Jo Ling Kent
2006 BA in Asian Studies, History, and Public Policy
Associate Producer, CNN Beijing Bureau 2006-2007 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to China
I was an Asian Studies, History and Policy studies triple major at Rice, at Baker College. I didn't know what I was going to major in when I arrived. I shopped for classes my first semester to figure out what was available. I chose history because I felt like that department attracted the most interesting fellow students, and it had the most dynamic and engaging professors.
It was through the History department that I became more involved in China and it served as a great launch pad. I received well-rounded exposure to history of China and East Asia, along with politics and other topics I was always interested in. I was excited about what I was going to be surrounded by for four years: the professors, my classmates, the projects, the research opportunities, the staff, everything.
My Rice education was focused primarily on people. What I really found exciting was engaging with people whom I might not have had the chance to work with otherwise. In addition to studying China, I took several Latin American history courses with professors who introduced me to the idea that, even hundreds of years ago, the world was very globalized, that even before the internet and the age of free-trade, there has always been important cross-border and intercontinental cooperation. Even today four years later, I draw from these courses to inform my research and stories. On a day-to-day basis, politics, history, Chinese, humanities, and social sciences, and my classroom experience have together proven to be a helpful resource.
I am currently an associate producer at CNN in our Beijing bureau. I joined CNN in May 2009 on the heels of completing a double Master's degree in international affairs at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Peking University (Beijing). I'm the producer and lead Chinese speaker on one of two reporting in our bureau. I pitch stories, interview people on the ground, travel, translate, and help craft the stories that go to air. As a producer, I usually work in tight knit team of three - a correspondent, a cameraperson and myself - to gather stories on China for CNN USA and CNN International. We cover breaking news, features, and whole variety of stories on the economy, environment, politics and government, natural disasters, social trends, North Korea-the list goes on. On a day-to-day basis, the work is especially stimulating because you walk into the bureau and you don't always know what's going to happen that day.
As an undergraduate, I was a busy bee. I was involved in the Baker Institute Student Forum (BISF), a great outlet to engage in domestic and foreign policy issues. The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship allowed me to craft and hone my research skills with Professor Richard Smith. In a way, it taught me how to identify a good, compelling story. Another major organization I was involved with was Leadership Rice, which funded my internship for the Governor of Minnesota after my freshman year. I also interned as a Leadership Rice student at ABC News with John Stossel and Barbara Walters, which really sparked my interest in journalism. After graduating from Rice, I received a Fulbright scholarship to China to do research at the Peking University Women's Legal Aid Center, where I examined the impact of free legal aid services on underprivileged women with several activist lawyers. I felt that those experiences were just as important as my experiences in the classroom.
I think my Rice education provided something that a lot of people don't think about when going into college: mentorship. As in having access to professors that really cared about where my college experience was going and what I would be doing next. They were very supportive and willing to engage in conversation about a variety of issues, be it a paper I had written or career choices. Professors Richard Smith, Steve Lewis, and John Boles were particularly instrumental. When I came to Rice, I didn't know what I was going to major in, but I had several broad goals and a sense of what I wanted to leave Rice with. These mentors really helped me clarify what I wanted to do. While class work is critical and integral to the success of your undergraduate degree, it was the mentorship and the people that I engaged with who really mattered and shaped my experience. It's a given that you will work hard in school; it's another matter to realize early on in your undergrad experience that people are just as fundamentally central to your success.
If I were to give any piece of advice to any Rice undergrad, I would say that finding good mentors is essential to your personal and professional success - and do what you are passionate about. Mentoring lets you engage with somebody who's one step or 25 steps, or 100 steps down a path that you may want to pursue. The ability to ask questions allows you to make a more informed decision about whatever you're doing, so you'll always be a step ahead. The Rice faculty and staff are incredibly supportive, along with leaders in the greater Houston community, and I have them to thank for supporting me to the next step, whether that was the Fulbright, graduate school, or eventually my current job. And always do what you actually like to do; you'll be much better at it than anything else.
What you major in doesn't always matter outside of school. You can craft a humanities degree into whatever you want it to be: I have friends who are now engineers, doctors, lawyers, journalists, musicians, public policy experts-everything. A humanities degree is an excellent way to become a well-rounded, well-educated, and critical thinking person, which in this day and age is the foundation you need to do well. In a world where everything is so connected, and anyone can access information from anywhere, you have to demonstrate that you can set yourself apart. I think that the Rice humanities education does that by providing mentoring and research opportunities, in addition to the class work. Rice believes that experience is just as important as education. And that is what really helps you figure out what you want to do in life, what kind of job you want to have, whether or not you want to go to graduate school, and how you want to make an impact in this world. And Rice is very supportive of that.