Growing up in South Brooklyn, Yong Yong Chen was no stranger to the world of business. When she was just 12, Chen, the oldest of three children, was tasked with helping her mother manage the family’s salon.
Her family had immigrated from Fujian, China, to New York City just seven years earlier and helping in the family business was just something that children were expected to do, she said. A few years later she enrolled in Brooklyn Technical High School, where she found herself intrigued by economics and concepts like game theory.
Following a Passion for Books
When it came time to choose a college, she chose the Gabelli School of Business at Lincoln Center, where she majored in global business with a concentration in digital media and technology. She finished her degree in December after just three and a half years. When she accepts her diploma with her classmates this May, she’ll become the first in her family to graduate from college. Next month, she’ll begin a paid internship with Penguin/Random House.
While the diverse student population of Brooklyn Tech convinced her that she wanted to stay in New York, it was the Jesuit principle of “men and women for others” and the relatively small size that attracted her to the Gabelli School.
“I felt like I was going to a school that was really aligned with what I wanted—as well as one that provided the opportunity for different career paths,” she said.
Living at home presented challenges, as the commute on the D train was an hour one way, but Chen made the most of it. It afforded her ample time to read and influenced her decision to apply for the internship with Penguin/Random House, where she’ll assist in international sales and marketing. The position will allow her to work in a field that she loves, and one that she has experience in as well, having interned in marketing with Amalgamated Bank in 2019.
“While I was in school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. One month, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do data analysis, and the next one I wanted to do something like finance. I just kept jumping around,” she said laughing.
When a student mentor asked her if she could imagine what she’d do for the rest of her life, “it was pretty clear that the answer was, books. I really loved reading, especially during the commute,” she said.
Helping International Students Adjust
Chen was an active presence on campus as well. As a Global Transition Assistant, she worked with incoming international students in August to help them adjust to life in New York City. Those weeks were some of her best memories of her time at Fordham.
“You’re meeting different people from different places and spending time with them, learning new cultures, and just having fun for a whole week—enjoying life before school starts,” she said.
She was also a teaching assistant for Career IP, a one-credit class for Gabelli School first-year students that Jennifer O’Neil, assistant director of Personal and Professional Development, described as “backpacks to briefcases.” O’Neil said Chen was so good at her job, she was like a stealth worker.
“You mention something to her once, and when you realize you forgot to follow up with her and ask her about it—she’s had it done for three days,” she said.
O’Neil said she was confident that Chen would she’d succeed no matter where she ends up.
“She’s just so pleasant to be around and can do so many different tasks that require a wide range of abilities. You don’t pigeonhole her and say, ‘Oh, she’s a finance person’ or ‘She’s a publishing person,’” she said. “She can do anything that she sets her mind to.”
For Chen, the past year has been an odd one, to say the least. The transition to remote learning meant that the hour of reading on her commute disappeared. And although she finished school in December, the pandemic delayed the start of her internship. But she has plenty of warm memories of Fordham. She said she will fondly remember carefree chats with Vin DeCola, S.J., assistant dean for the B.S. in Global Business, “talking about nothing but everything at the same time”—as well as his annual dumpling parties. And, of course, she’ll always remember her work with international students.
“Everyone participating every day together for a week before the semester starts? Yeah, those are some really fond memories,” she said.