Qianying “Jennie” Zhang is the newest addition to Hillsdale College’s business and economics department. She is an assistant professor of finance and economics and teaches two sections of quantitative analysis this semester.
Zhang was born in Shanghai, China and earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at East China Normal University in 2008. It was her “dream school.” Then she came to the United States for further study.
“I wanted to come to the US because I always heard that ‘if you really want to study, that’s where you want to go,’” Zhang said. “If you really want to do the research and study, I think here is the best.”
She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned a master’s degree in economics.
“When I came to Champaign, the one year studying there was even more fruitful than the four years in China,” Zhang said. “It’s very intense study.”
Zhang then attended Florida International University, where she earned her doctorate in economics last year. She also met her future husband at FIU, and they married earlier this year.
While she was studying in the United States, her mother passed away, in 2014. Zhang said she still holds her mother very close, citing the impact she had on her.
“I’m really close to my mom. When I was 16, I had no idea I would study abroad. My mom is a very influential person to me,” Zhang said. “My dad is a businessman and I didn’t see him a lot. My mom raised me up. Everything I did was influenced by her.”
After completing her studies, Zhang taught at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, last year. When her husband started teaching at Central Michigan University, they moved to Michigan. After a few weeks of teaching at Hillsdale, Zhang said the college stands out.
“Students are more prepared here, they pay more attention, and they work very hard, and are very smart,” Zhang said.. “They’re really smart. I really like the students here.”
Allegheny is also a liberal arts college, but Zhang said Hillsdale is unique among liberal arts college in its commitment to its core mission.
“Now, a lot of liberal arts schools are transitioning towards being career-oriented. They don’t keep the traditions of the real liberal arts,” Zhang said. “Here, we still have that tradition. That’s what a liberal arts school is supposed to be.”
Zhang is appreciative of her opportunity to teach at Hillsdale, especially since she would never have applied for a position if she and her husband hadn’t moved to Michigan.
“When my husband got a job, I just wanted to get a job somewhere that wasn’t too far,” Zhang said. “This was pretty lucky, and I think it was God’s plan for me to get a job here.”
At Hillsdale, Zhang’s students said they enjoy her energetic teaching style and her real-life applications. Junior Caylee McComb is in Zhang’s quantitative analysis class, and she said Zhang is engaging and welcoming.
“She welcomes students into her office hours, and she is very helpful with answering questions and clarifying during that time,” McComb said. “She’s lively and is very knowledgeable in the subject. She does a great job at providing real world examples throughout lectures to make the material easier to understand.”
Senior Amelia Culbreath also takes quantitative analysis with Zhang and said she can tell Zhang enjoys what she’s teaching.
“I’m really enjoying it so far. She is great at explaining all of the concepts and using real world data and information,” Culbreath said. “She’s also young and energetic, which makes it easy to stay focused in class.”
Zhang said she encourages feedback from her students since she is still beginning her professional career.
“I want to get feedback from the students. If the students have any suggestions, I want them to let me know,” Zhang said. “That can help me to improve my teaching. Research I can do by myself, but with teaching, I want to know what my students think.”
Zhang said she is acclimating to Hillsdale as a community and campus. She enjoys reading, philosophy, and caramel mochas from AJ’s. She welcomes any students to visit her who would like to know more about China.
“If students are interested in China or are interested in Chinese culture, come talk to me, and I can give them good advice, or just good food,” Zhang said.