Ci Song first appeared in the School of Modern Languages on a rainy afternoon in February 2019. Shaking off her umbrella, she explained that she had a master’s in Communication from China and was hoping to continue her education in our program, the M.S. in Global Media and Cultures (MS-GMC), a collaboration between the School of Modern Languages and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication. Her dream was to work in an American company. Song had been in Atlanta for the past year, studying English at the Georgia Tech Language Institute on Tech Square and preparing for the TOEFL, and she was hoping to take the next big leap: pursuing a degree and working in a real-world professional setting in English.
Most students in the MS-GMC program take 5-7 courses in English, with 2-4 electives and a final project in a foreign language. For Song, the foreign language was English. Unphased and even motivated by the challenge, Song seemed excited for the opportunity to imagine a new, more global career.
“You can customize your curriculum to achieve the goals you want,” she said, “I was shown how to create a resume and portfolio in both English and Chinese,” and her courses in Chinese provided a chance to rethink her native culture. “It was interesting to learn Chinese in an American perspective among students from all over the world. During the program, I gained a unique outlook on Chinese language and culture that I don’t think I would have gotten if I remained in China.”
Eighteen months later, Song returned to Tech Square, only this time as a leader and global professional, working as an intern at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the largest and most comprehensive university-based industry assistance program in the United States.
In her internship, Song is collaborating with Carl Rust, director of Innovation Ecosystems at the Cell Manufacturing Technologies Research Center, to design and launch a virtual course on innovation ecosystems and technology commercialization for Chinese entrepreneurs. In addition to translation, Song provides consultation on development strategy, such as how to time the course to work with China’s calendar.
In this role, she builds on several experiences in the MS-GMC. As a graduate assistant, Song designed the graduate program’s first-ever international marketing campaign, translating flyers into Chinese for an international audience. She also tutored undergraduates and launched a weekly community tea hour to bring together faculty and students from 14 different language groups to pause their busy days and create a shared community space.
"Having team members like Ci is very important for three main reasons: language, culture, and media,” says Rust. “High-tech entrepreneurship is very fast-paced, and it’s also a global endeavor. That’s because new products might be conceived in one place of the world, designed in a second place, manufactured in a third place, and perhaps even consumed in a fourth, fifth, and many other places.”
Song reminds us that global expertise is about combining language with the essential skills taught in cultural studies, like empathy and communication. “Song’s ability to really listen to people and understand nuance helps her connect across so many different contexts -- whether she is working with undergraduates or industry leaders, whether she’s speaking English or Chinese” said Jenny Strakovsky, Associate Director of Graduate Studies. “She has a talent for creating a sense of community, and it really transformed our program.”
As a graduate assistant in the Modern Languages Graduate Program, Song worked in tandem with faculty to co-create her own degree experience in real-time, as part of the MS-GMC's first-ever cohort of students. When the program transitioned online in March 2020, Song noticed right away that her community needed help. “My classmates and colleagues were really stressed,” she said, “so I wanted to do something to help us relax and stay focused. Mental health is extremely important to me.”
Song reached out to Val Peterson, a former first lady of Georgia Tech, who had offered a yoga practice on campus. In collaboration with Shaidah Herron, an MS-GMC student in the French concentration, they hosted the School’s first virtual yoga session just a few days after virtual classes had begun.
Song’s skills in community development have proven immensely valuable in today’s world. In addition to her degree internship, Song is also interning part-time at Global Atlanta, an acclaimed local media outlet, managing their virtual events to create enriching programs that the Atlanta public can enjoy from the comfort of their homes. Her ability to connect with people across borders and cultures is a rare skill that sets her apart in the global economy.
Song will complete her master’s degree in the Global Media & Cultures Program in Fall 2020. Following graduation, she will continue working with the Enterprise Innovation Institute.