From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice
Guest Feature: Dr. Pei Liu: Navigating the First Year
On Tuesday, I was invited to join with Athletics Director Tommy McClelland and Assistant Professor of Human Ecology Pei Liu to make remarks to students and staff as part of the First Year Experience program. The theme of our presentations was “Navigating the First Year”. Tommy and I are both in our first year in our positions, and Pei has just completed her first year as a professor. I found Pei’s remarks to be insightful, witty, and charming, and invited her to submit those remarks to me for inclusion in my blog. I hope you enjoy what she had to say to our freshmen. Good afternoon, everyone. I am very glad to be here and share my experiences. First, I would like to congratulate our new freshmen students who begin a huge milestone in their lives and a very exciting time. Looking at your faces reminds me of my first year as a freshman in college. I still remember my very first day when the senior students came into our classroom and shared their tips about how to survive in college. I never would have thought that someday I would be in front of students on the stage talking about my own experiences. Before I started to prepare this talk, I recalled the important transitions in my life. I am from China, the other side of the world. So I do look different than people from here. My first important transition would be when I first came to the United States and started the masters program at the University of Houston. The first thing I realized was the difference between American and Chinese higher education systems. In China, the program of study is fixed. Students got assigned to each class and stayed in the same class for 4 years until graduation. The major and study concentration areas are pre-determined and it’s not easy to change. Everyone in the class is graduating the same time. Unlike in the U.S., students cannot plan their own program of study and decide their concentration areas. So when I got to plan my own program of study, I felt like I had so much power to control my future, yet I had no idea how to start. The program of study is very important as you might have known. It will decide how many credit hours you need to take and whether you will graduate on time. What I’ve learned is to set your goals and work closely with your professors and stick to your program of study. Then, you must have a good attitude towards your goals and work hard to achieve them. Also and not surprisingly, I’ve experienced some cultural differences and have many stories to share regarding cultural conflicts. And I don’t think 10 minutes is enough to just talk about that. The first thing I noticed was the way of greetings. Meeting people is one of our daily activities. In English we use: How do you do! Nice to meet you! How are you? In Chinese we say: Happy to meet you! Or in my home town, people say ‘Have you had your meal?’ (Don’t ask me why.) Most importantly, I realized the way you should answer these questions. The first couple of times when someone asked me ‘How are you?’ in the hallway, I did think hard about how my day was. When I was ready to explain my tough day, the people has already disappeared around the corner. Then, I understood that this is just a greeting, like ‘hello’, no one really cares about your day. Similar to the Chinese greeting when people ask you, ‘have you had your meal?’ always say ‘yes. I had a great meal.’ Even if you say ‘no’, please do not expect people to buy your food. The second important transition to me was when I started my PhD studies. Unlike the undergraduate and master programs, this is at least a 40 hr/week job, and for most people that is closer to 60. Classes that you take make up a relatively small amount of that. The heart of any PhD program is research. Research can and will expand to fill all your spare time to read and write, which will be done at home and on your own. So knowing how to manage your time and balance your study, work, and life is very important. Sometimes, study and research can make you frustrated, which is very normal. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way. So when this happened, I took a break and talked to my classmates, friends, and professors and asked their opinions. Never ever give up, keep a positive attitude, and believe you can do it. The third transition, which is the most important transition in my life, would be when I moved to Ruston, LA, and began my first academic job at Louisiana Tech last year. The transition was significant not only because I moved from the Midwest to the South, but also I switched my role from student to teacher. I used to listen and receive information in the class, and now I need to talk and give out information. I still remember that first time teaching in a class containing 120 students. The feeling is pretty similar to how do you feel the first time you sit in a new class. Plus, as a teacher, these students will be staring at you for 50 minutes. I was super, super, super nervous and couldn’t sleep the night before. I could feel my voice was shaking. My face turned red while speaking. Maybe now after teaching for a year, it’s better. My face is not red any more, maybe pink. Some of you may have to give a presentation in front of the class as a class project, and if you have that stage fear, this is what I learned. Adequate preparation will make you feel confident and help you control the nerves. And as always, practice makes perfect. My job started with the faculty orientation, and reading the university catalog and School of Human Ecology faculty and staff handbooks. This is very similar to you and your student orientation and your student handbooks. Regular meetings within the college and department also helped me to better understand the culture and responsibilities. Also I want to thank the faculty members in my department. They are always willing to help me and answer all kinds of questions. Probably, I’ve bothered them a lot, but I’ve learned a lot from asking them. So, I would like to say ‘don’t be afraid to ask questions.’ Do not feel shy to share your opinions and do listen to your peers. In the class, you are not only learning from the instructor, but also learning from your classmates. Being a junior faculty member, I feel one of my advantages is that I’ve been a student for a long time and just graduated. My memories of being a student are still fresh. I always try to think from a students’ standpoint while preparing my lectures. I like to communicate with my students, and be aware of how they feel about the class and look for feedback and improvement. My office door is always open and students are always welcome to talk to me. So far, I am really enjoying being a teacher and I love what I am doing now. As an international person and having a degree in foodservice management, the first thing I did after moving into Ruston was to search around for restaurants and international food markets. And I found one in Monroe and one in Shreveport. If you want to know more information, come and talk to me after seminar. Also I really like Cajun food, which we cannot find any better in other places. If you ask me how I spend the weekends, well, I do spend some time in the Lincoln Parish Park and watching our bulldog games. I even ran my very first 5K race last year. Tailgating is always a fun activity to go to. I was a cougar in Houston, a wildcat in Kansas, now have become a Bulldog. If you like exercising and want to build up some muscles and even release some stress, you should come and work out at the Lambright recreation center. After talking about 10 minutes, I hope this gives you a little bit of an idea about how I made my transitions. I hope that you have found this is helpful. Finally, I would like to wish you the best in your studies and good luck in your college career.
Dr. Pei Liu’s BiographyDr. Pei Liu is an Assistant Professor in the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana Tech. She has been working in the department since September 2012. Dr. Liu received her B.S. degree from China, with a major in Food Science and Engineering. She graduated from the masters program in Hospitality Management at the University of Houston and earned a PhD in Hospitality Management and Dietetics from Kansas State University. Dr. Liu teaches a number of undergraduate courses on campus, including Quantity Foods Field Experience, Advanced Food Science, and Food Systems Management II. She also teaches various graduate courses via distance learning, such as Cultural Food Patterns, Microcomputer Applications Professional Practice, and Financial Management in Foodservice Operations. Her current research interests include food safety issues in commercial/institutional foodservice establishments, food safety training in foodservice operations, healthy food marketing analysis, and consumer behavior in healthy food selection and consumption.