Out of countless students, staff, faculty, alumni, administrators and community members at Penn State, one of Western Illinois University’s own professors has been named one of the Faces of Penn State.
Journalism professor Yong Tang is receiving this honor.
The program “showcases the personal accomplishments, public contributions and pioneering spirit resulting from the Penn State experience, education and community,” Faces of Penn State’s website said.
“Some of (the other people on the list) are Nobel prize winners; some of them are national Olympic medalist; some of them are Miss Pennsylvania; some of them are renowned social science scholars, so I feel I am privileged,” Tang said. “I am honored to be listed among such a wonderful group of people. It’s a great honor for me to represent Penn State.”
Having grown up in poverty in Sichuan Province, China, Tang has come a long way from his roots.
As a child, he grew up without newspapers, magazines, radio or TV. The only communication tool was word of mouth.
Despite these setbacks, Tang always enjoyed reading and writing when he was young.
“My primary school, middle school and high school teachers all praised me for my writing and was considered as models for other students,” he said.
Tang didn’t start reading newspapers until he first started college at Sichuan International Studies University. He wrote articles for the school’s university-controlled newspaper and also started a student-run magazine with two other classmates.
“The purpose (of the publication) was to encourage students to read more, read more English books so can have a broader knowledge base,” he said. “So, I published a lot for that publication.”
Chinese tradition maintains that parents choose what their children should study in college, and for Tang it was medicine.
“In China, medical school is not prestigious, especially at that time,” he said. “I changed my major from traditional Chinese medicine to foreign language.”
He received a bachelor’s degree in English and decided to go to the China School of Journalism to try out a career in reporting.
“I felt like I needed to learn something more,” Tang said. “Being a reporter in China is highly prestigious, unlike here. The job is very stable and a lot of power.”
He worked as a journalist at China’s largest newspaper, People’s Daily, for more than 10 years. He also has a master’s degree from George Washington University and received his first doctorate degree from Communication University of China.
Tang received another doctorate in mass media law from Penn State in December 2012.
His career change from a newsroom to a classroom was a pleasant one. Being a professor at Western gives him a chance to share his experiences and stories with students. The change of careers also provides a schedule with better hours, allowing him to spend more time with his family.
“First, I want to become a better teacher,” Tang said in terms of his plans for the future. “I hope some of my students can become very successful reporters and editors in the field. I hope some of them can become Pulitzer Prize winners. Second, I want to publish more … and become nationally recognized for my research in mass media law.”
He added that his Penn State advisor is the main force behind his honor as being named as one of the Faces of Penn State.
“I want to thank my advisor, again, Dr. Martin Halstuk. He give me a lot of great influences,” Tang said. “I learned a lot from my advisor and from other professors at Penn State.”
More information on Tang’s honor can be found at faces.psu.edu/about-the-campaign.