At spring commencement ceremonies on May 12, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) recognized more than 2,000 graduates from the Class of 2023. Chia Hui Ouyang, who goes by Joanna, was this spring’s youngest graduate at 19 years old. Ouyang earned her degree in two years after starting her collegiate career at 17 years old. During the 9 a.m. ceremony held at Baptist Health Arena in Alumni Coliseum, she received a bachelor degree in international business.
“EKU was very accommodating to my desire to graduate early,” Ouyang said. “I was able to test out of several courses and load up on courses. During the spring and fall semesters, I took 21 credit hours. During the summer semester, I was able to take 15 credit hours, and during the winter semester, I was able to take six credit hours.”
Ouyang came to EKU from Taoyuan, Taiwan. She decided to attend EKU because one of her teachers was coming to the university to become a math professor. Another deciding factor was that EKU doesn’t require ACT or SAT scores in order to apply. In China, students weren’t required to take those tests, so it was important for her to find a college that didn’t require standardized test scores.
“What I’ve really enjoyed during my time at EKU is they allowed me to also take courses in music, even though it wasn’t related to my major,” said Ouyang. “I play violin and piano and was able to receive one-on-one instruction for each, as well as take orchestra classes.”
After Ouyang graduates, she plans on going back home to Taiwan to work and visit her family. Being away from family, she says, has been one of the toughest parts of attending college at a young age. After working for the next few years until she’s 22, she’ll then apply to Harvard University for her master’s degree.
“Joanna is a highly motivated student,” said Dr. Qian Xiao, professor of management in the College of Business and mentor to Ouyang. “She has a dream to attend Harvard to earn her master’s degree and wants to become an entrepreneur in international business. I’m very pleased to see someone at such a young age with a plan and strong work ethic.”
Even with her busy class schedule, Ouyang has served as president of the student organization, Society for Advancement of Management. During her time in the organization, Ouyang competed in a national competition where she earned first place with a teammate and two first-place prizes in the individual competitions. She said being able to represent EKU’s College of Business was her proudest moment as a Colonel. Additionally, Ouyang completed the EKU honors program throughout her two years on campus and presented her honors thesis at two different conferences this spring.
“In China, we have a saying, ‘time is money,’” explained Ouyang. “That’s why I was so driven to earn my degree in such a short amount of time. I knew that the quicker I earned my degree, not only the more money I saved, but the quicker I would have opportunities for career growth. By doing this in two years, that converts to more time I can invest in my career.”
EKU students have a variety of interesting and high-demand fields to choose from, including business, psychology, nursing, criminal justice, occupational safety, aviation and more. From associate to doctoral degrees, students find support and resources to achieve their educational and career goals at EKU.
“EKU has aided me in several ways during the pursuit of my degree. I have had the support of professors, advisors and mentors along the way. EKU was very flexible and accommodating in my scheduling in order to accomplish this in two years,” Ouyang said.
To learn more about the many degree options available at Eastern Kentucky University, visit go.eku.edu/programs.