By Caroline Brooks
Six years after arriving in the United States completely new to the American way of life, Aiden Wang will stand before a crowd of thousands as the Broad College of Business 2017 commencement student speaker. In just six years, this graduating senior in accounting has adjusted to life as a student, represented Michigan State University at global events, launched a nonprofit, immersed himself in student organizations, led a team of Spartans on a Tibetan biking trip, and interned with the world’s top accounting firms—all while passionately advocating for a more inclusive environment for domestic and international students.
Today, international inclusion and immigration are top-of-mind issues across the U.S., but Wang has made them his personal mission since enrolling at the Broad College of Business. He has served as president of the China Entrepreneur Network; public relations coordinator of the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association; student advisor for MSU’s Office for International Students and Scholars, where he supported the university at events in Shanghai and Beijing; and speaker at TEDxMSU, the university’s independently organized TED event, following hate crimes to address the racial and societal implications that result from misconceptions of the Chinese student population.
“I feel lucky to have seen a lot of changed perceptions during my time on campus, and to have been a part of this movement,” said Wang. “Broad is very diverse, and I learned to keep an open mind for everyone from different cultures. To thrive, you cannot be judgmental,” he said.
Outside of the Broad College, he leveraged the EB-5 Program (also known as the Immigrant Investor Program) to found a Lansing-based nonprofit organization, Association for International Investors, which assists individual foreign investors in managing assets in the U.S. In doing so, he deepens his knowledge of Chinese and American accounting principles while boosting the local economy.
Wang’s journey in the U.S. began as an exchange student his senior year of high school. Immediately, he felt pressured to triumph academically – something that continued throughout his collegiate experience. Wang says he rarely engaged in non-academic social events throughout his college experience, and while proud of his family, feared their history. “My grandparents were World War II refugees in China, and my grandfather worked in a coal mine. He was confined by poverty and wanted better for his children. My father was the first college student in his family because he was all they could afford,” Wang said. “My father went on to be one of the first CPAs in China after the Open-Door policy, and he founded one of the first public accounting firms. I was raised with a business mindset, but the fear of poverty always resonated with my family,” he said.
Wang had a wake-up call late in his college career when a family member had a health scare. He soon realized that, while it was important to set goals and dedicate time to significant causes, he could not lose sight of what’s truly important in life’s bigger picture.
On graduation day, the Wang family will travel the 6,575 miles from Beijing to East Lansing to hear from their son, and to join the college in celebrating the impact he—along with his fellow 1,070 graduating seniors—have made during their undergraduate years.
With his newfound approach to balancing profession and passions, Wang will depart the Broad College for PwC’s Chicago office to represent the firm’s auditing practice. “I hope to find my niche serving both Chinese and American clients,” Wang said. “There is always room to break down silos, and I hope that this is just the beginning for me.”