Campus News

Campus Closeup: Suzi Wong

A former educator at schools in the United States

Program Coordinator

JOB DESCRIPTION: “I work in three interconnected areas: fund raising, public relations and events management. I produce the annual newsletter Park Hall Marks-it’s more like a magazine-for the 4,500 alumni of the English department (also online at I like getting people involved in writing it. The English department is so complex, the best way to reflect that diversity is to give the newsletter many voices.

“I also help plan events like guest lectures, Honors Day and last year’s commemoration for the late Dr. Hugh Kenner, attended by distinguished scholars, family and friends ­­worldwide.

“Donor relations is a rich part of my life. I would imagine that all UGA donors are wonderful, but I find friends of English to be eccentric, lively and articulate. They love literature, theater and the arts. They appreciate how education has transformed their lives, and are eager to support students and scholars through travel grants, scholarships and other gifts.

“I am also part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences development team. We meet weekly to coordinate efforts, and I’m grateful for the mentoring from colleagues with more experience at UGA.”


PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCES: “I’ve been an educator in three countries. I began at UCLA as a lecturer, but also worked part-time teaching English as a second language to adult refugees and immigrants. You could almost gauge what was happening in the world by looking at the faces in my classroom-every political upheaval brought a wave of people who needed to learn English, get jobs, make a new life.

“We had the pleasure of living a year in France while my husband, Jed Rasula, was on sabbatical. I volunteered at the community school, which was a one-room schoolhouse in the village.

“I was assistant principal in east Los Angeles and worked in programs that brought at-risk high school students into a non-traditional school setting where adults provided inter-­generational modeling, support and an alternative to gangs and other peer influences.

“When we moved to Canada, I returned to the classroom, teaching international students at Queen’s University. I later became student adviser at a foundation supporting non-traditional students, mature women returning to university. Advocacy for students, especially marginalized groups, is woven through my life.”

MY FAVORITE KIND OF MUSIC: “I am lucky to be surrounded by music. Jed fills the house with sound textures-from blues to opera to world music.

“Something new that I recommend for lovers of music and literature is Fred Hersch’s Leaves of Grass, a voice and jazz ensemble of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. I love the ecstatic, universal spirit of this poem and Hersch’s treatment is moving and celebratory.”

THE PEOPLE I MOST ADMIRE: “I have lots of public heroes, but I most admire my parents, Moon Tung and Siu Fong Yu Wong, and our daughters, Sonja and Hilda.

“My parents came from China and overcame many hardships. My mother was a teacher in China but in the U.S. she earned a living by sewing and folding sheets in a laundry.

“I used to think my parents were terribly conservative because they nagged us to study, speak Chinese and observe tradition, but now I see they were huge risk-takers. They came here having nothing, knowing nothing about how their lives would unfold. They had the courage to take a leap of faith and see it through. Jed’s parents are also immigrants (one from Finland, and the other, a descendent of the Mayflower).

“I admire my children, too, because I feel that young people today live in a world that we, to some degree, have diminished, especially in natural resources and social networks.

“Yet, our kids and their friends continue to have ideals, work for social justice, live responsibly and thrive in creative work.”

THE ISSUE THAT CONCERNS ME MOST ABOUT TODAY’S WORLD: “Others have mentioned the frenetic pace of life. Multi-tasking is a desirable skill, but not at the cost of being able to focus and appreciate each moment.

“We’re also losing the wisdom of our elders. I believe our appetite for novelty is an illusion. We’re made to feel as outmoded as new gadgets that outdate themselves overnight. We seek bits of information more than time to swim the deep river of experience. It’s not either/or, but we should balance information and reflection.

“Maybe because I never knew my grandparents or aunts, I value inter-generational communication.

“Jed’s Uncle Tom was almost 99 when he passed away last month. I learned so much from him. He not only knew a beech tree from an elm but also where to plant a tree so it would provide shade and a swing for his great-grandkids. He thought in terms of an enduring span of life.

“I fear we’re too wired to the instant message and clamoring ring tone to look at the horizon and beyond.”