Even as a high school student, Zoua Xiong, community partner
liaison for the College of Business and Management and AmeriCorps VISTA
(Volunteers in Service to America) member, took note of economic and
educational disparities among her classmates. Actively involved in her high
school’s DECA chapter, she discovered the
importance of financial literacy and engaging people in community service – a
passion that only grew stronger as she began her career.
After graduating college, Xiong served as a corps member for
City Year, a national service
organization. In this role, she served to close the achievement gap by working
closely with eighth grade students at Rufus King International School – Middle
Years Campus to develop their math and literacy skills, increase attendance,
and improve behavior.
“Research shows that the earlier you begin this process, the
bigger impact it will have on students,” said Xiong.
The passion for service then led her to the Wisconsin
Campus Compact (WiCC) AmeriCorp’s
VISTA program, and eventually to Stritch. For the past year, Xiong has
split her time equally between the College of Business and Management and Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, a
nonprofit organization that provides kindergarten through twelfth grade
students with financial literacy programs in the classrooms and “real world”
economic experiences at the Junior Achievement Kohl’s Education Center.
“I was offered an opportunity to spend a term in the WiCC VISTA
program and was able to choose my project,” explained Xiong. “My previous
experience and personal interests made the Stritch/Junior Achievement
partnership seem like a good fit.”
During her time at Stritch, Xiong has worked closely with
Dr. Mark Gesner, ’13, assistant
professor and faculty chair of community engaged learning and leadership in the
College of Business and Management. Gesner and Xiong have collaborated on
several projects, including student service initiatives, a marketing challenge for high school
students, and the
creation of a database to track the College’s community service projects,
internships, and future alumni engagement efforts.
“Zoua’s work has been innovative
and impactful,” said Gesner. “It’s rare to see AmeriCorps members in Colleges
of Business, and it’s also unique to have a VISTA make such great progress
toward institutionalizing a community-campus partnership after just one year. Zoua has managed to grow a partnership with Junior
Achievement that I believe will be part of Stritch for the long run and that
can serve as an exemplar for creating future partnerships.”
Although she is deeply satisfied with her work overall,
Xiong can quickly identify her proudest moment. In February, she and Gesner
organized an event that brought Laura Gainor, communications manager for Junior
Achievement of Wisconsin, to campus.
“I knew that Laura was going to offer a great presentation,”
explained Xiong. “But students were not required to attend, so we didn’t know
how high the turnout would be.”
Approximately 50 students attended Gainor’s presentation,
“How to Develop Your Personal Brand: Professional Networking for the 21st
“Not only was attendance high, but we received lots of
positive feedback so we know students were engaged,” said Xiong.
Throughout her one-year term, Xiong has recruited 20
faculty, staff, and students from the College of Business and Management to
participate in more than 25 volunteer opportunities. She also helped one
student secure an internship with Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, beginning in
“I have always seen my role as building bridges between
Stritch and Junior Achievement,” said Xiong. “I know that many of the people I
worked with will continue to develop the relationships even after I complete my
As she reflects on the previous year and prepares to move
on, Xiong embraces the range of opportunities available to her.
“The most important thing to me is finding a job that is
in-sync with my personal values,” said Xiong.
Gesner explained that Xiong's personal drive is part of what makes her so effective.
"She had a quiet confidence that was reassuring," he said. "I always trusted Zoua would complete her projects with a commitment to do right by JA and Stritch."