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Michelle Miao: Outstanding Beida alumna witnessing the bond between China and the U.S.

NOV . 11 2016
Peking University, Nov.11, 2016: Dressed in a mint-green suit jacket, Michelle Miao, Ph.D., talked freely and casually. It’s hard to associate this lively lady with the image of an accomplished official in the U.S. government. But indeed, that’s the truth. Graduating with a B.A. in English from Peking University in 1988, she went on to complete a M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo with a full scholarship. Afterwards, she worked as Chief Statistician in the New York City Office of Comptroller, and then as an Assistant Director in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. She is currently Program Director in the New York City Department of Finance, where she leads the city’s Business Tax Modernization Program. In addition to her official city job, she is a prominent member and representative of the Chinese community in New York City. She shared her story with us upon returning to her alma mater.
 
Dedicated to service
 
 

Michelle wins 2016 New York DGS Best of Demonstrated Excellence in Project Management
 
Michelle mentioned that after four years of study at Beida, she was recruited into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she once hosted a delegation of elected officials from New York City. At the end of their visit, then borough president of Queens, Claire Shulman, kindly invited Michelle to stay at her home if she ever came to New York. When Michelle eventually landed in the U.S. to pursue further studies, Claire indeed welcomed her, and took her under her wing. “She’s always been my role model and mentor. The door she opened for me laid the foundation for me to enter politics,” Michelle said, “Of course, we know the harder we work, the luckier we get. You’ve got to improve yourself incessantly.”
 
Michelle pointed out that it was the gracious help she received from people like Claire that influenced her to commit herself to the public service, through which she hopes to make an impact on the daily life of the ordinary people. She also sits on the boards of the New York Blood Center, Queens Botanical Garden and Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts.
 
Building bridges between China and the U.S.
 
At Beida, Michelle actively participated in many student associations such as the Drama Club and Art Society. “Our advisors then were very professional; one was from the Central Academy of Drama, another from the Central Academy of Fine Arts.” Besides her participation in student associations, she also spent much time learning and reading ferociously in the university library. “Beida was the place where I met numerous talented peers and where my dreams started to fly.”
 
Her years at the graduate school of the State University at Buffalo were also very productive. She published a research paper on a national journal in the second year and was selected by the Dean of the School of Social Sciences for Who’s Who for American University Students. Having completed in the U.S. for her master’s and doctoral degrees, Michelle obtained an educational background with a mixture of both Chinese and American merits.
 
With regards to work experience, she is in a special position. “I’ve worked for governments in both China and the U.S., which I think is quite unique,” she said. “I love both countries, and I always endeavor to promote the relationship between China and the U.S.” There are some common goals among governments throughout the world, such as maximizing efficiency and serving the people, and she believes that the two governments can learn a lot from each other. “As a New York City official, I hosted several government delegations from China at my office.”
 
Being a good mother
 
When our journalists curiously asked if she felt it was a challenge raising her daughter in the U.S., she smiled brightly. “It’s not easy, but I suppose I’m handling it well.” She explained that since she is a first generation Chinese American, everything is a totally new experience for her. “My 14-year-old daughter is a Brearley girl, a prominent all girl school in the U.S. and she is fervent about the independence of women.” Michelle has managed to establish a close friend-like relationship with her daughter. “We spend a lot of time together. When we are stuck on the road on our way to the ice-skating rink (her daughter is a figure skater), thanks to the heavy traffic, we share some of our latest experiences, and eventually turn the rush hours into our mother-daughter bonding time,” Michelle said. “She likes to cook dinner for me if her homework is not too heavy. I am a very lucky mom.”
 
Being passionate
 
 
Dining at Nongyuan Canteen

As a former Beida student, Michelle offered some advice for current students. “First of all, you need to have confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? Next, find a job you’re really passionate about. Then simply work hard and pursue it. I truly believe that you will never excel in your job unless you love the job.” Sitting at Nongyuan Canteen for lunch, Michelle enjoyed dining with students after almost 30 years, laughing happily. She hopes that Beida will maintain its free-thinking atmosphere, and enhance the potential of its students and scholars to continue exerting an impact on the world.


Michelle With student journalists
 
 
Reported by: Wang Xi, Wang Chengsiou, Gan Zhonghao
Edited by: Zhang Jiang