Winny (Wei) Liang - posing with her arms crossed in a red shirtWinny’s professors describe her as “extraordinarily driven and engaged in learning” while her classmates call her a mentor. She inspires those she works with through her deep commitment to excellence and community. This spring, she is graduating with her Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management from MSVU. Her success in the classroom is reflected in her impressive 4.30 GPA and in the several scholarships she earned. She was also named the 2023 Business & Tourism International Student of the Year. Winny was part of the first group of MSVU Tourism and Hospitality Management students (and among the first students in Canada) to complete the Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) and Certification in Advanced Hospitality and Tourism Analytics (CAHTA). Outside the classroom, she served as Vice-President Internal and Vice-President of External Events for the Business & Tourism Student Society, organizing a number of networking events for her peers. “A relationship builder who fosters connections with industry leaders,” she served as student lead for the Tourism Education Alliance of the Maritimes event; participated in the 2022 Beyond Terroir event; and joined in the 2022 Tourism Summit. Winny is also a member of Young Skål Halifax (an organization for students and young professionals in the tourism industry) and an Ambassador with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

It’s notable that she has done all of this while working in tour and sales support with Ambassatours Gray Line, volunteering as an ESL trainer for newcomers to Canada, and caring for her daughter.

Winny will deliver her valedictory address during the spring 2024 convocation on Thursday, May 16 at 2 p.m. You can watch the ceremony via MSVU’s Facebook and YouTube pages. We asked Winny to tell us more about her time at MSVU and what’s next for her. Read on to learn more about Winny.

Hometown: Guangzhou, China

Current City: Halifax, NS

Degree being awarded: Diploma of Tourism and Hospitality Management

Previous education completed: MSc in Economics, Finance, and Management (University of Bristol, 2005) and a BA/BSc in Business Studies & Investment (London Metropolitan University, 2003)

Why did you choose to study at MSVU?

Choosing to study at MSVU was a beautiful accident. I initially applied to several universities, but what drew me to MSVU was its reputation for fostering a close-knit community and its dedication to student success by connecting students to the workforce.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I wanted to become an entrepreneur like my mom. Later, I realized that being an entrepreneur not only involves making a positive change to the community, but also upholding core values and social responsibility.

Who are your academic and research mentors (either at MSVU or beyond)?

Liang and her classmates standing in front of the group presentation about Market studiesProfessor Maria Matthews and Dr. Shuyue Huang in the Department of Business and Tourism were great mentors during my study at MSVU. They were instrumental in our preparation for the 2023 STR & ICHRIE Americas Student Market Study Competition last November. They provided our team with professional guidance, setting high standards for our work that pushed us beyond our limits.

What class, professor, project or learning activity has held the most meaning for you? Why?

It is hard for me to point out the most meaningful one as I enjoyed learning from all the courses in the program. However, I would say Hotel Feasibility Analysis (THMT 4490) by Dr. Shuyue Huang stands out as the most impactful. This course not only provided valuable insights into the tourism and hotel industry, but it also helped me acquire two leading certifications: the Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) and the Certification in Advanced Hospitality and Tourism Analytics (CAHTA).

What is your favourite location on campus and why?

For tourism and hospitality students, our favourite spot at the Mount is Vincent’s Teaching Restaurant, located in the Rosaria Student Centre. It’s only open during the winter term, from February to March, and is entirely run by students. We love it because it offers hands-on experience in planning, organizing, and catering, providing a unique learning environment right on campus.

Do you have any favourite stories about your time at MSVU?

Winny (Wei) Liang - standing beside faculty volunteers at a Business and Tourism recruitment boothOne of my best memories at MSVU was our fantastic TEAM (Tourism Education Alliance the Maritimes) fundraising gala (the coming event in 2024 is on Nov 5). This event not only raised funds but also served as a bridge connecting students with industry professionals. Last April, after months of effort from instructor Deanna Struthers and the Business & Tourism committee members, it paid off and created an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. I was honored to be part of the committee as a student lead, responsible for collecting gift card donations for the balloon blitz and recruiting student volunteers. It was a night filled with teamwork, community spirit, and the joy of giving back to our university while building valuable connections in the industry.

What do you think differentiates MSVU from other post-secondary institutions?

I believe what sets MSVU apart from other institutions is its strong sense of community and personalized learning environment. The smaller class sizes at MSVU allow for more interaction and collaboration, fostering a supportive and engaging learning atmosphere where students have close connections with professors. Additionally, MSVU’s emphasis on experiential learning, community engagement, and social responsibility equips students with the skills and knowledge they need to stand out in the labour market.

Have you always been a high-achieving student academically? What obstacles, if any, did you overcome while attending MSVU? What kept you motivated?

You might be surprised to know that I was not doing well in my studies when I was young. I struggled with concentration issues in my childhood, and my memory had a rather short span. Also, as a mature student, I faced challenges with long and short eye-vision problems, making online reading and quizzes difficult to overcome. Despite these obstacles, what kept me motivated was my determination to learn and my refusal to give up without trying hard. I sought support from professors, utilized academic resources, and developed strategies to improve my study system. Through perseverance and hard work, I was able to overcome these challenges and achieve academic success at MSVU.

What will you miss most about your time at MSVU?

I believe I will miss my routine at MSVU the most: Each morning around 8:30 a.m., I would arrive at Seton, and grab a coffee from Tim Horton’s. I would then greet Prof. Jeff Young, who was always sitting in the dining area. Afterward, I would take the lift to the fifth floor for my morning classes. Following my classes, I would cross the RBC link to the library and enjoy a reading break. Around 1 p.m., I would head to the McCain Centre, take the elevator to the fourth floor to visit my faculty at the Department of Business and Tourism, before attending my next class.

If you could share just one piece of advice with your pre-Mount self, what would it be?

I would suggest they find out what’s the expectation of the course and the professors. You need to locate your destination before you drive. Additionally, it is very important to attend the first class. With your professor, go through the course outline and highlight available resources so you can understand the expectations and have a clear roadmap for your study journey.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Liang and her classmates posing for a group photo after completing their market studies presentationMy proudest accomplishment is participating in the 2023 STR & ICHRIE Americas Student Market Study Competition last November representing MSVU among 22 teams. It was a challenging competition that required extensive research, analysis, and presentation skills. Being part of a team that worked tirelessly to achieve success and being recognized for our hard work was incredibly rewarding. This accomplishment not only showcased my academic abilities but also taught me the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and determination.

What does being named valedictorian mean to you?

Being named valedictorian is a tremendous honor for me. It means having the opportunity to share my story of resilience and perseverance with my fellow graduates and distinguished guests. I hope to inspire fellow students not only to achieve personal success, but also to recognize the importance of upholding core values, uplifting others, and giving back to the community.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I will devote myself deeply to the field of tourism, leveraging my accumulated experience and knowledge to make a significant contribution. I am committed to pursuing a career that is not only personally fulfilling, but also creates a positive impact on the industry and the communities it serves. Whether through innovative projects, sustainable practices, or advocating for responsible tourism, my goal is to be at the forefront of positive change.

What’s next for you?

In a couple of years, I plan to pursue an MBA program in tourism. This will allow me to further deepen my knowledge and expertise in the field while also gaining valuable business skills that will complement my background in tourism. I am excited about the opportunity to continue my education and advance my career in a way that aligns with my passion for the industry.