A Bridge to the University
Over the course of her son’s four years at NYU Shanghai, Qiling Zhang founded the NYU Shanghai Chinese Parents’ Union, raised hundreds of donations from parents for the Library’s Qihang study room, and volunteered her time to bring NYU Shanghai’s community of parents closer to the University.
For these distinguished contributions, Zhang will be recognized at the Class of 2018’s graduation ceremony with the first “NYU Shanghai Vice Chancellor's Service Award,” in honor of her commitment to community building and promoting the University’s social impact.
Q: What motivated you to found the NYU Shanghai Chinese Parents’ Union?
A: When NYU Shanghai was newly established, there was a desire among parents to learn more about the university and to connect with each other. I wanted to build a bridge between NYU Shanghai and the Chinese parents, with the hope that other parents might contribute to these efforts in the future.
In the beginning, information came to us through different channels and sources; how to build an effective communication network that presented all this information in a way that would be appreciated by parents in their own language, appeared to be a big challenge.
Several other parent volunteers worked with me to first transfer all parent QQ users into a WeChat group, which was a more commonly used social media platform. As the number of members increased, the NYU Shanghai Chinese Parents’ Union was established in August 2014, with parents from different classes forming a volunteer committee.
Parents share their children’s updates in the WeChat group, whether they have won awards, have been accepted into postgraduate programs or have received job offers. It’s proven to be an effective platform to communicate with each other and grow as a group with a common interest--our children.
We have since registered our group as an official WeChat account, which sends a post every week featuring notable university news and updates, as well as student stories. The posts also cover a wide spectrum of events including the Parents Panel during orientation, Admissions recruitment seminars, Commencement etc.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in running the Union?
A: The main reason for establishing the Chinese Parents Union is to share and connect over our life experiences--including raising children--and to strengthen positive interactions between Chinese parents and the University. The biggest challenge is effectively addressing the many different needs Chinese parents have.
For example, some parents feel anxious due to a lack of communication with their children after they leave for university. To support them, I listen and talk through their problems with them, like a hotline. Some people may think this takes up too much personal time, but I don’t see it that way. Through our conversations, I have been able to learn about many parents’ different views and situations.
Q: What inspired you to raise donations to name a classroom?
A: My husband is involved with the alumni club of his alma mater, which was working on naming a space on their campus. It inspired me to do the same at NYU Shanghai, as a gift to mark the graduation of the university’s first class. In spring 2017, I worked together with the NYU Shanghai Foundation to launch the space naming campaign. We were delighted that 212 parents responded to the call. Together, we were able to name a study space in the Library. We chose to call it “Qihang”, which means ‘best wishes for your new journey’.
Q: What does supporting NYU Shanghai mean to you?
A: To me, the Qihang Study Room is more than just a classroom; it represents the strong confidence parents have in NYU Shanghai. Many of us supported our children’s decisions to attend NYU Shanghai even before the Pudong campus opened. My own son decided to attend NYU Shanghai right after participating in Candidate Weekend; he had a strong wish to be part of the first group of students who would experience this new Sino-U.S. education model offered in China. Both us as parents and our kids, have full confidence in NYU Shanghai and are aligned in wanting to make a difference from the bottom of our hearts.
Q: What is your advice to new NYU Shanghai parents?
A: When college life begins, our children start to build their own lives. As a parent, you first need to learn to let go and allow them to explore. This means listening to their ideas and opinions and learning to communicate with them in a new way. Second, learn and grow together with your child. When children fly the nest, it is a chance for parents to nurture their own passions and goals. Never stop learning new skills, keep an enthusiasm for life and carry on.
Stay up to date with news and events from NYU Shanghai with the bi-monthly parents newsletter, available in English and Chinese at https://shanghai.nyu.edu/