The New Year has brought some changes to the Office of Intercultural Affairs (ICA). Not only has its office been moved from the Parke Student Leadership Center to Lorentzen, but it also has a new assistant director.
Susanna Lu joined the ICA right after finishing her thesis at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), where she graduated with a master of science degree in mass communication.
Lu, a native of China whose Chinese name is Shan, is no stranger to Concordia. In 2007, Lu came to Concordia as part of a Minnesota Study Tour on which she and other United International College (UIC) colleagues visited six colleges within the Minnesota Private College Council. In 2009, Lu returned as a chaperone and program assistant for Concordia Collegetown, the English language program at the Concordia Language Villages. She worked with psychology professor and program director for Norwegian and Scandinavian studies Lisa Sethre-Hofstad.
She credits these connections with Concordia as well as the school’s values as the main reasons she was attracted to the position of assistant director.
“The mission of Concordia to produce culturally competent students,” she said, “was what drew me to the school.”
Lu is fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese and is interested in anything cultural. She believes in the power of cultural awareness in shaping students for the future.
“Effective communication skills and being aware of cultures are good in preparing students for life after college,” she said.
Lu holds profound views on how the topic of culture and diversity should be addressed.
“Instead of looking for differences, we should look for common ground to begin with,” she said. “I want people to understand that it is not about a person’s race or nationality but what an individual has to bring to a community.”
It is this vision that Lu hopes to bring to her new position. As assistant director, Lu will be mainly working with international students and students of color. She will also work on programs to develop and maintain ties within the Fargo-Moorhead community. Lu is working alongside fellow assistant director, Sonja Paulson, who is excited by Lu’s expertise.
“She brings a valuable perspective coming from a large institution outside Minnesota,” Paulson said. “She has direct experience planning and working with students, which carries into her current role.”
The experiences that Lu has garnered, making her equipped for this position, stem from her countless volunteer activities. Her calm demeanor, gentle voice and youthful appearance betray her solid resume of academic achievement and activities. Balancing her time as a graduate student and assistant at SIUE, Lu was able to accomplish a lot in the two years she spent there.
For example, she was the first Mandarin teacher on at The Goddard School in Edwardsville and was responsible for creating the its Mandarin curriculum. She was pivotal in the selection of SIUE’s new chancellor as a member of the SIUE chancellor search committee. She assisted in managing the College of Arts and Sciences budget and designed and created the college’s postcards and holiday cards. Currently, she is a board member and special events manager of the Young Asian-American Professionals Association.
Amy Tran, a sophomore and ICA intern, believes that Lu’s character and her time at UIC also make her good for this position.
“I feel Susanna is a very flexible, easy-going person who really cares for the students that she works with. She is very friendly and easy to relate to. She’s also very task-oriented and keeps everybody on track, asks questions to clarify each person’s role in event planning, helps with organization of events, and puts an effort to help document events,” Tran explained. “She comes from a background at a different undergraduate college, and so knows the qualms of being a student of color on a campus that is very homogenous.”
Lu’s love of culture and diversity transcends into her hobbies as well. Apart from photography and watching sports—particularly basketball and baseball—she enjoys watching movies from different countries and traveling. She believes that traveling is the “best way to learn about different cultures.”
Lu plans to take all of her experiences in the United States back home to China someday, where she hopes to develop another passion of hers: higher education.
“China is in the beginning stages of liberal arts education,” she said. “I hope to be involved in bringing different educational perspectives to the country.”