Huey Hsiao Embraces Helping Students Discover Themselves, Achieve Success
Huey Hsiao takes great pride in helping Syracuse University students plot out their courses of study while mapping out their potential career paths for when they graduate. He also enjoys connecting students with the resources available to them on campus.
As the associate director of Multicultural Affairs and the Kessler Scholars Program and the interim director of the Disability Cultural CenterHsiao considers himself blessed to be able to guide Syracuse’s students, providing a safe space for them to figure out who they are.
In his role, Hsiao provides leadership and direction on programming that enriches the University’s diverse campus culture and leads to academic, personal, and social success for the students he comes in contact with.
It has been a meaningful career in higher education for Hsiao, who for nearly 20 years has worked to advance diversity and inclusion efforts, spearhead student success, advocate for study abroad opportunities and more among college students.
It’s also a path he never envisioned while pursuing his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Rochester.
“Whether it’s the opportunity to figure out what they want to study, what their career can be or what their personal interests are, part of my job is helping students feel comfortable and feel like they belong here at the University. I don’t think I could have drawn up a better career path than what I’m doing right now, as part of a wonderful team at Syracuse University,” Hsiao says.
As an undergraduate, Hsiao thought he had it all figured out. After graduating, he planned to attend medical school and eventually become a doctor. But while the plan sounded good in theory, Hsiao wasn’t passionate about the medical field.
He admits that perhaps he went down the pre-med track because “whether it was due to societal pressure or parental pressure—or maybe it was a subconscious thought when I was in college—but there was this force of being the model minority that was driving me to think that was my path, to be a doctor,” he says, reflecting on the path he followed until summer vacation following his sophomore year.
Originally from China, Hsiao’s parents moved to the United States and planted their roots in Connecticut. Hsiao says he grew up in a predominantly white town and attended school with mostly white students, although he did attend a Chinese school until he quit around seventh grade.
Hsiao says it was “like pulling teeth” going to Chinese school and working on his studies. On the day he quit, he remembers his mom telling him, “you’re going to regret this decision.”
But it wasn’t until that family trip to China, when Hsiao visited his mother’s birthplace in Taiwan and the Hunan province where his father grew up, that Hsiao revisited his cultural identity and decided to reconnect with his cultural roots.
He started taking Chinese classes again and did a study semester abroad in China during the second semester of his junior year at Rochester, “an amazing, eye-opening experience” that motivated Hsiao to learn even more about his culture and his heritage.
Eventually, Hsiao accepted a job with the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE), a study abroad provider, helping students who wanted to pursue a semester abroad while working with various colleges and universities as a program advisor and enrollment officer.
“It felt great, helping guide college students and encourage them to participate in these life-changing study abroad programs,” Hsiao says.
After five years with CIEE, Hsiao knew it was time for a career change. When Cara, his then-girlfriend of him (now wife) landed a job in Barcelona, Spain, Hsiao decided to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.
Then, when Cara, a Syracuse native, relocated back to Syracuse, Hsiao accepted a job as assistant director of student services for MBA and MS programs at the Whitman School, before joining the Multicultural Affairs staff in 2012.
He also chairs the planning committee for the University’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrations, facilitates workshops and seminars that discuss issues of diversity and inclusion, collaborates with students, faculty and staff on designing programs aimed at enhancing inclusivity and improving cultural competency, and mentors students of color on academic, personal, social and cultural matters.
Hsiao is proud of the work the University is doing for first-generation students through the Kessler Scholars Program, which provides comprehensive support to ensure a student reaches their goals from the moment their Syracuse University journey begins until they graduate.
Hsiao’s efforts with the Kessler Scholars Program is a continuation of his time as director of the WellsLink Leadership Program, an academic and leadership development program for first-year students of color.
“The Kessler Scholars Program is bigger than just the individual students; it’s about changing the overall narrative of what it means to be a first-generation college student, providing them with these great opportunities and connecting them to resources that will help them reach their goals. As an undergraduate, I wasn’t really involved, and it’s ironic that I’m here telling students how to get more involved on campus,” says Hsiao. “I enjoy working with our students.”