as president of the largest international student group at Binghamton University: the Chinese Student and Scholar Association.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2013 profile: Jiangwei LiuTweet
Jiangwei Liu admits that his freshman year at Binghamton was “filled with miseries.” Not only was Liu unsure about what major to pursue, but an ankle injury left him using crutches for most of the second semester.
“It was hard to walk on crutches from Dickinson to the Student Wing,” he says. “Sometimes it took me an hour!”
Luckily, the native of Wuhan, China, received assistance from his fellow Chinese students ranging from rides to the hospital to meals brought to his room. Some students even did Liu’s laundry.
That generosity inspired Liu to spend the remainder of his time at Binghamton University aiding his fellow Chinese students.
“I developed a sense of obligation to help others,” he says. “I was so grateful for all of the assistance during my difficulties.”
Three years later, Liu has served as the first undergraduate president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) and co-founded International Connection, a club that promotes multiculturalism on campus. The 22-year-old has also been a model scholar: He will receive his undergraduate degree in history and Asian and Asian American Studies, and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at the University’s College of Community and Public Affairs.
The son of a diplomat and a college professor, Liu was familiar with North America before arriving at Binghamton University. He spent two years in Toronto with his parents after the fifth grade and moved from China to Manhattan in 2007. A year later, Liu visited Binghamton for the first time.
“The atmosphere and the greenness of the campus really attracted me,” he says. “Binghamton University has a superior liberal arts program that attracted me, too. I’m a liberal arts person – I like history and politics. And Binghamton University has very good faculty and resources.”
Liu moved up the ranks of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, starting as outreach coordinator during his sophomore year. As president of the largest international student group on campus, he was responsible for organizing campus events and activities for more than 650 Chinese students on campus. He also worked with the International Student and Scholar Services Office to communicate with students before they arrived on campus, directed transportation from airports and bus stations, and assisted in finding housing. The group even prepared a handbook – published in Chinese – to help answer any questions students had about University life.
About 120-170 Chinese students receive assistance from the group each year, says Liu, who adds that finding a group of volunteer assistants is important to CSSA’s success.
“It’s a lot of work just to establish a team,” he says. “There’s no financial incentive, so I try to recruit people who share the same principles as me: ‘It is a pleasure for us to help others.’”
Liu and the CSSA have also reached out to students other than newcomers to Binghamton University. The organization has welcomed visiting Chinese high school students from Zhenjiang International School for the past two years.
“I try my best to promote the spirit of the University and introduce them to the importance of not only studying, but living, at Binghamton University,” he says.
In the classroom, Liu has been involved with the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera since his sophomore year. He served as a teaching assistant and interpreter for the Beijing Opera face painting and combat courses, helped to create the syllabus for each course and translated for both students and visiting scholars from China. He also has served as a teaching assistant in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies.
Liu praises Zu-yan Chen, Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera director, and John Chaffee, distinguished service professor of history and Asian and Asian American Studies, as two professors who have not only taught him about academics, but life, as well.
“They are my idols,” he says of Chen and Chaffee. “They are also great mentors and friends. They have influenced me a lot. I have taken all of their courses!”
Chen also has great admiration for Liu.
“Jiangwei stands out among the numerous students I have taught in my long career at Binghamton for his enthusiastic and effective service to the University’s community,” he says. “As an AAAS/MPA student, he will be a great public servant in the future, regardless of whether he works in China or in the United States.”
Liu recently received the Edward H. Prentice Award, an honor presented to a graduating senior who has distinguished himself or herself by character, scholarship and contribution to the academic and extracurricular life of the University.
For Liu, being positive, modest and working behind the scenes are all components of his success.
“I believe in something called ‘positive power’ or ‘positive energy,’” he says. “I can pass on this power to help others. … My achievements could not have been made without my colleagues – the people who helped me and worked with me. I’m a big fan of collaboration. Everything is about teamwork.”
Liu, who hopes to research emergency and disaster management, says his ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations and help people around the world. At Binghamton University, he has already laid the groundwork for his international pursuits.
“Ensuring the harmony and safety of the Chinese students is what has made me the happiest,” he says. “As long as they are happy, healthy and have had a good environment at Binghamton University, my goals have been achieved.”