I AM UAA: Bounnhong (Bo) Xiong

by Ted Kincaid  |   

I AM UAA: Bo XiongA.A.S. Computer Information & Office Systems '12; currently pursuing a B.S. in Technology
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska and Strasbourg, France
Fun Fact: Bo speaks four languages — English, French, Thai and Hmong.

For Bounnhong (Bo) Xiong, the adage that change is the only thing constant in life rings true. She has already experienced more substantial transitions in her young life than most people experience in a lifetime. Originally from Thailand, she and her family relocated to France when Bo was five years old. She spent the next 15 years there where she completed her high school education. She also got her first taste of life in the workforce, helping out at her family's Thai restaurant.

But another significant change was on the horizon when Bo met her now-husband, married and relocated to Anchorage in 2008. Transitioning between cultures wasn't as difficult as you may imagine. Her schools in France introduced her to a variety of cultures and languages and gave her the opportunity to learn English. Traveling among European countries helped her develop cross-cultural relations skills. Once in Alaska, she started her first U.S. job at Alaska Legal Copy, a small business and office setting where she quickly advanced.

"I grew into the role of a production supervisor, a position I earned through hard work and commitment," says Bo.
While she was working, she also took steps to pursue a college education. She began by enrolling in courses directly relevant to her job that were offered by UAA's Computer Networking & Office Technologies (CNOT) Department. She obtained three occupational endorsement certificates in bookkeeping, office support and office foundations as well as a certificate in customer service.

"My parents had not finished high school in our country," says Bo. "They wished for their children to accomplish what they hadn't been able to do — wear a cap and gown. They believed that higher education would facilitate success personally and professionally. I wanted to make their wish come true."

Her experiences in her coursework helped Bo determine how she wanted to shape her career. She began questioning what type of work she enjoyed doing and soon identified her love of software applications. After researching the qualifications required for the field, she discovered that CNOT's computer information & office systems program would be a good fit for her. The program prepares students for careers in a variety of office settings by teaching technical, administrative and interpersonal skills. It also offered a flexible course schedule that made it possible for her to continue working. With each class she took, her confidence grew that this career path was the right one for her.

"The encouragement and support I received from family and faculty encouraged me to keep moving forward," says Bo. In December 2012, she completed her associate degree in computer information and office systems with honors. Her graduation was also marked by the offer of a new job as an administrative clerk at First National Bank of Alaska, which she accepted. She credits UAA for helping her to achieve success.

"I learned to lay out small steps, manageable and attainable goals to help me stay motivated and committed to the things I am trying to accomplish," she says. "The education I have earned opened up opportunities in my life and also encouraged me to go beyond my own expectations."

In January, her next "small step" became palpable when she returned to the UAA's Community & Technical College to pursue her bachelor's degree in technology through the Career & Technical Education Department.

Technology, while an exciting and dynamic career choice, is also what keeps her connected with her family back home in France where her younger brother and sister are attending school and helping her parents with the restaurant. "We communicate daily thanks to the internet," she says.

Bo hasn't yet had a chance to return to France since her arrival in Alaska and, not surprisingly, she misses the food and the French bakeries. But she's glad to be forging ahead in Anchorage. "I couldn't be happier that we moved to the Last Frontier," she says. "I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given in my professional and academic careers."

"The more I learn, the more I enjoy being part of UAA," says Bo.

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