Student Spotlight: Feiran Yang

Feiran Yang in front of a carousel

Class Year: May 2023

Degree Program: MSW

Concentration: Community Practice for Social Change

Hometown: China

Field Education Organization: Neighborhood Connections in Cleveland, OH

Before beginning at Case Western Reserve University, what were you doing?

I was a sociology student focused on the research of left-behind children and gender labor division in China before coming to CWRU.

Why did you choose CWRU/the Mandel School?

I chose the Mandel School because I want to be a change agent, improve my research and practice ability, engage in more social practice projects, and help disadvantaged groups speak for themselves.

Describe your field education practicum experience and any work/projects you have done.

My field work mainly revolves around the community building of AsiaTown Cleveland, focusing on the initiatives of the AsiaTown community. I've done project management for resident empowerment, civic engagement and cultural construction; worked to build a sustainable community ecology for AsiaTown residents, enhance community influence and advocate for Cleveland Asian American equality; and applied for funding and completed community projects including Square Dancing Team, Adult Literacy Session and Art Box.

What are you doing in field that you’re planning to bring with you into your career?

I believe in human interaction and empowerment. Under the influence of the pandemic, AsiaTown residents were once isolated and discriminated against, and they lacked an opportunity to transform from geographical neighbors into tight-knit communities. The community building and activities we advocate for are more about helping residents build networks and leadership, feel empowered to have the opportunity to speak for themselves and do what they want to do. It is also because of these extensive and active community activities that Asian residents of different ages have more interpersonal communication, and also gives them the strength to support each other and grow spiritually.

What is something you have learned during your practicum that you have found to be the most helpful in your social work journey?

I think it's curriculum-based reflective skills and leadership. Because in community practice, many times we need to face the macro-level community background investigation and the setting of sustainable long-term development goals and visions—so, community-based practice can better help us understand how to engage, access, evaluate the entire community or project, and help our curriculum learn and enhance, while also allowing us to influence the development of our community and environment as a force for change. Leadership is an important part during this process, because community practice needs to communicate with multi-cross capital, such as grassroots power, NPO organizations and public utilities. Community practice is an important place to cultivate and learn leadership and organizational capabilities.

Who is someone you met during your field education that will change the way you practice?

The Adult Literacy Session's seniors and participants. They are all over 70 years old with English as a second language. At first, I was just helping them improve their English. They feel isolated and helpless because their children are not around, and through this project they have gained a lot of knowledge and friendship, enhanced social connections, and have meaning in their lives again that makes them want to live longer. In the constant interaction, I was influenced by their enthusiasm for learning and expectation of community. They gave me a lot of love and encouragement, and shared their life experiences with me. Not only does it give me a sense of accomplishment, but it also makes me more determined to help build the community for everyone.

Describe any extracurricular activities you're involved with on- or off-campus.

I was involved with the Community Innovation Network as my first year field placement and have been working part-time at the Midtown Cleveland CDC this past year. I am so glad that I met very good working partners in my first year in the U.S.: Dr. Mark Chupp, JP Graulty and Karis Tzeng—they are patient, meticulous and professional. They gave me the confidence to work in the community, as well as pertinent advice and guidance on how to think profoundly and deal with crises and conflicts. They've allowed me to grow and progress rapidly in this field.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I want to do in-depth study and contribute in my area of interest, such as theoretical research and community building.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

I hope it will serve as a guide and beacon for the area in which I will be working in in the future. It should be the beginning of my career. I more so hope this learning experience can make me stick to my heart and continue to create influence that can benefit more people.

What is your favorite thing about CWRU/the Mandel School?

The Mandel School has an open and inclusive environment that supports, understands and protects international students, as well as rigorous academic training and a life-long learning atmosphere.

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?

The people! The people of Cleveland are very welcoming and friendly. And the pace of life is not very fast, which is nice.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I hope everyone pays attention to the development of AsiaTown. For more resources and information on community activities, visit AsiaTown's website or follow them on social media at @asiatowncleveland. It's open to all, and there are plenty of restaurants and shopping spots waiting for you to explore!