Championing “representASIAN”—2U’s theme for Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month this year—has been Mel Lu’s modus operandi for years. It’s one of many reasons she was recently chosen to help lead the company’s Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN) as global co-chair.
“In high school, I was the president of the Asian Awareness Club,” Mel says. “And then in college, I was the service chair of the Taiwanese Students Association. APIN’s theme this year is meaningful because it makes me want to share how proud I am of my Taiwenese heritage and culture, and the affinity I’ve always felt with the API community.”
Prior to joining 2U, Mel worked primarily in healthcare—first for a health insurance company and later for a healthcare data management startup. In looking to transition to a new field, she talked to a high school friend who worked at 2U.
“I learned from her that 2U’s culture is very inclusive and the people are great,” she says. “I’d say it’s my favorite company I’ve worked for now. I really believe in our #NoBackRow philosophy—it’s important for all learners around the world to have a seat in the front row, so that they can get the best education possible. I also believe getting a master’s degree can be transformative for a person’s career. I have one and it’s been very beneficial—and once I started at 2U, I learned one of my cousins graduated from the 2U-powered MBA@UNC program and my other cousin was in the Yale School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Online program. So that feels even more empowering to me and my family!”
For API Heritage Month, we got the chance to sit down with Mel and talk about her role at 2U and new leadership role in APIN, what API Heritage Month means to her, and her advice for supporting the API community not just in May, but all throughout the year.
Mel (far right) with APIN colleagues at 2U's New York office
Hi Mel—congratulations on your new leadership role in APIN! But let’s start by digging into your role as a senior business analyst. How would you explain what you do day-to-day and how you infuse all your passion and experience to support 2U’s mission?
Well, thank you! So as a business analyst, I’m supporting 2U’s mission by helping launch new degree programs faster and more efficiently while maintaining quality. I work on various projects and tasks that involve relationship management, attention to detail, analysis, problem solving, and process improvement.
Most recently, I was the key facilitator for all things related to migrations from a legacy application onto our new application management tool. This move has substantially reduced new degree program standup time, decreased our support queue, and increased our capacity to grow and adapt to oncoming business demands.
Wow, you truly have a hand in so many important aspects of the company! So what would you say are the greatest joys and challenges you’ve found as a member of the API community at 2U?
Professionally, the greatest joy I’ve found at 2U is bonding with other API-identifying individuals over shared experiences in life and in the workplace. I personally love traveling back to Asia every year to see my family members and to eat all the delicious food. And I especially love having conversations with my grandparents in Mandarin and learning about all the experiences they’ve had.
The greatest challenge I’m still working through as an API individual is speaking up during meetings. Many times, I prefer not to speak unless I’m confident in my responses and have something I think is important to share. At times, people may think I’m disengaged since I’m being quiet, but it’s important to understand that if someone’s quiet in a group setting, that doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention. Instead, it could mean they’re taking detailed notes or taking time to process all the information. For more on this topic in connection with the API community, I encourage you to check out APIN Global Strategy Co-Chair Tony Ho’s insightful article about “practicing quiet” from last May.
Mel with all four of her grandparents in Taiwan
Thank you for reminding everyone of that great resource, Mel—it was a popular read during API Heritage Month last year. Now onto APIN: How has your involvement in our mighty Business Resource Network (BRN) informed your work at 2U, and what are you most looking forward to in your new leadership role?
Prior to stepping up to my new role as APIN global co-chair, I was the APIN global treasurer for several months and was also active in many other aspects of the community—such as leading our Lunar New Year Celebration event and launching the APIN Book Club. In my new co-leadership role, I’m looking forward to working directly with the global chairs of all of 2U’s Business Resource Networks and continuing to program events that align with APIN’s mission, which is “to achieve equity by fostering a prominent space and advocating for API people through intentional engagement, heightened awareness, and joyous celebration.”
It’s an important mission, for sure—and one that involves a lot of work by a lot of great people. We love that you’re here for us, and that you joined our leadership team right at the start of API Heritage Month! How is this annual observance personally inspiring to you?
API Heritage Month is a great way to share the stories and experiences of the API community within the entire company and also outside of it. I’m very excited for all the employee events we have planned this month—a Filipino cuisine cooking demo, a workshop to navigate the feedback loop for performance reviews, a local business map and small business spotlight to help everyone find API-identifying business owners in their local community, and more.
What inspires me to work hard on planning API Heritage Month and APIN events is receiving great feedback and appreciation for them. For many APIN events, I’ve had “non-API” individuals message me to say that they really enjoyed celebrating together and learning new things. Receiving feedback like that makes me so happy—and it makes all the time I spent organizing everything worth it!
Mel braving the mid-air suspension of New York's Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere
And you being happy makes all of us in APIN so proud and happy, too! As a parting thought, what advice would you give other API professionals interested in joining us at 2U?
2U values diversity, equity, and inclusion, and all the BRNs at 2U put on phenomenal events for everyone at the company. That’s one of the many things you can look forward to if you join 2U—and then once you’re here, get out there and attend as many BRN events as you can. I’ve personally met so many wonderful people while being part of APIN who I otherwise never would have met if I just talked to people I work with in my business analyst role.
More broadly speaking, my advice for anyone looking to establish themselves in a new career is to be your greatest advocate. Communicating everything you’ve worked on and the impact it has had on the company is pivotal. It may feel awkward to jot down or share everything you have done, but if you don’t communicate it, then it can be more challenging for people to know your true value.
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