She had been raised in Hong Kong to listen quietly, to show respect by deference. Then Amy Wong Mok came to Boston.
Mok was taking an introductory course in human services, her undergraduate major at Northeastern, when her professor, Barbara Schram, urged her in a private meeting to participate in class discussions. For many students this may have served as a mild rebuke; for Mok it was the revelation that has defined the rest of her life.
“That is not our practice in Hong Kong,” said Mok, founder and chief executive officer of the Asian American Cultural Center in Austin, Texas. “We were taught to just listen and put down notes. Don’t ask questions, because when you ask a question you’re basically challenging the teachers.”
The story of Mok’s unpredictable life can be told in three steps: (1) her traditional Chinese upbringing; (2) her introduction to the American point of view; and (3) her ongoing desire to marry the two worlds, to the common benefit of both sides.
“It really is because of Dr. Barbara Schram at Northeastern,” Mok said. “She was the turning point.”