For Xianyi Xiong, looking at the world from multiple perspectives is merely everyday life. The junior, who is studying microbiology and biochemistry, has to interact with classmates, manage schoolwork and live in an American city as a first-generation, foreign-born student from China. Taking his occasional cultural and language challenges in stride, Xiong has been able to use his personal experiences to support fellow international students and broaden the perspective of his classmates. The University recently recognized him for this work with the 2019 Josef Mestenhauser Student Award for Excellence in Campus Internationalization.
“I feel like being in school in Minnesota has been great as it’s is a place that’s both family centric and open to embrace new possibilities,” says Xiong. “That’s why I am devoting my energy and using my international connection to empower young people like me in the Twin Cities to engage as global citizens in our international community.”
This engagement and effort to encourage international dialogue has been a constant for Xiong in CBS. As a student, he has worked at the University’s Center for Writing where he consults in English and Mandarin. He has also helped redesign lab projects as a teaching assistant for a biology course to help students focus on understanding different backgrounds and cultures. He also aspires to work in microbial biotechnology in an international context.
“I read an article by Jennie Bjork and Mats Magnusson from 2009 that shows that the foundation of innovation is the close interaction with people from different backgrounds,” says Xiong. “It is important to be aware of what’s happening in other countries, and to extend one’s social network abroad to leverage knowledge to solve local issues.”
Understanding and building these connections is at the heart of Xiong’s interest not only in helping people relate to one another, but also how that interplays with his future research and work endeavors.
“I am interested in microbiome biology and the impact of microbial community diversity on ecosystem function and inter- and intra-species interactions,” says Xiong. “I hope to apply what I am learning from this field to further understand how social networks in human society can lead to innovation and higher work productivity.”