Alumni Profiles

Graduates of Asian Studies programs thrive in the professional world. Our degree programs prepare graduates to work in a variety of sectors including corporate, non-profit, government, education, technology, journalism, translation, publishing, and curating. About half of our alums go on to purse graduate study at prestigious universities including UC Berkeley. This web page will showcase some of our graduates as they reflect, in their own words, on their careers.

Jenny Leung, M.A., Class of 2010

Program and Exhibition Manager at the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco

Where do you currently work and what do you do in your current role?
Currently, I work at the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco as the Program and Exhibition Manager. As a P&E Manager, I oversee the gallery, plan and coordinate exhibitions with our Artistic Director and curator, and work with guest curators and artists. I also work with our team of staff and volunteers to produce art, education, and engagement programming and activities to the community and larger Bay Area, as well as contribute to the messaging and branding of the organization.

What do you most enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the dynamic working environment and the ability to contribute and grow an organization that is doing a lot of good work. It's also great to work with so many smart people and leaders in the field who are dedicated to our mission.

How is this job a good match with your skills and personality?
I think this position is a good match, as I have a background in Asian Studies and a greater understanding for how the world views Asia, along with wanting to give something back to the community and break larger misconceptions about Chinese art and culture and within the Asian community with the work that we do. I also like learning something new everyday, being creative, and having the opportunity to put my ideas into action.

What impact did the Asian Studies major have on your career path?
I originally went into the program wanting to pursue graduate school and study China, but wasn't sure which PhD program I wanted to get into. The interdisciplinary M.A. program was a perfect opportunity for exploration. After graduation, I knew that I wanted to work in a nonprofit because I wanted to have some real world application and to have an impact with the work I am doing. Doing the master's program focused me a bit more on what I wanted to do.

Were there any skills you gained or experiences you had at UC Berkeley that have been particularly useful in your career?
Yes, particularly writing, editing and communication. The ability to hone my communications skills among talented writers has been tremendously useful, as it is the one skill that I use everyday. Grading and editing papers has been also helpful.

Secondly, being exposed to what was going on in China, on a contemporary and historical perspective from the classes was helpful. I took a class with Xiao Qiang about the internet and China in my first semester there, and it really helped me get a view on what was going on with what people were doing and the tactics they were using from a grassroots level, and I'm still really interested in the people's perspective. The Asian Studies program is so incredibly diverse and the ability to take courses with so many professors in different departments allowed me to have that wide-breadth view, and see China from many perspectives. With my job, it is rare to make those US-China connections as much of our programming is San Francisco based, but I'm glad to be part of an organization that has strong relationship to Chinese museums and institutions and is continuing to grow that aspect. I think this deeper level understanding of China will carry me further as our organization continues to grow.

Lastly, it is great that my organization has strong academic ties, especially to Cal, and continues to contribute to the dialogue on Chinese American art and culture. We contribute to art journals, a former Board President is a historian and has very close ties to the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Dept, and our In Search of Roots program has been a dissertation subject. It is in this environment that my academic background, though initially used to prepare me for a PhD program, is useful for understanding how I can still contribute to academia through thinking about how our programs are relevant and pitching subjects for scholarly study.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for students interested in your field?
Volunteer or intern in your field! (Full disclosure: I'm also the volunteer and intern coordinator at the Foundation, and we're always in need of volunteers!) Seriously though, I think having first-hand experience is the best way to know if you love your job or not. Frequently, job descriptions are not what they seem or you find that you end up doing 10% of what you like and 90% of what you don't like. It's best to just gain some experience and find out. Also, having a goal in mind is great to drive you into action, but being open-minded and willingness to try different things can also open up new avenues and possibilities for other fields.