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Joanna Ouyang: EKU's Youngest Spring 2023 Graduate at 19
Bachelor’s Degree in International Business at 19
At spring commencement ceremonies on May 12, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) recognized more than 2,000 graduates from the Class of 2023. Chia Hui Ouyang, who goes by Joanna, was this spring’s youngest graduate at 19 years old. Ouyang earned her degree in two years after starting her collegiate career at 17 years old. During the 9 a.m. ceremony held at Baptist Health Arena in Alumni Coliseum, she received a bachelor’s degree in international business.
“EKU was very accommodating to my desire to graduate early,” Ouyang said. “I could test out of several courses and load up on courses. During the spring and fall semesters, I took 21 credit hours. During the summer semester, I was able to take 15 credit hours, and during the winter semester, I was able to take six credit hours.”
Choosing EKU: A Global Perspective
Ouyang came to EKU from Taoyuan, Taiwan. She decided to attend EKU because one of her teachers was coming to the university to become a math professor. Another deciding factor was that EKU doesn’t require ACT or SAT scores to apply. In China, students weren’t required to take those tests, so it was important for her to find a college that didn’t require standardized test scores.
Embracing a Well-Rounded Education
“What I’ve really enjoyed during my time at EKU is they allowed me also to take courses in music, even though it wasn’t related to my major,” said Ouyang. “I played violin and piano and received one-on-one instruction for each, as well as take orchestra classes.”
Future and Aspirations
After Ouyang graduates, she plans to return to Taiwan to work and visit her family. Being away from family, she says, has been one of the toughest parts of attending college at a young age. After working for the next few years until she’s 22, she’ll then apply to Harvard University for her master’s degree.
“Joanna is a highly motivated student,” said Dr. Qian Xiao, professor of management at the College of Business and mentor to Ouyang. “She has a dream to attend Harvard to earn her master’s degree and wants to become an entrepreneur in international business. I’m very pleased to see someone at such a young age with a plan and strong work ethic.”
Despite her busy class schedule, Ouyang has served as president of the student organization, Society for Advancement of Management. During her time in the organization, Ouyang competed in a national competition where she earned first place with a teammate and two first-place prizes in the individual competitions. She said being able to represent EKU’s College of Business was her proudest moment as a Colonel. Additionally, Ouyang completed the EKU honors program throughout her two years on campus and presented her honors thesis at two different conferences this spring.
“In China, we have a saying, ‘time is money,’” explained Ouyang. “That’s why I was so driven to earn my degree in such a short amount of time. I knew that the quicker I earned my degree, the more money I saved, but the quicker I would have opportunities for career growth. By doing this in two years, that converts to more time I can invest in my career.”
Appreciation for EKU Support
“EKU has aided me in several ways while pursuing my degree. I have had the support of professors, advisors, and mentors along the way. EKU was very flexible and accommodating in my scheduling to accomplish this in two years,” Ouyang said.
Originally published in EKU Stories
“The Business Management program at EKU gave me more than just any degree but a new way of thinking in a world full of businesses, people, markets, and logistics. Post graduation, I’ve been able to effectively use the knowledge, skills, and abilities that I developed while studying at EKU in my business administration roles.” Keturah Wright – Class of 2020.
“EKU has assisted me in my professional development because my professors created genuine relationships with me and pushed me to not only do my best but to exceed my own limitations and to continue to learn and pursue achievements I wasn’t sure I was able to. They helped me realize that with hard work and a great support team, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.” Emily Riggs – Class of 2020.
“At EKU, your background doesn’t matter, and neither do your circumstances. The university offers resources to help every student achieve their dreams, regardless of whether they’re non-traditional, a parent, or have unique challenges. EKU is dedicated to ensuring equal opportunities for success and creating a community that celebrates diversity, individuality, and the chance for everyone to shine as a Colonel, as a student, and in their future careers.” Tara Boneta – Class of 2023.