2012 Mid-Autumn Moon Festival at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, CA. Credit http://www.ccdcus.com
Chelsea Mason (EAAS ’10) and Ethan Xing (EAAS ’09) worked together as classmates in the East Asian Area Studies M.A. program, but never thought they would be collaborating as colleagues. Several years after graduation, however, they reconnected professionally through non-profit careers.
As Marketing and Communications Director of the Pacific Asia Museum, Chelsea has worked with Ethan, Program Planner and Public Relations Specialist of the Chinese Culture Development Center, on a number of projects. Most recently, they collaborated on a Mid-Autumn Festival that featured a variety of performances, activities and food related to Chinese culture.
Thinking back to his time as a Master’s student, Ethan enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the program the most, which gave him opportunities to explore subjects and areas that were not on his academic radar to begin with. “I found that my original interest in Chinese history and cultural studies greatly benefited from courses I took in communication, public diplomacy, and political science. What I learned from all those classes complemented each other and better prepared me for my current career in cultural industry and public relations,” said Ethan.
Ethan with other EAAS M.A. students.
Chelsea echoed Ethan’s sentiments, adding: “The program really gave me the flexibility to pursue my own interests. Because I could take courses from several different departments, I feel I graduated with an understanding of different fields and approaches to cultural studies. I also liked that my cohort was small—I still stay in touch with many of my classmates!”
Chelsea also found that her background in East Asia studies gave her an edge when she started working at the Pacific Asia Museum as Membership Manager. Because she could connect to their members’ love of Asian art and culture, she was uniquely able to bring membership initiatives to a new level. Though she has recently accepted a position as Manager of Digital Marketing at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and will not be working specifically on Asian art, she continues to see the value of her graduate degree. “In the performing and visual arts, Asia is becoming more and more popular. You see more exhibitions and traveling performance groups coming through LA every year. I know that my background in Asian art and culture will continue to be useful,” said Chelsea.
For students interested in a career in the arts, Chelsea encourages them to “explore how you can gain concrete skills in addition to your knowledge of art and culture. This will make you extremely valuable. Learn media production, communications, event planning, anything!” She also advises students to look for opportunities to explore the field through internships and networking, and to be open to approaching the field from different angles. “Someone who wants to work in the field of Asian studies or the arts can do so not just by curating, but also through marketing, fundraising, programming and more. All of these directions will still get you constant engagement with your field.”
Chelsea in Beijing, China.
Ethan recommends that students use available resources to better prepare themselves for future careers. “You should participate in academic and career events organized by EASC and other USC units such as the U.S.-China Institute to build your connections with people already working in the fields you are interested. You never know which event will help you land an internship that might develop into a full-time position after your graduation.”
He finds his current job rewarding because he is able to meet and work with interesting people from very different social strata in both China and the U.S., as well as be part of an expanding industry. This same benefit, however, is a challenge, as the Chinese Culture Development Center grapples with “how to translate the public’s interest in China into a workable business model that yields sustainable profits in the long term.”
Chelsea enjoyed her four years at the Pacific Asia Museum because “working at a small organization allowed me to learn many new skills, particularly in digital media.” The most challenging part of her experience was dealing with a small budget, but this also encouraged her to be creative and resourceful, traits that employers look for.
In the future, Ethan looks forward to continuing his work at the Chinese Culture Development Center and expanding their business in the cultural industry and strengthening relationships with partners in the U.S. and China. Chelsea hopes to remain in the LA nonprofit arts community and grow as a professional marketer. Both alumni are excellent examples of how East Asian studies translates to diverse career paths.