People of UCA: Li Zeng

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Assistant professor of graphic design Li Zeng has had a fair share of opportunities between China and the United States.

She was born in the Suining Hu Nan province and grew up in the city of Zhu Zhou, which has nearly 3 million people. Zeng went through the early stages of schooling in China and earned her undergraduate degree in visual communication at China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

She had an affinity for the arts since she was a child, so her parents hired private tutors for her. She discovered that she had a true talent for teaching while in college, where she was asked to teach students from her alma mater about preparation for national art exams.

She said she felt that the students were very engaged when she spoke, so she kept returning during her breaks in college to teach. In 2010, she moved to Minneapolis to earn her master’s degree in graphic design. She received many scholarships and desired to see a new city, so she moved to the United States.

It was hard to adjust, but after five years much of her culture shock has gone. Compared to her schooling in China, she found fewer resources available to her and less variance among school systems.

“In China, they focused on the overall international skills from around the world,” Zeng said. “But in Minneapolis, when they would invite a very famous speaker, it would be from the U.S.”

During her schooling in Beijing, Zeng had the opportunity to learn from famous artists around the globe, such as Carl Martins in the Netherlands, Oprah Winfrey’s graphic designer and professors from Yale university.

Throughout her years in art school she accumulated many prestigious awards, such as the HOW Poster 2013 award for having one of Top 10 poster designs. She was also chosen as the selected designer for the redesigned Wrigley Packaging collaboration. She has also been featured in exhibitions in Beijing, Minneapolis and London.

Though the Central Academy of Fine Arts, she was offered many opportunities to travel to participate in English speech competitions. She also served as the Olympic Goodwill Ambassador for her school (CAFA) for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. She has also been involved in cross-culture workshops between Stanford University and The Central Academy, working on international Co-Op projects, which sends five students every year. Her drive to be involved comes from her personal philosophy as a patron of the arts.

“I think that even as an art student you should be able to produce a better performance or result that can train your integrated skills so you can be as proficient in other areas as well, and participate in different things,” Zeng said.

Zeng has served on the board of the City of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on solving problems such as homelessness, poverty and illiteracy. She recruited her Graphic Design III class to create a project for the organization, and she tutors children in math and English at a free academy for low-income families.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2015 print edition of The Echo. 

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