Islander Graduate Devoted Time to Helping First-Year Students Navigate College Life

Published: May 15, 2015

Islander Graduate Devoted Time to Helping First-Year Students Navigate College Life

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Ran Yao traveled more than 7,000 miles from Zhengzhou, China, to Corpus Christi, Texas, and for the past seven years has made the Island University her home. During that time she has mentored countless First-Year Islanders and helped them to succeed at acquiring a college degree.

Yao will now succeed in her own right, by obtaining her Master of Arts in Communication from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Yao is one of about 1,000 who will graduate from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi during the 2015 Spring Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 16 at the American Bank Center Arena. Yao graduates in the second ceremony at 2 p.m. with College of Science and Engineering and College of Liberal Arts. The first ceremony, with graduates from College of Business, College of Education and College of Nursing and Health Sciences, begins at 10 a.m.

“I started working at the Center for Academic Student Achievement, called CASA in 2011, so everyone in the mentor program is more like a family to me and I personally have a sense of belonging here,” said Yao. “I enjoy working here because I get a sense of fulfillment when I see the students I help succeed in school.”

Yao is a member of a 13-student team whose main goal is to help students navigate the many new challenges that come with college life. She often meets with freshman and sophomores who are on academic probation or are about to drop out of school. In a semester, the mentors can see, on average, 500 students. Yao advises students on their academic progress, but also makes sure that they feel like she is a friend too.

“Some of the students who come to us are just lost. It’s their first time away from school and we just want them to realize that their academics should be the most important thing,” said Yao. “I like to create a relationship with the student so that they can ultimately do well.”

Yao came to the Island University when she was only 17 to enroll in the English as a Second Language International program. Since she was a child, Yao has always had the knack for networking and creating relationships. She can recall being drawn to Texas because of the friendly culture.

“I just like Texas. I like how everyone is so open and friendly,” said Yao. “I have been here seven years and I feel like Texas is part of who I am now.”

After spending a year in the program she enrolled as an undergraduate and graduated from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a Marketing minor in 2012, finishing in 3 1/2 years. During her time as a graduate student, Yao has also presented her research on Korean Pop music at several conferences including the Texas Speech Communication Association and the Central States Communication Association national conference. After graduation, Yao’s long-term goal is to go back to school for a Ph.D. and gain a deeper understanding of the communication discipline. She believes that her experience as a CASA Success Advocate and a Public Speaking Teaching Assistant is what drives her to continue working with students.

“If I could teach in the future then I could continue creating connections with the students,” said Yao. “Because I was a student I can share my advice with them and help if I see them struggling.”