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When a Minor is Major

Born and raised in China, Weike Liang (Vanessa) graduated from Penn State in 2016 with a major in Hospitality Management and a minor in Communication Arts & Sciences (CAS). She calls her decision to minor in CAS the “best decision” she made in college. “What I have learned from CAS has been guiding me wherever I go,” Vanessa says.

In search of a class to fulfill a gen ed requirement, Vanessa took CAS 203, Interpersonal Communication, and was immediately fascinated. This first experience with CAS convinced her to obtain a CAS minor which she credits with helping her value relationships, understanding how to be an influencer, and knowing how to work efficiently in teams and organizations. She also identifies Gender Roles in Communication (CAS 455) as having a “huge impact” on her life, noting its role in inspiring her to consider multiple perspectives, better understand herself, and to speak up for marginalized people.

Following graduation, Vanessa joined a restaurant group in Singapore as a Business Development Manager. In addition to working in operations, training, and branding, she helped cultivate relationships with NGOs. These relationships helped her company develop greater social responsibility. This included working with the World Wildlife Fund to reduce the use of harmful palm oil through negotiations with suppliers. As a result of her efforts, her company moved to more sustainable oils in all their restaurants with a commitment to only use sustainable oils moving forward. This effort was a win-win for the environment and for the company’s brand image.

Currently, while applying to graduate schools in Korea, Vanessa is volunteering in the Beijing LGBT Center and working on a variety of NGO activities to promote gender equality and LGBT rights in China. Her professional and volunteer work has helped Vanessa understand how profit and non-for-profit sectors can work together for the greater good. As a result, Vanessa is looking forward to studying marketing and communication strategies in the Food and Beverage industry to help facilitate continued positive change.